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Kayla Sween
Kayla Sween

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4 Strategies for Picking a Conference Talk Topic

As the organizer for MagnoliaJS and as a conference speaker, the two questions I get asked most often from people wanting to get into conference speaking are "what should I talk about?" and "how do I pick a conference talk topic?" The only I answer I can really give is the typical senior dev answer... it depends. Here are a few things to consider when deciding on a conference talk.

You could talk about something you're comfortable with.

I'd recommend talking about something you've already been working with and are at least somewhat knowledgable about. Agreeing to give a conference talk is already nerve-wracking without having to learn a new skill or technology to give the talk.

Or you could talk about something completely new!

On the other hand, agreeing to talk about something you're not very comfortable with can push you to learn more about that topic, if that's what motivates you! If you've been excited to try a new JavaScript framework but haven't quite had the time to devote to it, submitting a Call for Papers (CFP, also could stand for Call for Proposals) about it gives you the perfect excuse to build something with it!

(Please don't do this if it will cause you too much stress! ❤️)

You could talk about something you're passionate about.

Giving a conference talk on something that gets you excited will make preparing and giving the talk so much easier. The audience will be able to sense your enthusiasm and help energize you throughout the talk.

Do you love CSS? Give a talk about animations, grid vs flex, or whatever cool thing you've learned CSS can do!

Are you excited about accessibility? Talk about how to make sites more accessible!

Do you enjoy mentoring others? Talk about how to be a better mentor or mentee!

Talk about your experiences.

Not every tech conference talk has to be a technical talk. In fact, I believe I learn far more from the ones that aren't technical! You could talk about how you got into tech or things you've learned from video games that translate well into development or career skills.

The hardest part about speaking at conferences is picking a topic (and the 20 minutes before you get on stage when you're wondering why you agreed to do this 😅). Hopefully this post has given you some ideas for your first CFP. If you've got one in mind, MagnoliaJS's CFP is open now!

Some of the topics covered in this post were given at MagnoliaJS 2022. All of the talks are on YouTube so go check them out!

Cover image from unDraw.

Top comments (4)

wmramadan profile image
Wael Ramadan

What about points on how to be accepted for a talk?

kayla profile image
Kayla Sween

That's a good question! I feel like a lot of external factors can impact whether or not your talk will be accepted, so the only thing I can really recommend is having someone else look over your abstract (or post it on Twitter or ask for feedback here on DEV) before you submit a CFP.

ajlmusic profile image
Andrew J Lewis

Thanks Kayla! These points are all great. I truly believe in following your passions and continuing to develop yourself in other to serve others. Learn, grow, share!

kayla profile image
Kayla Sween

Absolutely! Thanks for reading, Andrew! 😊