What's wrong with your Call for Papers

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I try to speak at several events each year. In addition to my favourite conferences, I'm always looking for Calls for Papers from other interesting events. However, there's one thing that has always bothered me about the typical CfP ...

For those who don't know what I'm talking about: When you organize a conference, you need - speakers, obviously. Some of them will usually be invited and possibly even paid for, especially keynote speakers. To fill the schedule of a two-day conference, however, this approach won't work out. So what you do is to put up what is called a Call for Papers (CfP). In other words, you're saying "Hey, we're doing this conference. Want to come and speak? Send us your proposal for a talk."

As a speaker, when you follow that CfP, you usually end up on a simple web form that asks for some basic information about yourself (name, photo, short bio) and your proposed subject. For the talk, you are usually asked to provide the title and a summary (or two summaries: an abstract and a longer version).

The summary is what's bothering me. In it, you are supposed to summarize the content of your presentation. The problem here, however, is that you need to write it for two very different target audiences. On the one hand, the summary will usually be printed in the conference program or published on the conference website. So it's targeted at your potential audience and should tell them what to expect when they come to your presentation. On the other hand, the summary is also the most detailed information that the conference organizers will have about your proposed talk, so you also need to pitch to them, so that they pick your talk.

As someone who answers about half a dozen CfPs every year, this has been bothering me for quite some time now. So it was refreshing to see that at least one conference has recognized this problem: The CfP for the PHPNW conference in Manchester has the usual field for the talk's summary - and another, for which the caption reads: Tell us why we should accept your talk

That's what I mean. Give me a chance to pitch the proposal to the organizers and let me explain why I think my presentation would be a good addition to your conference. Every Call for Papers should have such a field!

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Creative Commons Licence "What's wrong with your Call for Papers" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.