Crafting the Perfect Speaker Proposal for Litmus Live
We'll be heading back to London, Boston, and San Francisco this year for Litmus Live and we want to hear from you! We're now taking submissions for speaker proposals for Litmus Live. Tell us your email stories, tips, tricks, anything. But we understand that crafting your speaker proposal can be a little bit daunting.
So we've put together a blog post with some great tips from Justine on how to craft that perfect proposal. And we understand that choosing a topic for a proposal can be hard, too. To help you get some inspiration for a proposal here's a blog post on topics we'd love to see at Litmus Live this year.
We'd love to hear from previous speakers—how did you create your proposal and what's the one tip you'd give to anyone looking to submit a proposal this year?
My one tip for anyone wanting to speak at Litmus Live this year? Make that 90 second video. It doesn't have to be flashy or professionally edited. Use the phone on your camera, or the webcam on your laptop. (I used the webcam on my Macbook Pro.) Write down a few bullet points of what you'd like to cover in your 90 second video. Do a couple of rehearsals to nail down exactly what you're saying. When you're confident with what you want to say, hit record!
Speaking at The Email Design Conference in 2016 was the first time I'd ever given a professional presentation, outside of work...and it absolutely terrified me. But once I got up and actually gave the talk, I found it to be one of the most rewarding – and addicting – things I've ever done. The next year, I was honored and excited to speak as the opening session at all three Litmus Live 2017 conferences. The connections I made and the experiences I had during that conference tour were (at the risk of sounding overdramatic) truly life-changing. I absolutely believe that anyone at any experience level can be a speaker, and that everyone has something worth sharing.
I've done two different types of proposals. My first year, I did the video and provided a general outline of what I intended to talk about, with details added in where I felt they might not be immediately clear. My second year, I had a crystal clear vision of what I wanted to talk about – I didn't intend to, but when I sat down to make my outline, I ended up getting carried away and writing out an entire first draft...so that's what I sent in. Both got me accepted as a speaker, which I take to mean that there's no wrong way to do a proposal, as long as you're (1) clear, (2) knowledgable, and (3) passionate about your topic.
The biggest tip I have is to focus on what things that the audience will be able take away from your talk. Lots of attendees come to Litmus as representatives of larger departments – they want to bring knowledge or ideas back to their team at home. After they listen to your talk, what things they can take back with them? This sounds silly, but LitmusLive attendees are VERY active on Twitter – sometimes it can be helpful to think "What parts of my talk would people tweet?" That forces you to boil your big ideas down into concise, memorable pieces – which (for me, at least) helped a lot when narrowing down and structuring my proposal / presentation.
And, of course, reach out! The #emailgeeks community has a reputation for being one of the kindest, most welcoming groups. If having someone to look over a proposal or watch your video before you send it in would make you feel more confident, then you should absolutely ask! Personally, I'd be more happy to do so for anyone who would like that feedback – and I know I'm not the only one in this thread :)
I had hardly any experience of public speaking or doing a proposal for such a thing, nor did I expect to get in.... I thought i'd submit, and show willing, and do some other events, and prepare something bigger for 2017 and hopefully i'll make that one.
I did have a rough idea of the topic area and loads of notes/ideas. (Too many) - I think it's fine to be at this stage of your plans, but start to narrow things down after you've submit.
Show how passionate you are about the subject within your video and why it's relevant, show you know your stuff as the stuff you're confident about comes across stronger, but think strongly about the key takeaways, and the sort of things the audience will get from the talk... as that is what is important.
When I did my video, I had a camera and lighting and all sorts, made sections (as I didn't prepare enough) and edited it all together afterwards - with help from colleagues. That was a bit OTT and not necessary.
Think about what you want to say, Topic, name, what, why, key points, key takeways and film it on your phone, or laptop etc.... (you can get a little phone tripod for nothing... in fact buy this and you get the tripod and also a stickbot so you can learn how to do stop-frame animation with your phone. BONUS GEEK STUFF! https://www.amazon.co.uk/Toy-Shed-Stikbot-DLX-Figure/dp/B00V0363ZW)
This year I'll be using that approach.
If you're having doubts because you're concerned about public speaking - don't be. Just submit and go with it.
I was quite stressed and terrified, but then once I was at the conference I realised it's all email geeks, and the audience were on my side, and afterwards I had a lot of people tell me how helpful it was.
It gave me the confidence to do more talks, and I think (and hope) I've got better at it.
OH! and proof read your stuff... you'll probably realise from this post and my blogs that I have a habit of not doing so.... ;-)
Hope that helps.
I've had a lot of fun talking at Litmus conferences. I did a 5min lightning talk at the first London conference in 2013, then got to do a full talk in both London and Boston in 2015 and was back in London again last year. I can highly recommend it to anyone, it's very well organised and supportive team and a very receptive crowd of Email Geeks.
For advice I'd say, put some time into your proposal, think about how this talk can interest, inform, help and even entertain the audience, then think how you can get all of that across to the person looking at your pitch.
There's no harm in doing multiple pitches, it could increase your chances of getting picked but make sure you put work into each pitch, it's better to have 1 good pitch that will stand out over 3 average ones that blend in.
I had a chance to give a talk at The Email Design Conference last year in London. Kevin approached me to motivate me to submit a talk about the Fab Four technique. While I definitely was up for submitting something, I didn't feel like giving a full 30 minute talk on this alone. The idea I had in mind was more about sharing different things I learned or made in the year before. So I submitted something along these lines. And after an online meeting with Justine, I had the pleasure to learn that I was in !
So my one tip would be to talk about what you want to talk about. Submit the talk you feel comfortable to give. And above all, submit the talk you'd want to watch. What's the one subject you feel people often overlook?
If you're looking for help, the Litmus team was very helpful in reviewing my talk and giving me feedback. The website speaking.io is also full of previous advices. Also, even though I haven't read it yet, I heard a lot of good from Lara Hogan's recent book, Demystifying Public Speaking.
I've been lucky enough to speak at Litmus Live twice now, and if you're thinking about speaking at all, just go for it! There were a ton of unexpectedly cool talks (as well as the expected cool ones). Litmus Live was my first "tech talk" and it was a delightfully scary experience.
My advice for submitting a proposal - write an outline of three different ideas you'd like to talk about and get feedback from the community! Ask people what they're interested in (forums, social media, coworkers, etc...) and see if that inspires you at all. Another thing that helped immensely was chatting with Justine, Kevin, and Jason from Litmus. They're super nice, and helped build confidence about what I wanted to talk about.
Lastly, just have fun with it! If you're not enjoying it, other people probably won't either.
Hope this helps!
Tim and the ZURB Team
Whenever anyone asks me about my experience speaking at Litmus Live, I tell them the same thing: it's my favorite conference to speak at. It was also the first conference I spoke at. Between the incredibly supportive and amazing Litmus team and the wonderful (and so forgiving) audience, it's a really great conference to get started at if you're looking to speak at them or even if you just have something rad to share with the Litmus Live audience.
Now I'll actually answer the question asked.
I've spoken at Litmus twice. Both times it's because I'd worked on a thing that I was super proud of and had learned a lot from—and I wanted to share those learnings for other folks to do at their own jobs. When it comes to crafting a proposal, think about what's the one thing you'd like to share with other folks who work in email. Chances are we all want to hear it.
In terms of tips: yes, I reiterate what others are saying, the video helps a lot. No matter how well you can write out your proposal, it's always going to sound better—and give some insight into how you'll sound talking about it—in your own words in a video. I also echo what Kathryn said: thinking about takeaways helps narrow down topics.
And if you're wondering if something is a good topic idea, you can find some of us on Twitter and ask. We're friendly.
Hi, you. If you're reading this and thinking that you want to speak at Litmus Live but you don't feel qualified then I'm speaking directly to you: ignore that feeling.
Look at the speaker lineups for this conference. These speakers have come from all different parts of our industry, with different skills, and very different experiences; that's a huge part of what makes this conference so wonderful! So if you have a story you want to share, dev tricks that you find useful, design data, marketing secrets, whatever— if you have something that you're excited to share then go for it.
My one big piece of advice for actually creating a proposal is to build an outline for your talk before you submit your proposal. It will help you more clearly convey what you want to speak about AND you get to knock out some work for your talk ahead of time (bonus!).
It can be a little scary to think about presenting in front of a large group, but if you’re well prepared with your content and make it fun, then there is nothing to be afraid of. It also helps to practice before the event in front of family, friends and co-workers, basically anyone who will listen. Trust me, once you're done, the feeling of accomplishing is amazing and you want to go back for more.