Storytelling On Stage: Advice
Crafting a GopherCon Proposal
The Call for Proposals for GopherCon 2021 is open!
If you’re reading this I’m assuming you’re thinking about submitting a proposal. This is Part 3 in a series of guides intended to help you through the writing, submission, and presentation process. If you haven’t read the first or second guides you can read them here and here.
I’ve previously attended, spoken at, and been part of the Proposal Review Committee for GopherCon, so I understand the difficulties of the process: generating an idea, writing a proposal, and practicing, then giving, a talk. Through this series of guides I’ll provide advice on how to craft a great proposal that will impress the reviewers and wow your audience.
In this guide, I’ll provide advice on how to move your proposal to completion, with finishing touches that’ll make it stand out. I’ll also extrapolate on topics I covered in my first guide.
In the final guide, Part 4, I’ll provide advice for procrastinators on how to write a great proposal with limited time to do so.
Part 3: Advice
This part consists of several pieces of advice that help frame my thinking when I sit down to write a proposal and assist me with staying on task. Together they’ll help you with adding the final touches to your proposal.
Paper time is slower than talking time
The time it takes for you to go through your talk on paper is notably different from the time it’s going to take for you to present it on stage. Time passes quicker for some and slower for others, be prepared for either to happen. While you might nail your goal time in practice runs, when you’re on stage you’ll rarely hit the same mark, so plan for that in your proposal, even if you’ve already assembled and practiced the talk.
I often have more material than can fit within the allotted time but you may not; either way, the key is to plan for running over or under on time. How do you do that? Start with labeling each section of the outline in your proposal with a range of times. Next, choose some sections you could skip or include, depending on how much you run over or under. This provides you crucial flexibility. Labeling this in your proposal lets the reviewers know that you’ve thought about this scenario.
Your audience is fresh
By the time you’re on stage, you’ll have practiced a number of times and the material may start feeling stale to you. However, your audience is hearing this content for the first time, so it’s fresh for them. This applies to your proposal as well, since the review committee is reading it for the first time. Keep this in mind when putting the finishing touches on your proposal. If you follow my subsequent advice, be careful not to revise away the parts of your proposal that are necessary information on a first read.
Review, revise, review, revise
The best way to take something from okay to good, from good to great, or from great to amazing is to review and revise multiple times. You don’t want to get stuck in an endless loop, however those first few rounds of reviews and revisions make a world of difference. Plan to revise or rewrite your proposal at least once.
Friends are great reviewers
Friends are an excellent source of feedback, whether you send them your actual proposal or just bounce ideas off of them. They can serve as first-time filters for your ideas, ensuring the story you have in your head is translating well into your proposal. They don’t even have to understand the topic. In fact, sometimes those are the best friends to have as reviewers because they might ask the basic questions that you forgot to answer. Including those may assist some of the CFP reviewers better understand your proposal.
The final stage in polishing your proposal is to read it aloud. Since you are the person closest to the material, your brain is likely skipping over words in your proposal, making connections that aren’t written, or any number of other similar things. Our minds aren’t compilers, so planning to read your talk aloud should catch those rough edges.
When in doubt, submit the proposal
As a writer you never feel like your work is done. You can always do another edit, garner another person’s opinion, or refine the material, but there comes a point where you just have to stop and click submit. Even if you feel your proposal is not complete or could use more work, a submitted proposal is better than an unsubmitted one. It’s better to submit a proposal that could have been 5% better than not submit one at all.
Step away for a couple days
A technique that I love to do and helps ensure that I don’t procrastinate too much is to plan for a couple days of completely stepping away from my work. This gives my subconscious some extra time to process and this short amount of time is often enough to return to my proposal with fresh eyes.
You have less (and more) time than you think
This is true for both the CFP window and your proposal. I tend to think I have more time than I actually do at the beginning of a process, which sometimes leads to procrastination, until it’s shockingly close to the deadline. This procrastination is an aspect of the creative process for many of us, but just make sure you keep it in check. Set some artificial deadlines for yourself; when you miss them, you still have a buffer to wrap up your work and submit it.
GopherCon Mentorship Team
If you’re still worried about your proposal and you’d like help crafting it or just want someone to review and give you some feedback, then I have exciting news for you! This year, we’ve created a mentorship team to support community members with the process.
This team consists of Go community members who have written and submitted proposals that have been selected as conference talks. If you’re interested in being paired with a mentor, please reach out to us by sending an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
With this guide, you should now have a toolbox of tips and tricks to write a proposal that stands out. If you weren’t ready to write your proposal after the first two guides, I hope that I’ve given you the advice you needed to write one now. And, if you still need some extra support, you now have a source in our mentorship team.
However, many creative people (myself included) love to procrastinate. We don’t see deadlines as something scary looming in the distance, we see them as a challenge. Sometimes, that procrastination takes on a life of its own and we find ourselves in a time crunch. If this describes you then make sure to read the final guide in this series, Part 4: Proposal Writing for Procrastinators.
Putting together a series of guides of this nature is not a small task, taking far more than a lone writer, so before closing I want to acknowledge a couple people who have helped me. I’d like to thank the wonderful Heather Sullivan and Angelica Hill for graciously editing this guide, they not only helped put paint on the walls, but they also helped tear down unnecessary ones and construct some new ones.