For the past three years, I've been involved with Global Diversity CFP Days, first as an attendee, then as a mentor and most recently as a facilitator. And these workshops have been incredible, as they've given me the opportunity to go from someone who didn't think they had anything to talk about, to someone who's spoken at numerous conferences and can help people do the same.
Global Diversity CFP (Call for Proposal) Day was started in 2018, based on the workshops that were run for ScotlandCSS and ScotlandJS and aiming to to increase the diversity in proposals being submitted to conferences. During the last three years, this initiative has grown with 84 workshops being held in 35 different countries earlier this month.
In 2018 I attended my first Global Diversity CFP Day (GDCFP Day) in Perth, and although I had some interest in submitting to conferences, I wasn't sure I anything of value to share. By the end of the day, I not only had a fully written proposal (which was accepted as the keynote at Google Devfest Melbourne later that year), but I'd already started a list of other talks I could give.
The following year I came back again, but this time as a mentor, sharing some of the things I'd learnt writing and submitting proposals, and drawing on my experiences having just spoken at my first international conference.
And a week ago, I cam back yet again, this time as an organiser and facilitator, drawing on my experience and the resources the GDCFP team provided us, helping more people to start their speaking career, having spoken at 9 conferences last year with 3 already booked in for the coming year.
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Because writing proposals isn't hard enough, the most difficult step (particularly when you haven't written many before), is deciding what you want to talk about. Thankfully in a previous proposal writing workshop, facilitator Mandy Michael put together a worksheet (from YOW! Conferences' and Lucy Bain's resources) that has continued to be used each GDCFP Day. This worksheet has been incredibly useful in brainstorming potential topics and getting people thinking about their experiences and what they can share (or at the very least give them ideas of topics they could learn so they can then write a talk).
Once ideas have started to flow, it's time to start putting together the proposal, but first is identifying the different parts of a proposal and what makes a good one. Drawing on the experiences and expertise in the room, we can identify what makes a good proposal (catchy title, humour, setting expectations...) and how it should be structured (yet another type of writing style that would have been useful to learn in high school):
- Context: Set the scene, how do you have a connection with your audience
- Problem: Something common enough that the audience can relate to
- Promise: How does your talk solve their problem (don't give all the secrets away though)
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To take a break from the proposal focus, the workshop also briefly touches on tips for putting together the presentation, with a great video from Melinda Seckington, giving tips on slide design. This is also a good chance to draw on the experiences of those in the room (mentors and attendees alike), things that they've learnt themselves as well as things they've noticed when watching presentations (we already know what does and doesn't make a good presentation).
Sharing tips on presentations, preparing, making sure you have everything you need on the day and lessons learned. Tips for live demos and dealing with nerves, there are often several experienced speakers in our local community, and it's useful to be able to learn from what they've done. Touching on useful tools for managing talk proposals, presentation software, slide clickers and useful ways to publish and share slides after the presentation is done and dusted.
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GDCFP Day is centred around improving the diversity of speakers at conferences, and part of that is ensuring that everyone feels included at a conference or event. Throughout the day time is set aside to identify examples of exclusionary language and behaviour (so it can be avoided both as a speaker, attendee and community member), once again utilising the experiences of those in the room as each person has a different point of view, a different background and can be made to feel excluded by different things.
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One of the most important parts of the workshop, feedback is useful to help new speakers know that they're on the right track and give them confidence that they have something of value to share. Whether in small groups or with everyone in the workshop, its a chance to each of the participants to share their ideas and proposals (if they feel ready). This gives them the opportunity to share their ideas with their potential audience, reinforcing the topics they're looking to share and their relevance with the tech community as well as feedback on the structure and length of their proposal.
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Although GDCFP Day gives a workshop structure and a few videos to show, most of the benefits from the workshop come from the local community. The mentors are local community members who've either submitted to and spoken at events or have been involved with selection panels and have spent a lot of time reading and evaluating proposals from events. These are resources that we already have in the community, but by providing the framework a strong purpose for the event, the Global Diversity CFP Day team have allowed us to continue their mission all over the world, and help more community members expand their reach and share their expertise with more people, whether it be at local events, interstate or all over the world.
Global Diversity CFP Day is a fantastic initiative that has helped to create a positive change in the community. We're now starting to see more people taking a chance and sharing something they know at events, and as it continues each year we're seeing those people getting the chance to give back (as I've been able to). Even for the more experienced speakers, it's an opportunity for them to come up with some fresh or ideas, or even just a day that's set aside for them to focus on writing proposals and getting feedback.
These events have been wonderful to be a part of, and while I can, I'll continue to spend my time helping out with them, either as a mentor, a facilitator or an attendee. Without these workshops, I wouldn't have had the opportunities I've had the last couple of years, and my life would definitely be more boring because of that.