How – and Why – to Speak at Linux Foundation Events

By May 5, 2015Blog

LinuxCon CloudOpen 2014 speaker The open source community lives and grows through collaboration. That collaboration is driven online but we’ve witnessed first hand how much can be done and quickened by face-to-face meetings. This is due, in part, to the session speakers at events like LinuxCon, CloudOpen, Embedded Linux Conference and more. Speakers at our events represent the leaders and subject matter experts across a diverse range of technology areas and lend so much more to the event experience than just speaking. They help grow the community through their contribution; they make the experience for attendees so much more rich; and they represent the passion and genius that Linux and open source are known for.

With the Call for Papers for LinuxCon, CloudOpen, the new ContainerCon and many more events approaching, please consider these benefits to you as a speaker and consider contributing to this year’s events.

Benefits of Attending

Grow your community

By speaking and sharing your knowledge with the larger Linux and open source community, you help bring more people into your project by showing them what’s so special and interesting about it.

Advance your mission or your work more effectively

A study by the Economist Intelligence Unit revealed that in-person interactions helps resolve problems more efficiently, generate longer-term relationships and resolve problems and creative opportunities more quickly. Online communication can be very efficient, but it lacks many key aspects of communication, including body language and facial cues. Additionally, when you work with someone face-to-face you are more likely to give them your full attention than online communication, which is usually accompanied by multitasking on other items.

Increase your credibility in the community

Most technology events get far more speaking proposals than they have room for, so only the best and most useful are selected. Being offered a speaking slot demonstrates that you have important knowledge to share and are qualified to share it. Conference speaking appearances can help create positive feelings about, and publicity for, you and your organization or project.

Expand your network

Any attendee at a conference can attend your session, so you are likely to see some new faces. Instead of communicating with your existing network online, events provide the opportunity to meet new contacts who will take the knowledge you impart and share it with their own networks, amplifying the impact. You also have the opportunity to learn from others through their sessions, or collaborate with them at networking events, hackathons and other activities. If you’re looking to recruit new people to your organization, or if you’re looking for a new job yourself, there’s no better way to get a foot in the door than meeting in person.

Tips for Submitting a Talk

Ok, ready to submit a talk? Here are a few tips as you consider your CPF submission. 

Tailor proposals to your audience

If you’re considering applying to speak at an event, make sure your topic fits into the focus of the event. You should review the call for proposals in detail, and if available look at session topics from prior years of the event. If you were attending this event, what would you want to hear about? 

Be forward thinking

When drafting a proposal, don’t focus on what has been done in the past but about what the future holds for this topic. What knowledge can you share that people in the audience can take away, expand upon and improve for the future?

Don’t make a sales pitch

If someone wants to hear about the features and capabilities of your latest product, they’ll contact the sales department. Speaking at a technology conference is about demonstrating the how and the why, not the who and the what of a topic. Be as neutral as possible and talk about what the community can do for you, as well as what you can do for them.

Show your passion, and inspire

The best presentations are the ones where the speaker strongly believes in the topic and can communicate the fervor of that belief in a way that inspires the listener.

Don’t give up

If your first proposal isn’t accepted, don’t be disheartened. As mentioned earlier, there are always more proposals than available slots. Ask for feedback and get input from others about how you can improve your pitch for next time, or think about alternative topics that might be more relevant. Consider applying for smaller events or ask to present at a local Meetup group to try your talk out and help perfect it. Many Linux Foundation events also include Birds of a Feather (BoF) talks, which are informal and open to anyone who wants to share their knowledge, making them a great opportunity to still speak if you aren’t selected for a formal session.

At The Linux Foundation, we are always looking for speakers for the dozens of events we organize each year. We especially want to invite new speakers and those from underrepresented groups to submit proposals. It’s well established that women and minorities can doubt themselves and discourage themselves from submitting talks for conferences. Don’t let this stop you! We want to hear from you and other new speakers.

Visit our Call for Proposals Dashboard to see all the upcoming opportunities, including LinuxCon + CloudOpen + ContainerCon North America (CFP deadline May 12). And if you want advice or to run something by me please email me at amanda at linuxfoundation dot org.