The KubeCon CFP – How to Speak at Kubecon
The CFP for KubeCon EU 2022 (May 17-20) is open until December 17, 2021!
I’ve been part of 9 sessions at 6 different KubeCons (all recordings here), and served as a Track Chair & CFP Reviewer. In this post, I’m going to go over things I think you should know about the KubeCon CFP.
What is a CFP?
How does the schedule of talks for KubeCon (or any conference for that matter) get made? Who gets to speak? These questions and more are answered by one acronym – CFP.
“CFP” stands for “Call for Papers.” It’s a term which I expect is derived from academic symposiums, where researchers would submit their research papers to the symposium, hoping for their work to be selected to be featured there. It’s much the same concept in the world of technical conferences, except instead of research papers, submitters offer their expertise in a particular area, to be featured at the conference as a talk.
Basically, an “open CFP” for a conference means that they are accepting applications from potential speakers.
The KubeCon CFP
You should always start your journey by checking out all the details on the CFP page on the event’s website. The KubeCon EU 2022 CFP Page has info about the process timeline, encouraging words for newcomers, an example submission, requirements, considerations, submission instructions, and more.
Feel free to skip to the section that interests you most between Rules, Timeline, and Submission Contents!
Anyone can submit to the KubeCon CFP as long as they abide by the following 4 rules. (You can also find these rules in the link above.)
Rule 1: “Any platforms or tools you are describing need to be open source.”
KubeCon/CloudNativeCon is run by one of the largest open source non-profit organizations in the world. They, and the audience, don’t want to just hear a sales pitch about your company’s latest and greatest product. The goal is to support Open Source!
Rules 2 & 3: Cover how many and what kind of proposals you can be a part of.
Essentially, you can be on up to 2 submissions, one each from the following categories (◆ means “or”):
Panel Discussion: 35 minutes of discussion amongst 3 to 5 speakers
|You can be on a submission for 1 of these.|
Solo Presentation: 35-minute presentation, limited to 1 speaker
Dual Presentation: 35-minute presentation, limited to 2 speakers
Lightning Talk: A brief 5-minute presentation, maximum of 1 speaker
90-minute, in-depth, hands-on presentation with 1-5 speakers
|You can be on a submission for 1 of these.|
Note, these govern submissions you’re listed as a speaker on.*
*It’s possible to create a submission which you are not a speaker for. Or you could be part of a panel or multi-speaker submission. Only one person needs to submit a panel, the rest of the speakers will be listed on that submission.
Rule 4: “We will not select a submission that has already been presented at a previous CNCF or Linux Foundation event within the last year. If your submission is very similar to a previous talk, please include information on how this version will be different.”
The KubeCon Timeline Never Ends
KubeCon CFPs open many months before the conference, generally right after the last KubeCon! (For NA & EU. KubeCon Shanghai also occurs regularly but is not represented on this timeline for simplicity, and because KubeCon EU is the CFP that’s open at time-of-writing!)
KubeCon CloudNativeCon NA 2021 ended October 15th, 2021, and the CFP for KubeCon CloudNativeCon EU 2022 opened just 10 days later on October 25th, 2021. Even though the event itself doesn’t begin for another 6 months (May 17, 2022)!
Whenever one Kubecon ends, you can be sure another is on its way soon. This never-ending cycle of KubeCons means there’s no wrong time for an idea! If you have some time to wait before the next open CFP, that gives you a chance to start creating some resources on your topic like blogs, outlines, rough talks (you can give it at a meetup or something to test it out!), and more.
Let’s break down the timeline into 3 sections you should care about. (Which nicely correspond to seasons!)
The CFP for KubeCon EU is open! Check out the form and gather your materials – it’s time to submit your proposal(s)!
The CFP will close on December 17th, 2021. From then until the beginning of March, your submission will go through 2-3 rounds of review:
Round 1) CFP reviewers selected from the CNCF community for being experts in their areas will review your submission and score it based on a set of criteria.
Round 2) Track Chairs will review the ratings from the previous round and submit their shortlist to the final round-
Round 3) The conference chairs review the shortlists for each track and choose the final schedule.
It takes a village and a lot of hours to complete this phase. KubeCon NA 2021 had 976 submissions with only 136 final sessions – only a 14% acceptance rate!
Successful submissions are announced, with only two months until the main event!
KubeCons are likely to be hybrid virtual & in-person events for the foreseeable future, so at this stage, speakers will need to indicate if their session will be virtual or in-person, live or pre-recorded.
Depending on whether their talk will be pre-recorded or live, speakers will have slightly different timelines for their deliverables.
What Should be in Your Submission
If you want to speak at KubeCon, your first task will be to come up with what you’d like to speak about and fill out the application. Let’s go over the main information you’ll need to decide on and prepare.
Don’t hesitate to check out the Submission Form for yourself!
The main component of your submission is the “Session Details” section. Let’s take a closer look at 3 of the most important sections of the application:
This section is for your session’s abstract. Note whatever you put in this box will be the publicly visible session description if selected!! Use this section to provide a brief description of your talk which will hook a reader’s interest and make them want to attend your talk.
Be sure to provide enough information such that a reader knows exactly what your talk is about and, most importantly, what they will gain by attending your talk. You can even say explicitly, “Attendees of this talk will walk away learning X, Y, Z.”
Here’s an example of an abstract I used for my 101-level talk on the Cloud Native Ecosystem, “Welcome to CloudLand! An Illustrated Intro to the Cloud Native Landscape,” which was the 8th most popular session at KubeCon EU 2020:
Like a kid in a theme park, the number of shiny exciting new technologies teams encounter as they move into and re-architect for the cloud can be overwhelming. Thus we welcome you, to CloudLand! Adopting the cloud comes with a lot of questions to explore and tools to learn. Why should I care about “Cloud Native?” What technologies count as “Cloud Native?” What Cloud Native technologies does my team/business need and why? Through colorful illustrations and a memorable theme park analogy, you will learn:
How to identify “Cloud Native” technology and why it matters,
The key characteristics of categories of technologies from the CNCF Landscape,
And get an introduction to many of the individual CNCF projects that fill in the Cloud Native Landscape.
Benefits to the Ecosystem
Your abstract is important for communicating with, and capturing the interest of, your audience. But at this stage, your main audience is the CFP judges. The CFP judges are looking to see that you are going to be able to deliver a good talk, and that it’s going to benefit the KubeCon audience. Anything you want to tell the CFP judges that doesn’t belong in your session description, goes here.
Add Supplemental Materials!
This section is optional, but I would advise you do not skip it! Besides the talk description and “Benefits to the Ecosystem” sections, the next biggest thing you can do to show the CFP reviewers you mean business is – add supplemental materials!!
These supplemental materials could be
- videos of you giving past talks to show that you’re an experienced speaker
- blog posts, books, or other materials you’ve created about your topic
- github repos of code you’ll be speaking about in your talk
- it could even be just a link to your LinkedIn profile if you think it will help establish your expertise.
For example, when I submitted my KubeCon EU 2019 lightning talk, “Hot, Fresh Containers – How Containers Are Like Cookies!”, I added my “Explain Like I’m 5: Containers vs VMs” blog post as an additional reference.
If you don’t add these, you’re likely to have your CFP reviewers spending extra time searching all over the web for materials. Or worse, not doing that. So help your CFP reviewers help you!
Submit Your Ideas Now!
Hopefully these tips have given you the basics you need to know about submitting to KubeCon. Check out the KubeCon EU CFP page and make your submissions before December 17th, 2021!
Not sure what to submit yet? Try brainstorming with friends! You can also reach out to me on Twitter @kaslinfields, both for brainstorming and CFP reviews. I’d love to help you!
Remember if you don’t get your idea submitted in time, there’s always next KubeCon!
More KubeCon CFP Tips
Example CFP Submissions
Want some examples to learn from? Check out these repos of past CFP submissions from speakers I look up to:
Justin Garrison (@rothgar on Twitter) is a Developer Advocate at AWS:
Ali Spittel leads Developer Advocacy at AWS and helps run the Ladybug Podcast:
KubeCon CFP Advice Session Recording
Check out this CFP advice session from KubeConEU Virtual 2020 starring Bill Mulligan (CNCF), Bridget Kromhout, and Karen Chu. Bridget and Karen are prominent members of the community who have spoken at KubeCon numerous times, and Bill is a member of the CNCF who helps to organize the event!