Tips for submittiting to the GopherCon 2020 CFP

The GopherCon 2020 Call for Proposals is open right now, and it closes on January 10, 2020. I am a co-chair of the program committee this year and I want to encourage you to submit a proposal.

Now that the year is drawing to a close and many of us will take some time off, it's an especially great time to sit down with your ideas and write up a great proposal.

In this post, I'm going to answer common questions and comments I hear and talk about some common mistakes that I see in proposals.

Whether or not you've written proposals before, I'm highly encouraging you to take 20 minutes to read this article by Dave Cheney. Dave is a very accomplished engineer and has years of experience reviewing GopherCon proposals.

I've never done any public speaking before, can I submit?

The Go community is a large and diverse group. People from every corner of the world write Go code and they all have different experience levels, backgrounds, races, gender identities, and so on.

Every year, we aim to make the GopherCon speaker lineup reflect the community at large. We want to hear more of the ideas that our diverse community has to offer. If you're a new speaker and you have an experience you think is interesting, please consider submitting a proposal to us. Same goes if you're a new programmer.

If we select your proposal, we'll give you all the help and support you need to give a great talk.

Can I submit more than one proposal?

Yes, absolutely!

Please just make sure that all of your submissions are appropriate for GopherCon. See "Advice for Authors" on the CFP page for a guideline on what makes a proposal appropriate.

Papercall has a feature that lets you re-submit a talk from another conference to GopherCon, but we rarely select those talks. Instead of using that, please take a few extra minutes to tailor what you have to GopherCon, and then submit the new writing.

What's the difference between a tutorial session and a keynote session?

Tutorial sessions are 45 minutes long and happen in three tracks, which means that three of them will be happening at the same time at the conference. These sessions need to talk about or teach a Go-related topic in depth.

If you're writing a proposal for a tutorial session, try to keep a specific audience in mind. "Go programmers interested in writing internet services" is too general. "Go programmers interested in building distributed databases" is better.

Keynote sessions are 25 minutes long and happen one at a time, so everybody from the conference will watch them at the same time.

If you submit a keynote proposal, make sure that the huge diverse group of Gophers at the conference will get something out of it.

I submitted last year and my proposal didn't get selected, can I submit one this year?

Absolutely. There are a lot of reasons why we don't or can't select proposals every year, so it might not be anything you missed last year. If you think your proposal is good, feel free to re-submit it, and if you have a new idea, you can submit that too.

It's ok to submit 2 or more proposals.

I don't like public speaking

I hear this one so much that I need to convince you to submit a proposal anyway.

I don't like public speaking either. I'm scared I'll mess something up and lose the respect of my peers. I still do it, though, because I want to share what I know with my colleagues in the community.

Next time you talk yourself out of writing a proposal, try to focus instead of sharing your ideas, and go for it.

If your proposal is selected, we'll do everything we can to help you feel comfortable and prepared for you talk. Last year myself and other reviewers sat with speakers and watched them rehearse their entire talk over video chats and at the conference. We're planning to do the same thing this year.

I don't have any ideas for a proposal

We all have unique experiences and ideas -- even if we're brand new to programming or Go -- but it's hard to get them out unless you can step back and think about your work and experiences at-large.

Spend some quiet time to think about some new Go-related thing you've learned recently or what your experience has been like solving a technology problem at work or at home. This could be something as small as 10 minutes of quiet time at lunch or after work.


What I've written here is based on common questions and pitfalls I've seen in real life GopherCon proposals over the past 2 years. It's certainly not everything you need to know to write a great proposal.

As I said at the beginning of this post, Dave Cheney has a much longer history of reviewing GopherCon proposals, and he's distilled that experience into a hugely valuable article. I can nearly guarantee you'll find some way to improve your proposal after reading this post, so please take the time to do so.

With that, good luck on your proposals, and happy new year, Gophers!