In the last few years, I’ve felt incredibly fortunate to have received so many approvals to speak at conferences and actively participate in various tech communities. I often talk to people who are disappointed about not getting approvals to speak. After observing their concerns, I decided to write about the lessons I’ve learned from submitting proposals over the last eight years.

The main resource you have to get approved is your own experience and reputation, but often your reputation doesn’t match the actual community needs. In short, my advice is to serve your community. Try to propose value to the community, not just what you want to share with them. If you’re invited to lead a keynote session, you may already be a step ahead and able to share more inspiring thoughts. Otherwise, focus on being of service to your community.

Now, let’s dive deeper into a few questions to better serve your community and secure more approvals for public speaking engagements.

Do I have any real reputation to talk about this topic?

I estimate that I’ve drafted more than 50 proposals for conferences, submitted dozens, and got approved for a few of them. My public speaking journey began with internal talks at my workplace, followed by small meetups, and eventually progressed to real conferences with hundreds of people.

How do I serve my community?

Talks are not about you. They’re about meeting the community’s needs. If you’re not getting approved, it’s not because your topic isn’t good enough or you lack expertise; it’s about proposing a topic that doesn’t fit the audience.

One of the best ways to understand community needs is to find a community you genuinely enjoy and participate in their review process. By helping to review conference proposals, you’ll see firsthand that selecting proposals is hard work.

Tech events aim to be inclusive, instructive, and inspiring. Every conference needs this mix to welcome people of all skill levels and ensure everyone benefits from the triple “I.”

Being inclusive means offering topics for all levels. Beginners, who need the most support as they start their careers, are the perfect audience for those with less public speaking experience.

Being instructive means attendees will leave with new knowledge that you share. Reflect on what you’ve learned that could potentially benefit others. It doesn’t need to be complex or heavy. Focus on sharing experiences, tips, and tricks that excite and engage you.

Being inspiring is especially important for keynote speakers. These talks typically set the tone for a conference, so bring energy and inspiration to your presentation. The more you rehearse and refine your communication objectives, the better equipped you’ll be to inspire your audience.

In my talks, I’ve found that combining my personal experiences with a motivational message and valuable information has a positive impact on the audience. Sometimes, people approach me after a talk to thank me or ask questions, and that’s incredibly rewarding.

Questions to validate your proposal

Some important questions to ask yourself when crafting your talk proposal include:

These questions can help you ensure your talk is relevant and meaningful to the community you want to serve. Over time, I’ve developed my own questions to ensure my talks provide value to my audience.

In summary, focusing on serving the community and keeping the goals of inclusiveness, instruction, and inspiration in mind when proposing a talk are essential to increasing your chances of being approved at conferences and events. Your unique personal experience and presentation style will also contribute to the success of your talks.

Are you curious about what I’m talking, you can check a few of my talks and next conferences.

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Hello there, my name is Jônatas Davi Paganini and this is my personal blog.
I'm developer advocate at Timescale and I also have a few open source projects on github.

Check my talks or connect with me via linkedin / twitter / github / instagram / facebook / strava / meetup.