I'm honored to be an organizer on the program committee for PyGotham 2017 this year, and I encourage you all to submit a talk to our little conference. PyGotham will be held October 6, 7, and 8 in New York City, and the Call for Proposals is open until July 18.

PyGotham attendees are diverse, come from varied backgrounds and skill levels, and have lives and interests beyond Python programming. Accordingly, the topics at PyGotham often vary a bit more widely than other programming language conferences. In the past, we have hosted talks about subjects from detecting sarcasm in audio files of speech, to open source stenography; from game programming to what we can learn about code review from J.R.R. Tolkien (sort of).

The threads connecting all these talks together are Python and New York, and the people interested and involved in both of those. If you're a member of either of these communities, if you think the PyGotham audience would like to hear your talk, then we want to see your proposal

The Importance of Outlines

PyGotham's CFP, like many other Python conferences, explicitly suggests you draft an outline of your talk as part of the submission. This has obvious benefits to those of us on the program committee -- we can get a clearer vision of what your talk will actually be like -- so we ask for it. But you may not be interested in why the outline is a benefit to us on the program committee, so let me tell you why it is a boon to you:

  1. The outline is where you really solidify what your talk is about. You may formulate your talk beginning from a library you want to explore, a programming trick you like, or a pithy title — each of us has a different creative process. But you won't really know if your idea can stand on its own until you've fleshed out what you want to say about it. Brandon Rhodes summarizes this nicely:

    By the time I finish a proposal, I feel about halfway done writing the talk. That feeling is always hilariously inaccurate, but it hopefully signals the point at which I have gotten enough detail into the proposal for the committee to imagine what the talk will be like.

    (From Example PyCon talk proposals)

    Once you have an outline written, your abstract, longer description, and title practically write themselves, so I recommend you start with the outline first.

  2. The next major benefit is structure. Some talks suffer from a lack of coherent organization, which makes it difficult for the audience to follow along. At the stage of an outline, you won't be too attached to particular phrasing, slide ordering, or example code, so you're more free to rearrange topics within your talk to be most comprehensible.

    I like to structure my talks a bit like a five-paragraph essay, a technique I learned in high school. First, I'm going to introduce a problem, topic, or thesis; next, I will provide supporting evidence, and develop it for most of the duration of the talk; and finally, I return to the original problem statement or thesis and form a conclusion or suggest next steps.

    I want my audience to have the experience that I have watching a documentary, rather than reading reference documentation. You should learn something, and you should be engaged throughout; but you shouldn't have to keep notes or refer back to previous pages (or slides). The moment when your ideas are complete enough to write down, but not so set in your brain that you're attached is the right time to organize this structure; that time is when you can write your outline.

  3. Finally, your outline also answers an important question: do I have enough here to talk about for 25 minutes? Do I have more than enough, and should I request a 40 minute slot? Timing talks is tricky, especially if you haven't spoken much before, but it's hopeless to try to guess from a vague idea whether that can sustain a proper talk slot. You'll feel better about your proposal knowing how long each section will take, and using that framework to guide writing your actual talk once you're selected.

A lot of credit for the above belongs to Celia La, Sarah Guido, Jason Myers, and Jon Banafato, who joined me on a panel at the NYC Python meetup last week to discuss the PyGotham CFP and conference talk submissions in general.

Resources for the CFP

A few specific resources were mentioned during the panel, as well:

Ask Me Anything

I've promised in several tweets to be available if you have any questions about PyGotham or the CFP, or if you want help brainstorming an idea. The best way to get in touch with me is on Twitter, so drop me a line.

PyGotham's Call for Proposals is open until July 18, so don't delay!