— Dan (@thatdamnqa) April 30, 2017
Recently a friend of mine wrote about why he didn’t submit to the Call for Papers for a Conference. And – even though the reasoning is absolutely straight forward – I felt that it was wrong. It took a while for me to realize what exactly it was.
I’m not a conference-organizer myself, I only know that it it a tough job. And keeping the balance between known and reliable speakers that help sell tickets and new faces that can become the next reliable and known speakers must be a challenge. And then trying to also have a balanced amount of speakers from usually underrepresented groups1 in tech must be even harder. And being one of those “white males” that seem to be everywhere on tech conferences I can’t feel how it is to be underrepresented.
But I am pretty sure of one thing. When conference-organizers are going through the trouble of doing a Call for Papers it’s not because they already know whom they want to speak or they will reject your talk because they think you’re not good enough! They want bright people to speak! They want people that know their topic! They want people that have something to say! And that might even include You!
There is only one way to be sure that you do not belong onto the speaker list of any conference that has a Call for Papers. And that is by not submitting!
But when you submit, chances are that the conference organizers think that You are one of those bright people they are looking for! That You are one of the people that know their topic! That you are one of the people that have something to say! In short: That You are the right person to speak!
Yes, chances are much higher that you’ll receive a rejection letter. But that happens to every speaker2. But by not submitting you will not even receive a rejection letter.
I know from myself that Impostor-Syndrome has a lot to do with it. But just because you think you don’t belong onto that speaker-panel doesn’t mean that others think different! And that you earned your place “up there”. But for that you have to show that you want to sit up there!
So next time you’re thinking about whether to not participate in a Call for Papers because you don’t think you belong there: Leave that decision to the conference organizers!
Or do you think different?
1whoever belongs to these underrepresented groups is a completely different story!