How EuroPython Proposals Are Selected: An Inside Look

With the number of Python-related conferences around the world, many people might wonder how the selection process is configured and performed. For the largest and oldest European Python conference, EuroPython, we wanted to share how this process works.

The Programme team for each EuroPython conference changes every year. There are mechanisms in place to carry on some of the processes and traditions when dealing with proposals for the next event, although you can still find some differences each year. These differences are not large enough to make a significant impact.

The 2024 Process

In this post, we highlight how the 2024 process was conducted and your role in it, whether as a submitter or potential contributor in future versions.

Opening the Call for Proposals

This year, the Call for Proposals (CfP) configuration was based on the 2023 version, with minor modifications. For example, two new tracks were added to enable more people to categorise their proposals:

  • PyData: Research & Applications
  • PyData: LLMs

This change was motivated by the popularity of these topics at other global conferences. In addition, other tracks were merged or removed to keep the number manageable.

For many people, having a configuration with both an Abstract and a Description is confusing. Not everyone knows what to write in each field. To address this, we decided to be clearer: we dropped the Description field and asked explicitly for an Outline section. The intention was that to submit a proposal, one would require an Abstract and an Outline for their session.

Reviewers from the Community

We opened a form to get help from the community for reviewing the talks and decided to accept most (if not all) of them to nurture our review results as much as possible. We had more than 20 people helping with reviewing proposals on Pretalx.

We created a few “track groups” containing related categories that the reviewers could choose from. This way, there was no pressure to have an opinion on a topic one might not be familiar with.

We had an average of six reviews per proposal, which greatly helped us make a final decision.

Community Voting

Another way to receive input is through Community Voting, which allows participants who have attended any of the EuroPythons since 2012 to vote on the upcoming programme.

Using a separate simple web application, people participated by voting for the proposals they wanted to see at EuroPython 2024. We were fortunate to have enough people voting to get a good estimate of preferences.

Fun fact: Around 11 people were able to review all of the nearly 640 proposals we received this year.

We are very grateful to everyone who participated!

My reaction when I saw a good proposal to be voted at EP 2024.

Programme Committee

This year the programme committee was mostly formed by a group of new people to the conference, helped by a few people familiar with the process from last year. In total, around 11 people were actively participating.

Like most Programme teams, we did our best to get people from different areas to have a more diverse general mindset, including skills from Data, Core, DevOps, and Web technologies.

It was important for us to have local people on the team, and we are very happy to have had two members from the local Czech community helping, while the rest were spread across Europe.

Selection Process

Based on the reviewers' results from Pretalx and Community Voting, we generated a master sheet that was used to perform the selection process.

Track by track, the Programme team went through each proposal that had good Pretalx and Community Voting results and voted (again) for the talks they believed were good material for the conference.

During the selection process, we felt that we did not have enough expertise in a specific area. Therefore, we are very thankful that we could add four more members to the selection team to remedy that.

After three calls, each lasting around 2 hours, the Programme team had the first batch of accepted proposals. The speakers for these proposals were notified as soon as the decision was made. Following a similar process, we did the same for the second (and final) batch of accepted and rejected proposals.

To ensure the acceptance of proposals from most tracks and topics, many plots and statistical analyses were created to visualise the ratio of accepted proposals to submitted ones, the variety of topics, and the diversity of speakers.

Plots from pretalx visualising Proposals by Submission date, Session type, Track & State

Even though it sounds cliché, there were many good proposals we couldn't accept immediately since the high volume and quality of proposals made it challenging to make instant decisions. We kept debating whether to place them on the waiting list.

Ultimately, we created another category for proposals that "could be accepted" allowing us to manage and organise high-quality proposals that required further deliberation.

Programme team trying to figure which talk to choose from the waiting list

What about sponsored talks?

Each year, the conference offers sponsors with certain packages the perk of hosting a sponsored talk, meaning that some of the talk slots had to be saved for that purpose. Slots not taken were filled by proposals on the waiting list.

Is selecting the talks the end of the story?

No. After proposals are accepted/confirmed, special requirements emerge, mainly about "I’m sorry, I cannot be at the conference, can I do it online?" Which, in our opinion, is unfortunate news—not because we don’t like it, but because we have learned that remote talks are not as popular with attendees.

Even though there are some special cases that we fully understand, we noticed a few cases not being convincing enough. In those cases, we had to encourage people to give up their slot for other in-person proposals. This is a tricky process as we are limited in the total amount of remote talks possible, the specific reasons for the change, and the overall scenario for the conference.

What is needed to get accepted?

Most rejected proposals are rejected because they have a weak abstract.

We have tried many means to encourage people to ask questions and seek feedback about their proposals, and we have hosted calls providing the details of good proposals. Still, every year we get proposals that have a poorly structured, incomplete abstract, etc.

For us, a good abstract contains the following:

  • Context of your talk or problem
  • Definition of the problem
  • Why is it important to find a solution to that problem?
  • What will be discussed and what will attendees learn?
  • Previous requirements or additional comments on your talk

You can also imagine a proposal like an elevator pitch. You need to describe it in a way that’s striking and motivates people to attend.

Don’t Forget About the Outline!

This year, we introduced an “outline” field for you to paste the outline of your talk, including the time you will spend on each item. This is essential to get an idea of how much you will be talking about each topic. (Hint: add up the expected times.)

The outline might sound like an obvious topic to you, but many people failed to provide a detailed one. Some even copied the abstract here, so you might understand the importance of this field as well.

Why Does It Feel Like the Same People Are Speakers Every Year?

The main reason for this is that those people followed the proper abstract structure and provided a descriptive outline. Having experience being rejected certainly helps. So we hope that after giving you detailed selection process standards, you know how to crack the selection process.

What about AI?

We discussed a few proposals that “felt AI written” and even used external tools to assess them. In the end, we didn’t have a strict ruling against people using Artificial Intelligence tools to improve their proposals.

When a proposal felt like it was AI-generated, we went deeper into the proposal and the speaker's background. For example, by analysing the bio from the speaker and checking if the person was giving talks somewhere else. Most importantly, if the “speaker” was a real person.

Independently of how the Programme team feels towards AI tools, we cannot completely ignore how these tools are helping some people with structure and grammar, as well as overall assisting them in their writing process. This might change in the future, but currently, we have not written regulations against the usage of AI tools.

The 2025 Process and Final Words

As described before, the team and process can change a bit next year, but we expect the same critical aspects of a good abstract and outline to be essential to the process.

We encourage you to ask for feedback, participate in sessions teaching how to write good proposals, participate on our Speaker's Mentorship programme. These can truly help you to get accepted into the conference.

Having said all this, each conference has a different selection process. Maybe the reason your proposal was not selected is due to a better proposal on the same topic, or too many similar proposals in the same track, or your proposal just did not fit this year's Zeitgeist (i.e. Community Voting).

Please don’t be discouraged! We highly recommend you keep working on your proposal, tweak it, write a new one, and most importantly, try again.

Submitting Several Proposals Doesn’t Help!

We value quality over quantity and will compare your proposals against each other. This is extra work and might even give you less of a chance because of a split vote between your proposals. So submitting more than 10 proposals to get accepted is the wrong approach.

The Call for Proposals will likely be open earlier next year. We hope you can follow the recommendations in this post and get your proposal to accepted for EuroPython 2025.

And remember: Don’t be afraid to ask for feedback!

Thanks for reading! This community post is written by Cristián on behalf of EuroPython 2024 Programme team
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