Because “imagine everyone's naked” is terrible advice

Writing the CFP

A lot of conferences will require you to submit a Call For Papers, or CFP, which means you’re going to have to take this half-baked idea you have and add a bunch of words to it even though the conference probably won’t happen until six months from now and how the hell are you supposed to finalize this already do you know how much can change in six months I could be dead did you think about that, conference? I could be dead, dammit.

Luckily the conference will probably happen whether you are alive or not, so it’s best to play by their rules and submit them a Paper, whatever that means.

What is a CFP?

This goes back to academia, where people had Important Academic Papers to disseminate amongst the intelligentsia. Compare that to your slides, which probably have an actual picture of poop in them. We’re clearly in over our heads already.

But like the good lord says, fake it until you make it, so take a step and see what the CFP entails. Usually it’s just a paragraph or two for your talk abstract, a paragraph or two directly to the conference organizers, and then maybe special things like your Social Media Network Handle so that they can be sure the conference has lots of Social Media in it.

Writing the abstract

The important thing about writing the CFP talk abstract is that this will probably be what they put in the conference program about your talk. So that puts you in the particularly strange situation where if you change your talk in the subsequent few months, you might still have a really inaccurate talk description.

Two things: keep it abstract, and keep it interesting. I use the abstract part of talk abstract literally: I try not to include too many specific details to give me some leeway to let the talk take me where it wants to go later when I build it. You can’t be too amorphous to the extent where you’re not saying anything, otherwise the organizers won’t pick it, but you can talk in more broader themes than you would otherwise.

Also, keep it interesting. As I said, this will probably be in the talk program, and if the conference you’re presenting at has multiple tracks, you’ll want to write something interesting enough to pull people in and choose your talk.

Writing the note to organizers

Some CFPs will let you include a quick, private note to the conference organizers. You can put anything you want in here, but be brief (organizers are busy, busy people), and it might be a good idea to talk more honestly about why you think giving this talk is really important to conference attendees. That’s really the kicker (and it should show through in your abstract as well). People want to be moved by interesting, new perspectives, even if they don’t necessarily agree with them at the onset. Differentiate yourself, include some humor, and you’ll fare well.