Call for Speakers

Call for Speakers2021-08-03T18:52:34-05:00


The submission window will open on 8/15/2021 and  will close on 8/31/2021, at 11:59 pm Eastern Time zone. Speaker selection will be announced at the end of September, just before tickets go on sale. Read below to understand what we are looking for and then head over and submit your talks (

Selection Process

We have thousands of submissions every year, and a small army is employed to review the submissions (not including the Lemurs). The army sometimes gets hungry, in which case we throw them strips of bacon. If things aren’t done just right, the Lemurs come out and smack us silly- they make us follow the rules. In fact, this is why Kalahari has a beverage named the “Jittery Monkey”. You should check it out sometime.

We break submissions into ‘tracks’, which are just collections of submissions with similar topics. In order to support the polyglot spirit of CodeMash the tracks are generally topic-focused rather than specific to any given technology. For example, all of the hardware/IoT talks, or all of the software process talks. Each track is co-owned by a couple of track owners (hence the name, clever, huh?). Those folks are given a time slot budget to fill with the best talks they can find. We try to bring in the best regional speakers we can (hey, we have great talent in our backyards) and mix in some national/international talent. We also try to mix well known, experienced CodeMash speakers with some unknowns. We want to keep the field fresh that way. The Lemurs appreciate this.

The track owners will submit their findings to the Content Commandos (Alyssa and Chris). They will evaluate the selections, verify we have a well-balanced and exciting set of content for our attendees. Then they will start to notify speakers if they have been selected or not.

Expectations and Limits

For CodeMash 2020, the maximum number of general session talks (Thursday and Friday) is 182. This does not include sponsor sessions. The precompilers (Tuesday and Wednesday) will have 13 concurrent sessions, or 52 total sessions. As always, we know that we will get far more talks submitted than we have room for. Last year we received over 1,400 abstract submissions which left us with an acceptance rate of around 18%.  Believe us when we say it is incredibly hard to select sessions when so many great ones are submitted. We truly are grateful for all of the time it takes a speaker to submit a quality abstract.

A Comment on Diversity

At CodeMash we value diversity – it is the foundation of why we wanted to start the conference. We wanted a conference where a .NET developer could learn about JavaScript, and a Ruby developer could learn about PHP, etc. etc. Valuing diversity goes much farther than appreciating the diversity of the technology realm. We also value diversity on our planning committee, volunteers, speakers, and attendees. This includes gender, cultural background, and many other facets of humanity’s rich fabric. We feel that learning about a subject from a different angle is valuable and enriches all of us. We welcome and encourage submissions from everyone. This includes speakers of varying exposure and experience. Each year we reserve a set of time slots for speakers that are less well-known. Some years this allows us to uncover an amazing speaker with great ideas and content. At other times, we find someone who needs a bit more practice. Both scenarios are a win for the community and help all of us grow.

New Speakers

We have regularly sought out new speakers for CodeMash and each year we have a large percentage of new-to-CodeMash speakers. As we did last year, we are once again being intentional about including at least 13 talks from speakers who are new-to- CodeMash. This means that in each session slot throughout the conference, there will be at least one session that is presented by a speaker who has never spoken at CodeMash before (or possibly ever). We will be encouraging folks to attend these sessions and hope that it will drive diversity of thought and develop new talent within our community. In order to be eligible for this track, a speaker must not have spoken at CodeMash previously and must agree to participate in the mentorship program.

Advanced Topics

Each year, we have some folks who love the level of the content and others who yearn for that really advanced session on that niche topic that all of four people in the world care about. This year we are specifically looking to feature one “Advanced” session during each time slot (13). We hope that this will result in some amazing sessions and, if you have significant experience in a topic area, we encourage you to submit an advanced talk.

Session Types

We will be accepting submissions for all types of sessions. Details are below. For some sessions that we know will be popular, we might ask you to do deliver the session more than once.

PreCompiler Session

These are four or eight hour-long workshops featured on Tuesday and Wednesday. There are about half as many attendees around, and it makes for a more intimate experience. These are meant to be very hands-on, and very skill-centric (not product-focused). We will allow up to two speakers for a PreCompiler session, however only one will receive full speaker benefits. We expect the primary speaker to submit the abstract and that speaker should indicate who the secondary is within the comments as well as indicate the role that the individual will fill.

General Session

The session format you know and love. One hour with your closest friends. These are held on Thursday and Friday. There are 182 of these session slots available. General sessions can have only one speaker.

KidzMash Sessionz

This is a one-hour session geared for the Kidz at CodeMash. Last year there were over 1,000 kidz present. We will have about 15-20 sessions of this type. They must be fun and geared toward children. There is no limit to how many kidz can attend – according to the fire marshal the kidz could be stacked and placed on the walls with Velcro to the walls… which would have the benefit of limiting the wiggling. These sessions are scheduled for Tuesday through Friday. They do not have to be ABOUT technology, as long as they are interesting to kidz. Just a few reminders and hopefully helpful tips about KidzMash submissions:

  1. CodeMash 2019 over 1,000 kids registered to attend KidzMash. A majority of attendees are age 6 and under. Sessions for the younger kidz are always needed.
  2. We need submissions for all ages – we want to cater to the diversity.
  3. Previous sessions have included everything from:
    1. First Aid
    2. How a Computer Counts
    3. Discovering the *POP* in Popcorn
    4. My First Website
  4. Please provide an age range in your submission
  5. KidzMash runs all four days of CodeMash
  6. Sessions run for one hour. There are 30-minute breaks between sessions to handle setup changes
  7. Last year most sessions had 40 or more kidz in attendance. They are more than willing to share projects and ready to learn.
  8. KidzMash speakers are fully credentialed speakers, in accordance with the below section titled “Speaker Benefits and the Communist Way.”
  9. KidzMash is an add-on program to the main CodeMash conference and we couldn’t do this without folks like you who are willing to step away from the main conference and provide free content for the Kidz – thank you!
  10. Children must be attended by a parent or guardian during the session. Nonetheless, it highly resembles slightly controlled chaos a vast majority of the time.

KidzMash Divez

This is a new two-hour session geared for the older Kidz at CodeMash to get into the details of a topic of interest. We will have 4-6 sessions of this type scheduled for Tuesday through Friday. Divez should be geared for an age range between 10 and 17. Attendance will be limited based on what is submitted in the abstract and reservations will be handled using Eventbrite. Please remember these are kidz, not adultz. Schedule in break times and crazy times during your session to attempt to hold their interest and organize the chaos.

All the points regarding the KidzMash sessionz above apply, but additionally:

  1. All the KidzMash points above apply but also
  2. Please provide an age range between 10 and 17 in your submission.
  3. Please provide an attendee limit for your session.
  4. Sessions run for 2 hours.

Lightning Talks

If you are looking for lightning talk submissions, keep an eye on Twitter and the Google groups. Those are handled separately from our main call for speakers and will be announced later this fall. Please note: being accepted for a lightning talk does not qualify you for regular speaker benefits.


Content Categories (tracks)

During the submission of each session, you will need to select one “category” into which your session most appropriately fits. You will, as in years past, be able to “tag” it with various technology-specific categories as you would like, though we would advise that selecting all of them hurts more than it helps.  The following is the list of categories for this year and a general description of each. Please note that if you don’t see one that exactly fits your topic, choose the one that is closest and provide an explanation or concern in the “notes for the reviewer” section of the submission.

Programming Principles – A return to the basics. Topics on Object-Oriented programming, Procedural, Functional, etc. How to do it right, rather than just do it. Good for both new programmers and seasoned professionals alike.

Security – Ways to help ensure your application doesn’t end up on the front page of CNN with the sub-title “46 million passwords leaked” and related topics.

Design (UI/UX) – How to make your great, amazing, best-in-the-world piece of software actually usable by real humans. Not just “make it pretty”, but functionally appropriate design.

Hardware/IoT – The place for low-level tinkering or mass integration of small items. For those of you fortunate enough to work at this level, more tools and better approaches to hardware applications. For the rest of us, an opportunity to affect atoms with bits.

Teams/Leadership/The Future of Work – Every team has that one person. You know, the people person who can bring the group together, motivate just about anyone and makes work safe and happy for everyone. Maybe you are that person… Maybe you are building or participating in a team of a group of clashing cultures and finding it to be difficult. With the very nature of how we work changing how do you help your team cross the finish line while maintaining a healthy work environment.

Data (big/small/otherwise) – Every application needs/uses/generates data. Some use a lot; some use a little. All need to be intelligent about how they do it.

Software Quality – Beyond (but still including) testing… What can you do to ensure that your application works, the way it is supposed to, all the time. Without, of course, costing as much as the GDP of some small nation.

Web/Front-End – Making sense of the 3,876 ways to build a website and make it work with any device. Death to JavaScript. Long live JavaScript. (insert your favorite web tech here).

Architecture – Box arrow, box arrow, cylinder. The Art of designing your application’s inner workings. How to plan for scale, how to not over-engineer your 1-user-per-day website. Where does iterative design fit?

DevOps – how to avoid the “it works on my machine!” syndrome. Thinking about deployment and support from day one.

Mobile – Thinking about your application in the context of smaller screen devices. Making the most of the platforms available… not just making your software available on mobile devices because you can, but doing so in such a way that convinces folks that you should.

Speaker Benefits

Each credentialed precompiler, general session, or Kidzmash speaker will receive the following benefits in thanks for their time, effort, and expertise at CodeMash. Please be aware that while we allow you to have anyone help you in your session that you would like, we can recognize/bestow benefits on only one speaker per accepted session. Some precompiler sessions can have secondary speakers – if you are submitting a precompiler session that requires a secondary speaker, you must provide an explanation in the “Notes for the reviewer section”. Thank you for making CodeMash great. Additionally, secondary speakers for precompilers must be disclosed at the time of session submission. Secondary speakers cannot be added after sessions have been accepted.

  1. A hotel room reservation, on campus, at the Kalahari. It Will likely be at least one mile from the conference center, bring good shoes. No fighting with the Mongol Horde to get a room on campus. These reservations will be made for you after speaker selections have been made. You will have the opportunity, at your expense, to upgrade the room depending on availability. If you choose to do this, you will be responsible for any cost increase.
  2. A four-day pass to CodeMash. See Horde comment above.
  3. During speaker registration, which is how you commit to speaking at CodeMash once you are selected, you will be able to pick a special speaker gift. They are all roughly the same value. Gifts from last year include a nice speaker shirt, a food basket, an Arduino kit, a giant USB battery for your phone, and many more.
  4. All attendee benefits as well. I guess speakers inherit from the attendee base class. (this includes the famous, and usually really needed, CodeMash HoodieTM).
  5. Unlimited access to a secret speaker bunker, loaded with snacks, drinks, and jet fuel. Red Bull may replace jet fuel based on market prices. This room also includes tables with comfy chairs so you can get work done.
  6. PRECOMPILERS ONLY: In recognition of the amount of time and effort that is required to deliver a successful precompiler session, we are offering a $250 honorarium per 4-hour workshop. This is available only to the primary speaker.
  7. Speakers who need it (wouldn’t be able to come otherwise) can apply for travel grants to help cover their transportation costs. There are a limited number of these and will be limited to $500 each. After selections have been made, speakers will be given the opportunity to apply.

How to write a good submission

We get a LOT of submissions. They are almost all good, but we still have to sift through to find the cream of the crop, the best cuts of bacon, etc. Here are some things that we are looking for. They are numbered in order of importance.

  1. Make your title and abstract sizzle. Really sell the talk.
  1. Unique and unusual is always good.
  1. Session content should fill the entire time slot assigned, with 5-10 minutes remaining for Q&A.
  1. Use the present tense in the abstract. Do not use the first person (I, our, we).
  1. Do not include proprietary or confidential information.
  1. The submitter should secure the necessary permissions before submitting.
  1. The speaker’s bio and sessions abstracts will be printed on dead trees, the website, and many mobile apps. It could potentially be written by a giant flock of seagulls in the sky.
  1. Submit more than one talk. Each speaker costs the conference and organizing committee a certain amount of time, energy, and funds. As such, when possible, we lean towards a single speaker who can deliver two awesome sessions than two speakers who can each only deliver one session each. This doesn’t mean we won’t have single-session speakers, it just helps.
  1. Avoid submitting 200 talks. This is the converse to the previous point. If you simply submit every topic/submission you’ve considered delivering over the past 43 years of your life, the committee has very little idea what you are truly passionate about. We would much rather have you submit 2 or 3 talks that you really care about.
  1. No product pitches. If you want that, become a sponsor, and pick a sponsored session slot. Then pitch all you want.
  1. Avoid vendor-technology-specific talks. “An Introduction to Windows Azure Queues” will likely not get selected, regardless of how stellar the talk is. Something more along the lines of “Using Durable Messaging to make your application composable, reliable, and scalable” that then utilizes Azure Queues with comments about the similarity or not to Amazon SQS and RabbitMQ is a much better talk and will be applicable to a broader audience. The key here is to think less about the specific technology and more about the problem or concept that the technology is designed to address. Then, talk to the solution and use relevant technology-specific examples.
  1. The broader the audience, the better. A talk on C# is limited to just the C# audience. A talk on abstract architecture for strongly typed languages will appeal to more people.
  1. Use the notes to the content team field to explain any relevant background you have or any other color commentary about it. Perhaps this session was featured elsewhere? Perhaps the content led to a Nobel prize. Tell us what we should know. This will only be used during selection, and not shared with attendees.
  1. Put your best foot forward by submitting an abstract and bio which follows “the three C’s”: it should be complete, cutting-edge, and coherent.
  1. Avoid overly broad sessions. “Introduction to .NET 3.5” or “Testing is Great!” might be interesting, but generally speaking they’re way too broad to get much value out of in a 60-minute session. Draw the focus down to some specific items. Instead of a broad testing talk, narrow it to some tools, like Selenium, or mock or unit test frameworks. Speak to something specific in those.
  1. Titles matter. Really. Cool titles like “I am MOSS Tester! And You Can Too!” sound nifty, but they’re often going to lose the selection committees and attendees. Sure, make your title catchy, but make sure it showcases what your session is about.
  1. Explain what attendees will get out of the session. Make it clear what your attendees will learn during your session. “You’ll leave this session with a handle on ways to smooth out your project’s environment” or “This session will show you a great system for boosting customer collaboration and increasing your code’s quality” are good examples.
  1. Give examples of what will be discussed. Let attendees know what you’ll be talking about. “This highly interactive session will show you three specific tips: improve your estimation, use a daily standup to keep a close focus on your progress, and work in retrospectives.” This helps the selection committee understand if the content fits in, and it helps potential attendees see they should be skipping that bogus session on Drag and Drop Driven Development to attend your presentation.
  1. Show some prior feedback on the session. Have you given this talk before? If so, try and collect some feedback on the presentation. Twitters can give you some awesome blurbage you can reference in your abstracts, or notes to the selectors. “I think I’ve learned more about Fitnesse from Jim than anyone else. It was a great talk — standing room only.” – Michael Eaton. Items like that, particularly ones you can hit via live URLs, give you immense credibility.
  1. Write a concise abstract. The one paragraph of your abstract is like the one spoon tasters get at a chili competition. This is hard to do. You need to work really hard on making the one paragraph highly impactful. Fall right back to your elementary school fundamentals: introduction, body, conclusion. Set a hook with a great opening: “Bugs. Crashes. Malfunctions. Complete meltdowns. We run into difficulties in our work each and every day.” Follow that on with the value propositions to attendees and examples of what’s covered. Finish up with a great closer that will make your attendees’ mouths water, figuratively, at least.
  1. Write a coherent abstract. We are always amazed at the handful of unreadable, muddled, flat-out awful submissions we get. Spend time to make sure your submission is clear. Don’t bother submitting if you won’t take this step. Tough love, but it’s true: incoherent submissions are nearly always immediately dropped from consideration.
  1. Edit, re-edit, then get it reviewed. Write the draft, step away from it, come back, and edit it later. Several times. Get the abstract out to your colleagues and friends for their feedback. Iterate through this several times.
  1. Your speaker bio is every bit as important as your abstract, particularly if you’re not well-known by the content selection committee. While not required by the system, adding details such as your Twitter handle, blog link, and other social media links is always helpful.


Head over and submit your talks (