Storytelling On Stage: Proposal Writing For Procrastinators
Crafting a GopherCon Proposal
The Call for Proposals for GopherCon 2021 is closing in less than a week for GopherCon 2021. If you’re reading this, I’m assuming you’re thinking about submitting a proposal. This is Part 4 in a series of guides intended to help you with just that. If you haven’t read the first, second, or third guides you can read them here, here, and here.
In this final guide, I’ll provide advice for procrastinators on how to write a great proposal quickly.
Part 4: Proposal Writing for Procrastinators
At only 3 weeks long this year’s CFP is shorter than most and some of us Gophers are procrastinators. You might have a great idea for a GopherCon talk, but if you haven’t even started your proposal yet what should you do?
You’ve thought about this more than you know
I’m a procrastinator, so I know first hand what it’s like to have plenty of time to get something done only to wind up days before launch with much to do and little time to do it. It can be stressful when the deadline is looming and you think you haven’t done any of the required work. However, I’ve discovered that when I procrastinate I’m not fully tuned out from whatever I’m avoiding, instead I’m subconsciously processing it. So if you’re like me, trust you already know what you want to say, but you just have to form the words. This shift in mindset usually helps to shake off some stress and enables you to make the most of the time remaining.
Keep it succinct
Most of the proposals for GopherCon are received in the last 48 hours. This means that there are sometimes more than 100 proposals that need to be reviewed in a short period of time. Keeping your submission succinct will hone your focus on what is important to the reviewers. Additionally, I’ve found this cuts down the number of times I revise my proposal. After all, the fewer words there are, the fewer times I want to rearrange or rewrite them. This is difficult to do because it requires stopping yourself from extrapolating on a particular part, and instead focusing on making sure the overall message of your proposal is conveyed.
Write an outline, skip the backstory
When you’re moving fast it’s best to be blunt instead of clever. While it’s nice to craft a narrative while capturing the essence of your talk, the reality is this style of writing is difficult to condense and takes time to do well. With limited time you need to ensure the reviewers glean the most important aspects of your talk, even if presented roughly. So first, write an outline including time estimates for only the major sections. Then go through the list of selection criteria and answer each of them directly. Finally, if time allows, fill in more elements of the proposal. For advice on those elements refer to the first three parts of this series.
Submit even if it’s unpolished
A submitted proposal is better than one that isn’t; even if yours is rough, send it anyway. Generally reviewers approach proposals with an open mind and they’re looking for a reason to say yes to a proposal. Even if yours isn’t the masterpiece you envisioned, it’s likely the reviewers will be able to understand your topic if you’ve followed the advice in this series of guides.
Timeless topics work any year
Sometimes we procrastinate a little too much and we miss the deadline. In this case, it might be too late to submit for this year but finish your proposal anyway. You can use that same proposal to submit to another conference or you can save it for next year’s CFP. If you’re a frequent procrastinator then you can avoid the stress of deadlines next year by having an already finished proposal. You might revise it once the CFP opens for a future year but you’ll have a completed proposal ready to submit.
With this guide, I’ve provided you with a few tips to write and submit your proposal even when the deadline is near and you have nothing but a blank page. I hope I’ve inspired you to go forth and submit your talk. With that, this series comes to a close.
I want to thank you, dear reader, if you’ve joined me through all four guides in this series. I hope you’ve enjoyed them, they’ve helped you craft a better proposal, and have provided a good reference for how to think about proposals.
Much like a conference talk, this series has a key takeaway for you and it is this: submit a proposal to GopherCon. Even if you doubt yourself, even if you think your idea isn’t that appealing to others, even if you just want to talk about your experience as a Gopher, submit your proposal, because you might be surprised by who’s interested in seeing you on stage.
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.