Katrina is an Open Source Advocate at GitHub. As a frequent speaker and proposal reviewer for conferences like GitHub Universe, she’s seen hundreds of speaker proposals—and written a few as well.
GitHub Universe is returning to San Francisco this fall, and we’re looking for new voices to lead our breakout sessions. Your stories are unique, and having lived them, you’re the best person to share your insights with others. If you’re new to speaking, don’t let that stop you. We’re more interested in your experience solving problems than how many talks you’ve given.
With our submission deadline approaching on July 28, we’re inviting you to share your session idea with us. Speakers will receive an honorarium and travel accommodations to make sure budget isn’t a limiting factor in your decision to participate.
Here are some tips to keep in mind as you refine your speaker proposal.
Put your audience first.
Identify who can benefit most from your story. Even if it’s a first-person experience, tell it to those individuals in a way that helps them connect with it. Make them feel like they’re a part of your experience by framing it in terms of similar experiences they might have and what they can do with the information you’re sharing.
Set the stakes.
Establish a problem you’re addressing and why people should care. This is separate from the solution. Your audience will only care about a solution if you set up the problem in a way that helps them understand it and apply it to their experiences.
Work towards a solution.
After your audience understands the problem, help them understand how to approach it and what’s novel about your approach. It’s ok if you don’t have it all figured out, but make your experience actionable for others and describe possible solutions.
For more tips, check out Sarah Mei’s “What Your Conference Proposal is Missing”.
There were a lot of memorable sessions last year, but these ones stood out as particularly impactful.
Anjuan Simmons, “Lending Privilege”
Anjuan takes the often divisive topic of privileged and marginalized groups in technology, and puts each audience member on both sides of the divide. He makes the topic relevant to everyone and leaves nobody feeling like they’re to blame. After reframing and providing a place where we can stand together, he helps us look ahead with practical, actionable advice. It’s a thoughtful, insightful talk that the audience continued to discuss throughout the conference.
Keavy McMinn, “GitHub Integrations”
Keavy sets the stage by telling stories about specific ways that GitHub’s OAuth applications have caused frustration and failures. Whether you’ve experienced the problems yourself or not, you’ll nod in sympathy and wince in empathy. Then she goes on to share the hero’s journey of designing and implementing GitHub Apps, which solve many of the OAuth app frustrations. It’s a story full of trials, blind canyons, and yaks—as an audience member, it’s easy to think “this could be me”, because every technical project has its tribulations. And the outcome of it all is a way for each of us to build something a new way, whether it’s to scratch an itch or fix a thorny problem.
Pamela Vickers, “Crossing the Canyon of Cognizance: A Shared Adventure”
Pamela opens with the controversy that arose when Bloomberg asserted that “Everyone should learn to code”. Drama is effective in catching audience attention, especially drama that they likely already have strong opinions about. She picks apart the major patterns in the disagreement and concludes that everyone shouldn’t necessarily learn to code, but everyone should be able to learn to code if they want to. She frames the problem statement masterfully and connects it to the audience. She then goes on to describe the stages of learning, illustrating the common modes of failure, and what we can do differently to support and encourage learners at each stage.