I like speaking at conferences all over - local meetups, nearby WordCamps, and distant JavaScript conferences.

Sometimes I'll submit one topic, sometimes I'll submit many - and people often ask me how I choose my topics.  I want to give away my secrets.

What are you good at?

I'm really good at a handful of things.  I'm passable at quite a few others.

When I approach a WordCamp or any other conference, I start with a list of things I'm capable of and want to share.  Often, this list looks a bit like the editorial schedule for my blog as well.

Picking what I want to talk about from this list is fairly easy:

  • I'll grab the topic about which I know the most but haven't spoken in a while
  • I'll pick the topic about which my colleagues have asked about recently
  • I'll flesh out a topic I've covered on my blog that's received a lot of comments

If you make such a list, I can guarantee you'll be able to suss out at least one topic for your next conference proposal.

What do you want to be known for?

In the WordPress community, people know me as a hard-core backend coder.  That's fine, but I'm much more than that and don't like to be pigeon-holed by any certain definition.

I'm also a writer, so I'll speak about writing.

I invested quite a bit of time and money earning a degree in business.  I also happen to enjoy marketing.  So I'll speak about business and marketing.

How are you known in the community?  How do you want to be known?

What do you want to learn?

Sometimes, I'll do something that terrifies me: I'll submit a talk proposal on a topic I know nothing about.  If I'm selected to speak, it forces me to double down and learn something new in order to put the talk together.

I hold myself to very high standards, and I will never give a half-hearted presentation.

I've given 40-minute talks that have taken 40+ hours to flesh out - not because I'm preparing material, but because I'm learning the material first and then teaching it.  Knowing I'll have to stand in front of my peers and make a presentation gives me the incentive to learn the topic inside and out.

Otherwise, I'd just dabble and likely learn nothing.

These are my three tricks for devising a talk proposal idea.  How do you pull your list of proposals together?