So you want to give a talk at GORUCO

Posted February 05 2013 by Francis Hwang

There are many perks to being a GORUCO speaker. With such a large audience, you can use the opportunity to influence the discussion in the field. Speaking can be a big boost to your technical career. And you get the satisfaction of playing a special role in one of the best open-source events in New York.

If you’ve ever wanted to be a GORUCO speaker, but you feel like you’re in the dark about which proposals get accepted, here are some tips for you.

Let’s start with some easy ones:

Be a local

New York City is becoming a world-class city for engineers, so we always reserve some GORUCO slots for local speakers. Most of the time, these slots are less competitive than the rest. So if you live in the NYC area, you should know that the odds are tilted slightly in your favor. We’d love to be a stepping stone for you on the path to becoming a world-class tech speaker.

Submit multiple talks

It is 100% okay to submit more than one talk topic. In fact, we prefer it. There’s nothing worse for us than to get two great proposals from two great speakers–both of whom want to talk about the exact same thing. If you submit more than a few topics, you give us more maneuvering room in putting together a program.

Obviously, some topics do better than others, which brings us to:

Pick a topic that’s the right difficulty

We define the GORUCO audience as “highly motivated programmers interested in all things Ruby.” In practice, that has meant that we default from intermediate to advanced talks. We would rather have a talk that’s a little too difficult than one that’s little too easy. For a motivated programmer it’s better to be forced to catch up than to be bored.

Pick the right sort of topic

Most of our talks are on emerging topics of interest in Ruby or Rails. But that doesn’t mean they have to be Ruby-specific: in the past we’ve had talks on specific NoSQL stores or Javascript. The question to ask is not, “is this about Ruby?” but rather “will a roomful of Ruby programmers be interested in hearing about this?”

We’re always on the lookout for topics that are unrelated to most people’s day-to-day but may be fun to hear about, like generating MIDI or controlling first-person shooter bots. Similarly, we occasionally have talks on subjects that are more generally about the craft of being a Rubyist: How do you manage programmers? How do you deal with clients or other non-technical stakeholders?

However, keep in mind that those sorts of wild-card subjects are a little harder to get accepted. You have to genuinely have some sort of deep experience with the subject for us to want to give you a whole slot.

Show us that you can deliver an effective talk

A good talk description only tells part of the story, so when we evaluate proposals, we look beyond the text of the proposal to try to find people who can get their message across to a roomful of engineers.

Are you comfortable speaking to crowds? How well do you know the audience you’re speaking to? Do you know how to structure what you have to say in a way that challenges, inspires, educates, and entertains?

And how can you let us know that you’re good at that?

Here are some reasons that the GORUCO program committee might have faith in your speaking ability:

  • You have speaker videos or slides online that you can include with your submission
  • You’ve spoken at other meetups or conferences, enough to have built a reputation as a solid speaker
  • You have an active blog where you form cogent arguments
  • We actually know you

This is the toughest tip on this list, but it might also be the most important. It is possible to get a GORUCO speaking slot without a lot of speaking experience, but any experience you do have will give you a leg up during selection.

If you’re looking to get started, NYC.rb is a good feeder for us, since many of the GORUCO organizers are also NYC.rb regulars. But meetups of all kinds are always hungry for more talks, whether you’re talking about a full-length affair or a ten-minute lightning talk. We don’t need to hear a full-length talk to know whether you can craft a good story, so you can probably get some experience speaking at meetups without too much work.

The rest is up to you

These specific tips shouldn’t obscure the core of the experience: For all the work and stress, giving a talk can be immensely rewarding. What are you dying to tell your colleagues in the field? We want you to come up with something amazing to say, and then we want to give you the chance to say it.

The full text of the CFP is here. The deadline is March 14th, so you have a little more than a month.

Apply now!