How to pitch your talk

A presentation at Shine Bootcamp by Jonathon Colman

Before you design your slides, connect with your audience, and hear their applause, you need to write your pitch: a title, a proposal, and your bio.

Not gonna lie: this shit is hard. But the frameworks in this talk make it much faster and easier—and far more likely that you’ll be successful.

Drawing on ideas from folks like Matt Thompson, Russ Unger, and Scott Berkun, you’ll learn simple, repeatable techniques for writing your conference title, proposal, and bio so that they resonate. Using these tools, you’ll set the right expectations for the audience and be far more likely to stand out to event organizers.

I’ve used these techniques for every speaking pitch I’ve written for the past 5 years. They’ve helped me land dozens of speaking opportunities, including keynotes at events in the US, Europe, Australia & New Zealand.

And they can help you, too! That’s because pitching—just like public speaking—is an acquired skill. Very few people are “naturals,” but we can all learn to do it! If you’re new to pitching and speaking, the ideas in these slides will help you get started. But even if you’re a seasoned professional, they’ll help you do better.

Scroll down for links to more resources!


The following resources were mentioned during the presentation or are useful additional information.

  • 10 questions to help you write better headlines

    I want to give you a checklist, a quick heuristic diagnostic you can refer to anytime you want to make your headlines sing. I recommend putting every headline you write through this gamut of questions until they become second nature.

  • Conference proposals that don’t suck

    I’ve worked with a number of people submitting proposals to events over the past few years. I’ve been racking my brain trying to identify a strong pattern that helps people pull together proposals that provide what conference chairs and program planners are looking for, while at the same time making the process a bit more clear to people who really want to find their way to the stage.

  • How to write a good bio

    Many good people write bad bios for themselves. Anyone asking you for a bio, or reading it, wants you to sound awesome, but what they need and what your ego wants to say are often different things. With these five simple rules you can write a good bio for yourself in less time, with less effort and everyone wins.

  • Getting Started In Public Speaking: Global Diversity CFP Day

    To help encourage people to write and submit to CFPs, Global Diversity CFP Day aims to help underrepresented people submit proposals to speak at conferences.

  • Global Diversity CFP Day

    Are you a member of an underrepresented or marginalised group? Have you always wanted to become a tech conference speaker? Let this be the year that you make that dream a reality! Sign up for a workshop near you.

  • How to write a successful conference proposal

    There are probably thousands of tech-oriented events being ran each day. From casual meetups to full-blown, multiple-day conferences with large budgets. A significant amount of them sources their speakers through an often anonymous, Call for Proposals process.

  • What Your Conference Proposal Is Missing

    As a developer, doing talks at tech conferences is great for lots of reasons: boosting your career, promoting your company, and getting more excitement into other parts of your life. As an introvert, though, the best perk as far as I’m concerned is the stream of people who come up and talk to me. No more awkward unstructured break time!

  • Is Your Conference Proposal Good Enough?

    So you’re thinking about submitting an idea for a conference. Hurray!! Please do — your ideas are worth sharing and even if you don’t think it’s very good/original/worthy, no one knows how to present your material the way you do. So go for it!

  • How to write a killer conference abstract: The first step towards an engaging presentation

    Helen Kara elaborates specifically on the differences for conference abstracts. She offers tips for writing an enticing abstract for conference organisers and an engaging conference presentation.

  • A process for writing an abstract

    Your abstract is a pitch for your talk. It’s when you sell the topic. Your bio is where you sell yourself as a good person to speak about the topic. It doesn’t need to be long. Be concrete, but not overly detailed.

  • Resources for speakers from Women Talk Design

    Aspiring, new and experienced speakers, welcome! No matter where you are in your speaking career, we hope we can be a resource.

  • Tips for crafting your bio

    Crafting a professional bio, for many of us, can be an incredibly daunting task. How could one person, with a lifetime of experiences try to boil down their existence into a meaningful 20–200 words? Equally important, how can someone with less work experience write a bio that stands out and gives them intellectual heft?

  • Shine Bootcamp: Professional Speaker Accelerator for Women

    Are you ready to kickstart your (virtual) speaking career? Gain the skills, confidence and experience to craft and deliver a powerful presentation.