Global Diversity CFP 2018 & 2019 Berlin Attendee
Tuesday 17th December 2019
Before I dig deeper into my story, I am Amr an Egyptian software engineer that has been living for the past 7 years in Europe (first Budapest in Hungary and now in Berlin Germany).
It's already almost 13 years since the first "Hello world" program I wrote for an introduction to programming course. During this journey, I have always given the same importance to the people aspects of software as I did to technical excellence. In the end, we write software with people and for people to use.
Interest in public speaking
I have to admit, my interest in public speaking is not a new thing. I have always been fascinated by the idea of sharing my thoughts and opinions with a wide audience.
Back in Egypt, I was always giving talks in smaller meetups and using every possible opportunity to address a larger audience. I also did the same since I moved to Europe as fast as I could I started to reach out to local meetups and speaking about any small experiment I tried, however, the more my technical experience grew I started to realize that public speaking and sharing knowledge are not just a "nice to have" skills but rather they are a necessary skill to become a true Senior Engineer.
In 2016 I decided that I will pay more attention to improving my public speaking skills and try to push myself to take it to the next level from small local meetups and company in house gatherings to bigger and wider audience conferences.
I still remember the first major conference I attended, it was Craft conference 2015 in Budapest I was fascinated by every encounter there. Every talk I attended made me excited and interested.
I honestly remember questioning myself, "am I an imposter?" These folks on these stages must be so good to get to this point. "I don't think I will ever get to that level"
Then I remember in early 2016, this talk where the person on stage started the presentation by talking about the common cognitive bias where people assume that folks on stage are extraordinary experts and never say wrong stuff which he considered an absolute shame.
My first "Mini-conference talk"
Around that time, I was with my team maintaining a graphQL API written in Ruby as a backend for some internal tool and I remember sharing some insights of our experience in Budapest Ruby meetup when one of the attendees told me about this mini-conference Budapest Startup Safari and told me he thinks that people would want to hear more about the topic.
Original and genuine content
That was my first "conference" talk ever. The topic for me was "Not genuine" at that time I always assumed that "Everyone already knew what am I talking about" but the feedback I got was amazing.
It was that time that I realized that your assumption that people know what you know is wrong. even that topic you treat as a super basic knowledge that everyone shares, there are new people to our communities that have never heard about it before.
In a nutshell, your experience is unique and people want to hear about it.
All topics are important
Up to that point, I have never even written a proposal for any CFP(Call for proposal). I didn't know even what does CFP stand for and how does it go.
In the same year, I was attending EuRuKo in Sofia Bulgaria. EuRuKo is the main European Ruby conference, it is a moving conference where every year the attendees elect a new organizing team to organize the next version in a different European city. I pitched for Budapest and I won.
Well, I was lucky at this one because suddenly I got exposed to hundreds of talk proposals that I need to anonymously assess and give my opinion to it (Among many others in the CFP committee).
I saw all kinds of proposals, from super-advanced hard skills talks to truly beginners level technical talks, to talks about community, people and processes.
This was when I realized that all topics are equally important.
My first CFP proposals: The disappointment phase
After this experience, I was moving to Berlin and I decided that it is time for me to start applying my talks to other bigger more international conferences.
That was when I came across PaperCall.io, a website that shows plenty of CFPs where you can apply.
I wrote my first proposal and sent it to several conferences about graphQL for Rubyists and hit a rejection rate of 100%.
I was slightly frustrated, I thought that maybe I gave higher value to my talk content compared to what it was. I also was starting to believe that being a person of color from a non-European country I have no chance as people unconsciously would undervalue anything I would say anyways.
Amr speaking at Euroku: "An empathy exercise: contextualising the question of privilege"
My first Global Diversity CFP day
It was my 4th month in Berlin, I was already letting go of this idea that I would be able to speak in a bigger conference. When a colleague of mine shared on slack a link for the global diversity CFP workshop happening in Berlin in February 2018.
I registered just to go and hear what this was really about. I remember arriving at the location with zero expectations on what will happen.
I met super amazing people(attendees and mentors) and I remember sharing my feelings of frustration with them and I think it was a moment of realization for me to realize that even the most experienced speakers get rejected a lot of times.
My first "big conference" full-length talk
In the workshop, we watched videos on how to come up with ideas and how to formulate a more attractive proposal to stand out among the hundreds of proposals the CFP committees go through.
One thought that resonated with me that day was to talk about stuff that you truly care about.
Around that time, especially moving to Berlin I was facing plenty of issues being a person of color in our industry. I have had these thoughts a lot but never even dared to share them with people I work with.
I kept hearing privileged people around me repeating fallacies like "Reverse racism" without even taking a second to step back and understand how problematic these narratives are.
So by the end of that workshop, I wrote a proposal about a talk which was then called "An empathy exercise: Contextualizing the question of privilege"
I had millions of thoughts about the topic, I had no clue what exactly will I want to say for 45 minutes but I was sure that I need to get these thoughts out and share it and if only one person of the audience changed their minds about it that would suffice for me.
I had the Proposal on my pc but never shared it with anyone, then one day I saw the CFP call for EuRuKo 2018 in Vienna and thought to myself. "What would be a better place to do this?" It is the European ruby community whom I have so many friends among. So I sent the Proposal with almost no hope that it will get accepted.
Three months later, I received this email "Your EuRuKo Proposal has been Accepted!" I never forget this feeling of happiness I had at this moment.
I gave this talk for the first time and I was amazed by the kind feedback I got. I kept getting twitter direct messages of support and was later invited to give the same talk in different local events and was asked by the team of Greater Than Code podcast to record an episode with them.
The dilemma of repeating the same talk
At this moment, I knew I want to do more in that direction. but I started questioning myself "Is it a correct thing to repeat the same talk on multiple occasions?"
For the remaining months of 2018, I was convinced that I need to work on different content for every talk. I kept thinking to myself that it wouldn't be a genuine move to apply using the same content to different conferences. Then I had this conversation with several more experienced folks who assured me that this is natural, conference organizers are aware that speakers repeat the talks several times and that it is okay to re-apply to different events with the same content.
Getting cornered into one topic
Another fear I had at that moment, is that I would get labeled by people of privileges as "The guy that speaks about diversity stuff". I believe that people related talks are most of the time much more important than technical talks, however, especially being a person of color I wanted it to be clear that my technical knowledge and experience are as relevant and valuable as my people skills.
I started working on my second talk by the end of 2018, it was about my research project called "What is wrong with ruby?"
I started applying with both talks to a different conference but I was hitting another roadblock as again my rejection rate was high and I was getting rejection after rejection.
My second Global CFP diversity day
It was March 2019, I saw again the ads about the Global diversity CFP day. I came this time with much more excitement compared to the first time. I have had a taste of how is it and became sure that I want to do more in that direction.
I remember one of the mentors approaching me and saying that they has seen my talk at EuRuKo and loved it. I told them about it being rejected most of the times and they asked me to show the proposal and suggested that maybe I should change the title to "Privileges as Technical Debt."
Until this moment, I honestly never imagined how important the talk title can be. I also went through my other proposal with different mentors and cleaned it up.
By the end of the day, I sent my two proposals to several conferences after incorporating loads of feedbacks from lots of mentors.
2019 The Streak
Suddenly it was like a Christmas miracle, Every few days I was receiving a new CFP acceptance. I got invited to conferences all over the world from Nairobi in Kenya to Pune in India passing through several European cities.
I eventually had to apologize to several invitations due to the limited time and the amount of effort it entails but I ended up giving these two talks more than 12 times during one year.
My performance on the stage keeps improving and I keep looking back at older recordings of myself compared to my later ones and realize how much I learned and grew in such a short time.
Amr speaking at DevConf: "Privilege as a Technical Debt"
How did I prepare for my talks?
As I previously mentioned, during preparation for my first talk up to the moment of acceptance I had millions of thoughts. I was not sure what exactly would be the talk flow so I started the exercise which since then became my preparing for any talk standard.
Talk to people about it ... A LOT
The first step for me was to go around and make sure to open the topic with as many people as possible. Make sure to talk to people with different backgrounds and experiences, take notes of different metaphors and arguments that came up in these conversations.
Try to explain your points differently every time and try to see how did it work out.
Try a shorter version of it...first
Another thing I usually do, Is do a teaser version of my talk. In this case, I did a lightning talk with the same title at RubyUnconf in Hamburg.
This enables you to test out the validity of the flow as early as possible.
Write, write and write
The thing I do usually is, write one huge markdown with no outline or order just writing down all my thoughts as raw as they can get. I look for sources to any fact I say and put them in their place I simply keep sharing any ideas or external sources I have.
At this stage, I usually have so much raw content. So I start to organize it into the following:
- Attention grabber: It is a short thing at the beginning of the presentation just to grab the audience's attention. Be it a story, a question or whatever way to grab the people attendance/
Introduction: In my introduction, I always try to answer the following questions:
- Who am I?
- Why do I think this talk is important?
- Why do I think I am the one that should give this talk?
- Body: Make sure to be modular, organize your main points into sections that make sense
- Transitions: Always make sure your transitions keep the content coherent.
- Clincher: Think about the one sentence you want people to leave the room remembering.
I still do that using markdown, I still write it down as if I am speaking not in any visually attractive format. Just a bunch of text as if I am giving the talk now. I always think of it as something closer to a blog post rather than a presentation.
I keep reading it to see if it feels coherent and still makes sense.
At this stage, I start passing my gists around to people to get validation and hear their opinion and I iterate several times on it.
I use Prezi for making my slides, but for me, I think any tool to make slides is okay.
The most important trick here is to not have so much text/slide. Some people would advise people to stick to a low number of slides, I do A LOT of one sentence slides in comparison to a few slides with lots of text.
Rehearse again and again
From this point on, start giving the talk in every chance you have. Look for local meetups and in house company events. ask people for feedback and incorporate it.
An important note is, you will learn a lot from the conversation with the audience after the talk.
"The best way to learn is to teach", my journey over the past few years has assured me this. You get to go around and meet amazing people that you can learn from.
Is it super easy? no, it is not and don't believe people when they say so. It takes a lot of energy and preparation specially when you are an underprivileged individual but I guess what matters here is not how easy was it but if it was worth it.
For this I can assure you it was.
Global Diversity CFP 2019 Los Angeles Attendee
My experience with Global Diversity CFP day
Thursday 5th December 2019
I attended my first global diversity CFP day in March 2019 in Santa Monica, CA. Prior to attending, I hadn’t realized how much one meetup could impact my life. Presenting a conference talk was an idea that had been in the back of my mind since at least the middle of 2018, and the idea kept growing until I couldn’t ignore it anymore. When I saw an email about the LA edition of global diversity CFP day, I decided to sign up, despite not knowing what to expect and not really having attended any other meetups in the two years since I’d had my son.
Up until that point, I had no conference speaking experience. I'd spoken plenty in front of smaller audiences at work, and a few times for engineering alumni events at UCLA, my alma mater, but never in front of a big group of strangers about a topic of my choosing.
When the day before the event came, I considered backing out. My son had been sleeping poorly the last few nights, so I was super tired and I didn’t want to spend half my weekend away from him. However, in the end, my desire to speak at a conference before the end of the year won out and I woke up early and went on my way to Santa Monica.
The first thing that I noticed when I showed up was the diversity of the attendees. I currently work as a software engineer in a startup and previous to that, I worked as an electrical engineer in an aerospace company, so I wasn’t used to seeing people representing so many facets of diversity at the meetups that I typically attend.
The agenda was thoughtful and included a panel of experienced speakers, who pointed us towards useful resources, such as where to go to keep track of newly opened CFPs. It also included speakers that talked about specific topics I wouldn’t have thought of when applying to speak at conferences, such as how to write my bio. I hadn’t realized that most CFPs require that you include a speaker bio as part of your submission, and is something I wouldn’t have put time or thought into if it weren’t part of the workshop.
The whole day was great, but by far, the best part of the day was the idea sharing section. My idea was “Congrats! You’re the first to have a baby at your startup. Now what?” I was the first woman at my previous job at a startup to go on maternity leave, so I’d done a ton of research on what policies applied to my maternity leave. In the ensuing two years, I’d also shared that knowledge with countless female friends and coworkers, because it’s such a complicated topic in the U.S. that even big companies often get maternity leave policies wrong. This was the idea for the talk I wanted to give, but I didn’t think anyone would actually want to hear a conference talk about it.
Imagine my surprise when I got a round of applause after sharing my idea. One of the mentors told me she was an advisor to a group that she thought would be really receptive to the talk, if I wanted a venue to practice. I also had people come up and talk to me at the end of the event to say how great they thought the idea was. It was because of the amount of support and encouragement I got from my fellow attendees and organizers that I had the courage to submit my talk proposal to the next few CFPs that popped onto my radar.
I’d been well prepared for rejection by the panelists at the event, who cited the low acceptance rates for CFPs. Rather than getting bummed out when I heard about the low acceptance numbers, i actually felt better prepared for the inevitable rejections I’d get. Because I have a type-A personality, I decided to keep a Trello board of all the CFPs I submitted to and when I should hear back. I figured that this way, I'd at least be able to keep track of my numbers and not get too sad when I got a few rejections in a row. The first inevitable rejection rolled in, and I blew right past it. Imagine my surprise when my second response to a CFP was accepted! This was for the Abstractions conference in Pittsburgh. I excitedly accepted, and figured that I was ahead of the curve in terms of acceptance rate, so I fully expected the remaining 5 conferences I had submitted CFPs to to end up as rejections. I was wrong. My talk was subsequently accepted to two more conferences: Write/Speak/Code in San Francisco, and JSConf Korea (the first one in Korea!).
It was then that I realized the true power of global diversity CFP day. At the time, I didn’t think my conference talk topic was super amazing. It was just a topic that I was knowledgeable about and felt was valuable to share with others. But based on my acceptance numbers, clearly it was a topic that wasn’t being talked about by typical conference speakers. It was only because of the encouragement and help I received at the event that I even felt like I deserved to throw my hat in the CFP ring. By doing so, I was accepted to far more conferences than I would have believed possible just a few months before.
I could go on and on about my experience putting together my talk and presenting the talks, if you’ve made it this far, you’ve already been very patient and generous with your time. Long story short, presenting my talk three times within a month (once internationally!) was a priceless and unforgettable experience. Meeting my fellow speakers was the best part of each conference. They were all unfailingly friendly, upbeat, and supportive. Seeing their smiling faces in the audience when I gave my talks was what helped ease my nerves each time.
All of this is to say, if you have any interest in speaking at a conference, or even just spending a day with an awesome and diverse group of people, you should attend global diversity CFP day! It was an amazing experience for me, and was the reason I was able to achieve my goal of speaking at a conference so quickly and successfully.
Global Diversity CFP Day 2019
2069 attendees worldwide
81 workshops in 35 countries
by Peter Aitken
On Saturday March 3rd 2019 Global Diversity CFP Day returned aiming to build on the overwhelming success of the 2018 event 🎉
Having 50% more workshops available the number of attendees doubled from 2018!
To make this happen 364 volunteers, from all areas of tech around the world, signed up to support people from underrepresented and marginalised groups take their first step in becoming a tech conference speaker.
Our journey begins in Wellington, New Zealand 🇳🇿 at a workshop organised by 2018 attendee, Lora Vardova.
Then we moved to Melbourne, Perth and Sydney in Australia 🇦🇺
Then there was a host of first time Global Diversity CFP Day locations including Jakarta, Tokyo, Hyderabad, Bengaluru, Johanesburg and Nablus!
Let's share some of what happened within the workshops. Here is the full length recording of the speakers panel session from the Singapore 🇸🇬 workshop.
Speakers Panel, Singapore
Next is the "brain storming your talk" session from Nablus, Palestine 🇵🇸
Another first for Global Diversity CFP Day 2019 was the Primary Parents Online workshop. This was specifically run to prepare primary care givers with the advice necessary to make international speaking engagements possible with the child.
Thank you to Natalya Shelburne for making this happen!
Global Diversity CFP Day pulls together people that share the same values and will be an ongoing part of the tech calendar for years to come!
Lian shared what a number of volunteers felt:
One of the best things about @gdcfpday was seeing all the awesome people I've met and friends I've made all over the world pop up in their respective locations and inspiring the next generation of amazing speakers.— Lian Li (@Chimney42) March 2, 2019
We're never too sure when attendees will make that progression to a tech conference stage. This year we are pleased to share that Skye Simpson set a new record by having their talk propsal accepted within 7 days!!!!!!!!!!
There are so many people to thank and without them Global Diversity CFP Day 2019 simply would not have achieved the same level success in supporting sooooo many people!
Thank you to all 2069 attendees! We can't wait to see how you're speaking career progresses. Please let us know when you are accepted to speak and let us join in the celebration! 💛
Thank you to Raquel Vélez, Sarah Mei, Danielle Barnes, Saron Yitbarek, Melinda Seckington and Jessica Rose for providing the educational content for these workshops. These videos are what makes this event straight forward for anyone to organise a workshop. 💛
Thank you to all 364 volunteers whose hard work, time and experience shaped each individual workshop. 💛
Thank you to each of the companies that sponsored workshop venues and catering! 💛
Finally, thank you to the Global Code of Conduct team for making themselves available through out the event and ensuring that everyones safety is of paramount importance. 💛
Best of luck in 2019, we can't wait to hear where your speaking journey takes you!
Global Diversity CFP 2018 London Attendee
Tuesday 29th January 2019
After moving to London I began to attend a lot of meet-ups and some conferences. They were always excellent but I never 100% connected to them. That changed when in 2017 I saw one particular talk that I really enjoyed because it made me feel that my interests were not strange and that there was more people like me in the community. So I thought “I wish I could talk about this too and give my perspective”. I also saw it as an opportunity to put myself out there and connect with people with the same interests as me. I set it as a goal for 2018 to give a talk in one meet-up.
I stumbled upon Global Diversity CFP day workshop via Twitter because I followed one of the mentors and in February I signed up for the workshop in London. I wanted to learn how to prepare a talk proposal since English isn’t my native language. Although I knew what I wanted to talk about, I was open to more ideas.
All the rounds of exercises were incredibly useful and in each step there was something I learnt about myself. I hadn’t realised how much I struggled to write my own bio for example. The exercises around it and how you can talk about yourself were so practical that even someone shy like myself ended up with a written bio in the end. The session about our actual talks were the most crucial bit for me. I wrote down so many notes when I was brainstorming with the mentors about my talk idea. They also gave me their perspectives on it that I hadn’t even considered. It did feel like a safe place to share and get feedback.
But we’re all humans and in all honesty and to my embarrassment I ended up crying in it. I felt overwhelmed and ashamed of myself. Although everything was going well, my mind was telling me that my bio wasn’t great and that I don’t have anything interesting to tell people. I was bottling up these self doubt feelings and when it came to the last exercises I couldn’t stop the tears falling from my face. I didn’t have anything technical. I felt that I wasn’t coming up with anything revolutionary or brand-new. I felt as if I was wasting everyone’s time. I can’t thank Sareh (one of mentors) enough for being incredibly supportive on that moment that I broke down. The advice I was given to fight this self doubt was exactly what I needed to hear.
The mentors were supportive, encouraging and shared a lot from their experience. I was so impressed with the talk proposals of everyone else that was in the workshop. All of them did feel “revolutionary” because it was coming from unique people. The day ended with the mentors sharing stories of “when things went wrong” and lots of useful tips.
So, if I had been home alone doing this I would have given up. Instead, when I arrived home I had a bio and a shy idea.
But most importantly, I wouldn’t have given my talks. Yes, plural. I set my goal to do one talk in 2018. I did three! Towards September I finally had the courage to start submitting my talk in local meet-ups (TODO London and ReactJSGirls) and as a lightning talk at a conference (View Source) and they were accepted. But I was also rejected from other places and you know what? It’s okay and normal. There is room for everyone in the community and it can be anywhere and it probably won’t be at your first choice.
By the time I had to give my talks I was so nervous. I also learned so much in all of them. From my perspective they weren’t perfect but I did put my heart out in them and my number one goal, to connect with like minded people, was achieved. Being able to chat and keep in touch with people who related to what I said and later on approached me is incredible.
I still have lots to learn but a big step already happened and I’m very grateful to all the organisers. I had this day in my mind when I gave my talks.
My Speaking Journey
Singapore workshop organiser
Thursday 22nd November 2018
I started attending conferences in 2015, and my first one was Form, Function, Class 5 in Manila, quickly followed by CSSConf.Asia 2015 back in Singapore. The conferences were great, with inspiring and informative talks, plus the opportunity to meet a lot of amazing people. As much as I enjoyed the experience, the matter of fact was that around Southeast Asia, there simply aren’t that many web conferences, unlike Europe or the United States. And I definitely couldn’t afford to get to those under normal circumstances.
This comes in really handy when submitting CFPs. The first CFP of mine that ever got accepted was for piterCSS, a frontend conference out of Saint Petersburg, Russia, by Vadim Makeev. I also got invited to speak at Webconf.asia in Hong Kong, by Charis Rooda. Both conference organisers took a chance on me for their inaugural conferences, and essentially kickstarted my conference speaking journey.
One thing I realised is that local developers from Southeast Asia don’t often appear on international conference stages. Though there are plenty of speakers from Europe and the United States who come over here to speak. So when I was asked to speak on a panel at last year’s global diversity CFP day workshop, I immediately said yes.
The workshop included an introduction by JSConf.Asia organiser, Thomas Gorrisen, who provided helpful tips on what organisers look out for when they sift through hundreds of CFPs, and the panel covered advice on public speaking and preparing for the talk. After which participants worked together in groups to put any ideas they had onto paper, or refine any talk proposals they already had in mind.
In general, developers from our region tend to be less vocal and expressive when compared to our Western counterparts. And initiatives like global diversity CFP day are beneficial to the effort to increase the variance of perspectives within the tech industry and encourage local developers to share their knowledge and experiences with the world.
My experience organizing Global Diversity CFP Day Boston
Wednesday 21st November 2018
Global Diversity CFP Day (CFP = Call for Proposals) is a worldwide workshop for members of underrepresented groups in tech to learn about how to become a tech conference speaker. The workshop series started as an offshoot of a workshop at the ScotlandJS conference, and in its first full year, 2018, GDCFP happened in 52 cities, plus one remote workshop!
I was on the organizing team for Boston with some awesome teammates, Anna Nagy and Eddie Kay, and as a team we managed to get a fun, informative workshop off the ground in just under a month. GDCFP is looking to get new workshops into more cities for our 2019 series. So if you’re interested in organizing or mentoring in your town and promoting more diversity on the 🎤 at conferences, even if you’ve never run a workshop before, read on to hear about how Boston got ours!
What does a GDCFP workshop teach?
Global Diversity CFP Day teaches about all areas of tech public speaking, with a special focus on the process of getting a talk ready for a tech conference. Some of these things include figuring out a topic for your talk, writing a talk proposal that catches the conference organizers’ eyes, and a “crafting your bio” workshop, where attendees pair up to write and present each other’s bios. Another great section of the workshop was the Caring for your Audience discussion, where mentors and attendees brainstorm exclusionary language in tech talks and come up with more inclusive alternatives, such as “blacklist/whitelist” => “blocklist/safelist”, “so easy my grandma could do this” => “straightforward to use”.
Peter Aitken, the head of GDCFP, encouraged organizers to make sure the workshop is not all just talks from the mentors. So for our event, most of the sections we had ended up being roundtable discussions, making for a very conversational style that really let everyone participate and share knowledge. The official schedule does include videos to show as well, but organizers are allowed to take artistic license on that. So instead of showing the video on slides, Sean Kelly, an experienced conference speaker, gave a live-demo of how he writes slides for his talk to make them easy and enjoyable to read, and Mark Bates, founder of papercall.io, a site for submitting your talk proposals, gave a presentation showing the designs of winning tech talk proposals that get into events.
You can find the official version of the schedule here.
How Boston got our workshop off the ground
For 2018, the Boston team had to work really fast because we didn’t actually form until near the end of December, giving us just a month before February 3rd to get this thing up and running! I spent the second half of the fall posting on Twitter to recruit a co-organizer, and in December, I got a comment on my post from Anna Nagy asking if I was still planning on running this event, followed a few days after by Eddie Kay. Then at the Caffe Nero in Brookline, the team formed! It turned out that Eddie had been involved a lot with CFP workshops on the job at athenahealth, and Anna has been both a conference speaker and organizer, and I had experience as an organizer for Boston Golang. We prepared a Trello board of things to get done, ideas for parts of the event, and groups to contact to find attendees and mentors, and then we began preparing.
The first thing to get done was finding a venue, and we had a few options planned out. On such short notice, we were incredibly lucky to get a venue on our first try. David Chase from Google, who runs the space when Boston Go holds our meetups, helped us to get space and food at Google Cambridge for the workshop. I had also already recruited Mark Bates as well as two of my Boston Go co-organizers as mentors, and Eddie helped us get more great mentors from athenahealth.
To find attendees, we tweeted a ton about the event, but additionally, we reached out to diversity-focused tech groups we knew about or had contact with, and used our EventBrite ticket page to find out who needed special accommodations, as well as a Google Survey to figure out what people were most interested in hearing about at roundtables. This year, with much more time to get the event started, we are also planning on adding to our outreach by doing more networking, as well as holding preseason events like informal breakfasts. That way attendees and mentors can meet before the big event and we can really form a Boston GDCFP community. Unfortunately, we don’t have any analytics from last event on which parts of our outreach were the most effective, but in general, I think contacts with people who the organizing team already knew were the most effective, so if you’re organizing a workshop for 2019, keep on networking!
Finally, for getting the event going, we gathered material to write an intro packet for the event. We wrote up a schedule and description of the event, added the code of conduct, plus we gathered lists of conferences with open CFPs, local meetups, and public speaking resources (Anna opened a Twitter thread and loads of speakers shared more resources than we could fit on the packet!). You can see the Boston event’s final product here. One recommendation for writing an intro packet, though, you should look for a printing sponsor; to get the material printed for 25 attendees and 10 mentors, the price came to a hefty $140, even with the code of conduct printed separately so it could be in black and white!
At the event
On February 3rd, the workshop happened! As I mentioned before, a lot of the workshop we had roundtable discussions on each topic, which the Google space lent really well to, with lots of rooms and lounges to use as breakout spaces. Additionally we had presentations and used a couple of the videos that the official GDCFP website provided. The place where the freeform style really shined, in my opinion, was the Caring for your Audience discussion. While the original intent was talking about how to make your own talks welcoming to more people, there also was some cool discussion on ways to make conferences themselves more inclusive, like having quiet rooms for people to recharge, keeping exclusionary language and tropes out of conference swag, and reserving the front rows for people with disabilities to make it easier for them to enjoy the talks. The presentations were also highlights since people could hear about strategies to get proposals accepted, and about making your slides both easier to read and part of your personal brand.
The venue itself also was really conducive to a GDCFP-style workshop. In addition to spaces for discussion, there were single-occupancy gender-neutral restrooms, elevators that people in wheelchairs could use, easy access to public transportation, and red badge clips for people who don’t want to be photographed. Additionally, although she couldn’t make it to the event, one attendee had a baby, and David even managed to help us get a babysitter!
One thing I think could’ve gone better with this workshop, though, was just having more time to throw together this event. The organizing team did an excellent job running this and we had a great space, but one thing that stood out was that we got a good number of non-engineer attendees, such as people working in product and even in history, so with more time to prepare, we could have recruited more mentors outside of engineering. Additionally, having more time to prepare the event would allow us to engage with attendees more beforehand and build more of a speaker community. However, overall I think the workshop was still great and provided a lot of useful knowledge on speaking (which I also used myself to get my first conference talk in at the end of October)!
Boston Family Photo
I hope that this all has gotten you interested in running a Global Diversity CFP Day event for 2019, or if you were planning on it, I hope it has given you some idea of what the work organizing looks like. If you have questions about organizing and running this event, I am happy to answer them, and you can send them to me in a tweet or a Twitter DM at @AndyHaskell2013.
Global Diversity CFP Day 2018
53 workshops 🌍
by Peter Aitken
Thursday 15th February 2018
On Friday the 2nd of February the clock was ticking ever closer to 11pm (GMT).
11pm, here in the UK, is 10am Saturday in Australia when the Sydney and Melbourne workshops started the first Global Diversity CFP Day!
It was an incredible feeling of anticipation and excitement that an event, more than a year in the planning, was so close to starting.
This anticipation also came with a very surreal feeling. Having spent a great deal of time organising a worldwide event, it is starting on the other side of the planet and I'm not there. Had all the planning been a dream? Was it really happening?
Then pictures started arriving.
Venue's were set up.
Then people, yes real people, were arriving having tea, coffee and breakfast!
Kris Howard opening Global Diversity CFP Day in Sydney, Australia.
Amanda Dean opening Global Diversity CFP Day in Melbourne, Australia.
A lump formed in my throat and a few tears too. IT REALLY IS HAPPENING!
Then the wave started
Then Perth, Australia
Then Mumbai, India
Then New Dehli, India
Then Kathmandu, Nepal
Then Sylhet, Bangladesh
Then Cape Town, South Africa
Then Accra, Ghana
Having never paid much attention to timezones as New Year is celebrated at different times around the world I was paying A LOT of attention to timezones now!
Sydney Family Photo
After a quick nap some workshops had already finished, while others kept opening in Brussel, Berlin, A Coruña, Santiago, then 8 more in the UK.
Then we travelled over the Atlantic with 17 workshops in the USA and São Paulo and Santiago ready to go too!
Where did all of this come from?
We thought "Wouldn't it be good to have one in London, there are lots of people there?" That'd be great. Everyone we asked for help said "Yes!".
Then Dublin, Sheffield and Berlin quickly joined in too!
These workshops had a HUGE impact on the diversity of the CFP applicants, the final speaking line-up and also the attendees. The full write-up can be found here.
If these workshops had such a great impact in encouraging people to participate and apply to speak why not share it with all tech communities everywhere?
And so began an 18 month journey in which everyone kept saying "Yes" to helping make this incredibly positive movement a reality!
What has happened since Global Diversity CFP Day?
Over a 1000 participants worldwide have already started applying to speak at conferences.
Currently three Brisbane workshop attendees have already spoken at meetups!
Thank you ALL!
Thank you to all the 200+ people who worked incredibly hard and gave up their free time to organise and mentor at workshops around the world. Everyone had a shared vision of supporting people from underrepresented and marginalized groups in tech 💛
Thank you to the many companies that sponsored workshops by providing venues, food and drinks 💛
Finally thank you to all of the 1000+ attendees that participated in Global Diversity CFP Day. We hope to have played a small part in you having the confidence to raise your voice and share your perspective on a tech conference stage soon and would love to hear more about your journey 💛
Hopefully we'll see you next time!
Senior Web Developer, BBC Education
Diversity CFP Workshop attendee
Monday 22nd January 2018
I had been to a couple of tech conferences and found them an inspiring and energising experience. I wanted to go to more and I knew speaking would be a way to get my employer to let me do so! Plus being a presenter would give people a reason to come up and start a conversation and save me from awkwardly hanging around by the biscuits at coffee time.
I quite fancied being up on the stage, I just didn’t know what I wanted to talk about or how to get started. So when I was thinking about asking if I could go to ScotlandJS and I saw the workshop advertised on their website I thought it would be a great idea to go along (not to mention it would give me a reason to get out of the house on a winter weekend).
I didn’t know what to expect, but the workshop was super relaxed and friendly. First I chatted with the mentors and other attendees then we watched a video about the applications process, which was really informative. It was great to get sage advice from people who have a lot of experience of both writing and sifting through conference submissions.
Then we got to discussing what we might like to talk about. This was the most useful part of the session for me. I had a vague idea that I might like to talk about accessibility as I’d been learning a lot about it lately and had been surprised to discover that I had soon become the team expert on it at work. Clearly there was a big knowledge gap in the industry and I thought I could help to fill it. However, I’d got it into my head that since there had been a session on accessibility at the previous year’s conference then nobody would want to hear about it again this year.
The workshop facilitator soon banished that self-doubt. He pointed out that most of the people at the conference would not have been the previous year, and the topic is so big that I was very unlikely to come up with exactly the same idea for a twenty minute talk. The mentors assured me that they all felt they needed to know more about it and gave some ideas on particular aspects they were curious about.
I was also worried that I wasn’t really an expert in the subject, just somebody with a bit more knowledge than her peers. Again, the mentors set this fear to rest with the sage advice that often a beginner in a subject is much better at communicating it to other novices than an expert who assumes too much prior knowledge from the audience.
Buoyed up by the enthusiasm people at the workshop had shown for my talk and armed with all the great advice about how to ace the conference submissions process, I wrote up my proposal and applied to speak at ScotlandJS. When I got accepted of course I was absolutely thrilled! People had voted for my talk! Then I was a little terrified: now I had to write it. Thankfully I’d also had loads of great advice about preparing to speak at a conference.
When the day came, I was pretty nervous. I had presented informal talks at work and to small meetup groups where I knew everyone, but standing up in front of 300 people was a different matter entirely. However, I knew I was well prepared for many different eventualities. I had even recorded videos of all my demos to avoid the curse of live coding, and included the screen reader subtitles in case I had any issues with audio playback.
As it turned out, this came in handy! I’d be lying if I said my first conference talk went perfectly. There were plenty of things I wanted to do better next time and one or two carefully rehearsed things that I entirely forgot to say. But the main thing was, I wanted there to be a next time!
I had great fun at the conference, I amazed myself by actually getting on stage in front of 300 people and afterwards my confidence soared. If I could do that, what else could I do? And yes, I did get chatting to people instead of pretending to be really fascinated by the snacks, and found out that a lot of people learned something useful from my talk, which felt fantastic.
Backend software developer
Diversity CFP Workshop attendee
Monday 15th January 2018
Ever since I first started attending technical conferences I had the goal of (eventually) becoming a conference speaker. It seemed to be something I would like to do, researching a topic in depth and then presenting it - what an awesome learning opportunity!
I found out about this wonderful website full of resources and encouragement for turning yourself into a speaker, that helped me decide this was really something achievable for me (and for everyone, really, because “We Are All Awesome”).
It took me some time to get started. Well, there is the small matter of public speaking being something I stress inducing for me (still today), and that I feel uncomfortable doing. I am by no means a natural at this!
A turning point for me was hearing about the ScotlandCSS + ScotlandJS Diversity CFP workshop, organized in 2016 in several different locations. I immediately jumped and enrolled in it, as something like this was just the incentive that I needed, and it came just at the right time.
I attended the Berlin workshop. At first, I was not sure what to expect. Maybe some presentations on how to be an effective conference speaker, which we started with - and these were really informative, addressing all my concerns on anxiety in public speaking. But what really made the difference was the encouragement that I got, and above all the practical help in getting together an abstract, first starting with a general template with the whole structure and then assembling the pieces in a coherent text.
I already had some ideas that I could work with, but somehow translating them into a coherent abstract that made the topic seem interesting seemed to be hard to achieve. Having a background both in computer science and psychology, I wanted to speak about topics that bring together both areas of knowledge. And I picked the topic of cognitive bias in software programming.
And so it happened that at the end of the workshop I had an almost complete abstract for a conference talk! Which is something I had never expected to have at the end of the day!!!
A week or two after this, I decided to submit the resulting abstract to ScotlandJS, as the breadth of topics covered by them is wide - and in the end was accepted, so it feels like going full circle.
Even today I still refer to my notes from this workshop, and still use the methodology I learned there to put together an abstract. What I learned there has given me the push I needed to meet the goal of being a conference speaker, and for this I will be always grateful to all the organizers!