My experience at Global Diversity Call For Paper Day 2019

written by Marie March 16, 2019

I had the pleasure of attending an event in Montreal as part of the Global Diversity Call for Paper Day, also called GDCFPDAY. Organized on Saturday, March 2, 2019, in more than 60 locations around the world, members of under-represented or marginalized technology groups were invited to attend to become better speakers.

Like I have already talked about in my blog post about my personal and blogging goals for 2019, I am hoping that I’ll be a speaker at a couple of events and be able to improve my public speaking skills. When I saw publicity surrounding this event, I felt that it was created precisely for people like me, I didn’t hesitate a single second before registering!

Why I needed an event like GDCFPDAY

Like always, I will be 100% transparent with you on my blog. At the moment, even though I receive propositions from time to time to speak at certain events, I never know what to talk about. I’m often asked to talk about “diversity,” but it seems like it doesn’t inspire me. I don’t know why. Even though I’m passionate about the subject, I don’t feel like I have anything new to bring to the table.

I chose to document these thoughts and the process I’m going through in my journey of becoming a speaker. I believe that once I have overcome it, I can look back on this blog post and try to challenge every fear that I have at this time. I’m certainly not the first person to go through this!

Also, I’m often asked to talk about me, my journey in tech. Some say that my mission is “inspiring” and could be shared… However, it’s so difficult to talk about ourselves. I am always afraid that I will boast. I’m so afraid of it that I end up restricting myself too much sometimes!


It’s an event like no other

I am used to events and tech conferences where someone typically speaks for hours. It wasn’t like that AT ALL during GDCFPDAY! All the presentations we had had a chronological order, and workshops with exercises we had to do to prepare a talk.


Plan of the day

  • 10:45 am – 11:15 am: Deciding what to talk about
  • 11:15 am – 11:45 am: How to write a CFP (Call for proposal)
  • 11:45 am – 1:00 pm : Lunch
  • 1:00 pm – 1:30 pm: Call for proposal advice (panel)
  • 1:30 pm – 2:00 pm: Crafting your speaker bio
  • 2:00 pm – 2:15 pm: Caring for your audience
  • 2:15 pm – 2:45 pm: Your perfect tech talk
  • 3:00 pm – 3:30 pm: Designing your talk slides


Deciding what to talk about

Choosing what to talk about is one of the questions I ask myself the most! If that’s your case as well, I recommend you to try the upcoming exercises and see the tips from the experts. It helps!

Here are pieces of advice from Déborah Cherenfant :

  • Let’s start with why. Why do you want to share something at a conference? Why do you want to give a talk? The reason behind why you want to host a tech conference.
  • Pick a subject you’re passionate about. Something you know lots about, linked to your personal experiences and background.
  • Aligned with your branding and purpose. Figure out what you want to be known for or associated with.
  • Follow industry trends. But at the same time, we need to consider how to do things differently.
  • Ask for event goals and/or target audience to prepare your content accordingly
  • Don’t be afraid to share something new. The audience wants to learn
  • Make a list of what you shouldn’t talk about could help you figure out what you want to talk about.
  • Think about your next move career-wise. That will help narrow down the objectives of your conference
  • Choose a great tagline / title. Sometimes we have to start at the end to begin.
  • Keep it simple.

It could be summed up in:

  • What are our strengths?
  • What do you want to be known for?
  • What do you want to learn?


Deciding what to talk about – the workshop

In this first workshop, we had to make a list of 3 things we are good at. Here’s what I wrote:

  1. Social Media
  2. Blogging
  3. Diversity

We were also asked to list three things we would like to know better… That was harder to do! Here are my answers:

  1. Machine learning
  2. My experience of starting a masters in machine learning

It was beneficial to think about what I’m good at, without dwelling on the fact that what I listed could potentially become a talk… I think it’s this perspective that scares me and makes me unable to think of anything!

How to write a good title & description for a conference

The needs:

  • The audience needs to know what they’re getting from the talk
  • The audience (the level of knowledge required) for the speech needs to be clear
  • Short and sweet
  • Words like “crash course” or “concrete example” are appealing
  • Be careful with cultural references. It can flop

Things to avoid : 

  • An unclear title
  • An Inappropriate title
  • Having a negative title


How to craft a good speaker bio

Figure out who our audience is

Here is a list of questions we have to think about who our audience is. Having answers to these questions can help us write a good biography in the context of a conference to give:

  • Why would they come to our conference?
  • What do they already know about our subject?
  • If I would learn about this subject for the first time, what would I like to know about the speaker to trust his/her words?
  • What does the audience need to know about me to trust me?


Your speaker bio – the workshop

Then we did an activity where we had to answer three questions:

  1. I am…
    1. A woman in tech
    2. Studying software engineering
    3. masters student in information technology
  2. I am known for…
    1. my blog
    2. Promoting diversity in tech
  3. I empower X to…
    1. I empower women to get into tech and push their limits
    2. I enable people to push their boundaries & reach their goals

It was three handy questions to then develop a bio according to the answers we came up with.

Commons mistakes made by speakers (what you need to avoid)

  • Move too much
  • Read the PowerPoint
  • Have too much information on the PowerPoint
  • Not giving enough time for the audience to write our contact information at the end of the talk. A piece of advice for this would be to leave our information during the Q&A period.
  • Not talking loud enough. It’s perfectly fine to ask the audience if they can hear us well in the beginning.
  • Apologizing. It’s not necessary. For example, if we are speaking in our second language, the audience will notice anyway. By apologizing, we’re emphasizing on our weakness.
  • Leave right after the conference is over and not being able to network with the audience after.
  • Depending on the live demo too much. We should have a video as a plan B.
  • Depending on the Wi-Fi to access our PowerPoint presentation



In conclusion, I had a great day at this event. I will remember it for a long time as an exceptional and essential activity to obtain more diversified voices at the next technological conferences!


Credits for the pictures in this blog post

All of the photos are from the fantastic Eva Blue!

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