Submitting a talk: FAQ

You may have noticed that our submission process has been open for a few weeks. We’re very excited about the talks we’re seeing come in, but we’ve also received quite a few questions from current and potential submitters. In this post, we’ll try to offer answer some common questions about submitting to OpenVis for those who are considering doing so and give our attendees an idea of what to expect at OpenVis Conf 2015.

How should I frame my talk?

The goal of OpenVis Conf is to offer insight into the inner workings of creating data visualization on the Open Web. That means that we’re more focused on the educational side of things: the “how” of data visualization. We’re interested in tools, concrete design principles, process and workflow, research, current and relevant data topics, code libraries and frameworks, and best practices across the board.

What should I talk about?

That’s up to you! Think about what of your work might be relevant/useful/educational to our community and submit a talk about that. It can be a cool technology you’ve written or used, an interesting pattern you’ve devised, a workflow that you find helpful etc. We don’t want to limit you here, so if you want to run some ideas by us, submit your talk with your questions and we’ll be in touch.

What topics are you looking for talks about?

We’ve listed a few topics on our call, but last year we collaboratively assembled a spreadsheet of topics we would like to see with the help of friends of the conference (past attendees, for instance) and general members of the public. You might find that list useful. On the Speaker Call this year, you can also suggest conference topics and speakers you’d like us to invite to submit.

How technical/specific should I be?

The best talk proposals mix some focus with educational breadth; for example: instead of “design tips for good visualizations,” we chose last year’s “color” (Rob Simmon) or “wee things” (Lena Groeger) or “the design of nothing” (Andy Kirk). In the tools and code realm, last year we chose an overview comparison talk on javascript frameworks and in our first year we chose a deep dive into a single problem space, for example “hacking the d3 force layout” (Jim Vallandingham.) Reviewing the talks from last year is a great way to see what makes the final cut.

Are there certain kinds of talks you don’t want to see?

That’s a tricky question. We can definitively say that we haven’t accepted talks in the past two years that were marketing-focused or that didn’t contribute to the openness aspect of building data visualization on the web. We also rarely accept portfolio talks, unless you can present lessons learned and process takeaways that are broadly applicable or interesting beyond a single project. For example, we are big fans of Georgia Lupi's talk from Eyeo Festival 2014: The Shape of my Thoughts. We strive to improve our community with every talk, so keep that in mind when submitting your proposal.

What should I say in the comments to the committee?

While that section is left intentionally vague, there are a few pieces of information you can provide us with that will go a long way:

  1. Any links to work that you reference (code, live version of your work we can try out, slides, videos etc.) help us a lot. The more we can get to know your work, the easier it is for us to make a decision.
  2. Any information about you and your work in general.

Do you do any outreach?

We absolutely do! That’s why this year’s call for speakers includes an option for you to submit the name of a person you’d like to see. We appreciate the time you take to submit your talk and ask that all the folks we reach out to submit their talk through the same review process. If there’s anyone you’d like to see speak, now’s a good time to let us know on the call form.

I’ve worked on ____, but I’m not sure it’s good enough. Should I really submit?

Submitting a talk isn’t always easy. Even the best practitioners in any field experience impostor syndrome, and we all deal with it with our own work. We want to encourage you to submit even if you’re not sure you have something to offer. If you’ve solved some hard problems, built something interesting, designed beautiful visualizations etc, you probably have something to offer and we will work with you to come up with the right framing.

When will I hear about the status of my submission?

While we accept talks on a rolling basis, we do not send decline notices until at least a week or two after the call closes. We want to give all the submitters due process and get a general sense of the talks we have.

Are you thinking about diversity?

All the time. We promise you that our committee and conference staff want to create a conference that represents the full spectrum of diversity in our community. We do a lot of outreach and have a lot of conversations with folks about how to achieve that. OpenVis Conf also has a Code of Conduct that our attendees, organizers and staff uphold. We welcome your thoughts and support.

Support OpenVis Conf!

If you want to support our efforts, sponsoring OpenVis Conf is a great way to help us put together the best program we can, and is a great way to get involved if you have a group of people from your company who all want to attend. From speaker traveling and accommodations to activities for our attendees, every dollar you give us will go towards providing the greatest conference experience at the lowest ticket cost we can offer. Email for more information.