RailsBerry Rejected My Talk and I Am Happy About It

I received the greatest email this weekend: RailsBerry had rejected my talk for their 2013 conference. Normally: another “oh well, they must have found really great talks to reject mine” and a sigh. Why did I like this rejection email?

RailsBerry gave me personalized, actionable feedback on making my future submissions better.

First, the details about my talk. I’ve been teaching Ruby off Rails for a year now. I heart Ruby like a hundred <3s and think we can show off Ruby more than just showing Rails APIs to developers.

My description of Teaching Ruby without Rails

What are the essential elements of Ruby that an artisan developer ninja developer needs to understand before they can see the beauty of Ruby? After all: there was Ruby before there was Rails; There is Ruby outside of Rails.

Let’s cover examples of how to teach Blocks, Send, Class Eval, and Modules to developers who can develop, but not in Ruby land (yet). And, how these 4 features of Ruby can enlighten Rails and DSLs.

In the ‘Why should we choose you’ section, I added:

Honestly? I don’t know if you should… I’m a pretty good speaker and people have been way supportive of my teaching Ruby without the Rails.

How about why you SHOULDN’T choose me, eh?

  • I’m a white male from the US.
  • I’m not an A-list Ruby developer
  • I probably won’t get someone to buy tickets that wouldn’t buy it already

However, some things that MAY tip the scales in my favor:

  • I don’t use like a billionty meme’s in my talks
  • I’m decently funny and hopefully inspiring
  • I like <3 tacos, Ruby, and Whiskey.

I also included a link to my Rails Ignite 2012 talk. I submitted and waited. In late January, I received an email letting me know I wasn’t selected. It was your standard rejection letter.

OK, I thought – and didn’t buy my plane ticket. I was pretty surprised when I received the explanation letter on March 3rd. Here it is:

The Letter from Michael @ RailsBerry

First of all thank you for taking your time and submitting proposal. We have received more than 90 and had to select only 7 of them. It wasn’t an easy task and I’d like to give you a little feedback on why we didn’t choose ones that you had submitted.

You’ve submitted : - Teaching Ruby without Rails

Hmm tough call. You’ve convinced us that you are a good speaker. However the talk proposal lacked the “wow” factor and might not fit into 20 minutes.

The talk sounds kind of interesting and I’m sure it can get accepted by plenty of conferences.

What I like about the rejection email

My talk would be too long

I missed this completely, 20 minutes is a good speech length, not enough time to go over what I said I would).

My talk wouldn’t wow people

True enough, reading back over it. I should have submitted something like ‘A Lambda, a Proc, and a Block walk into a bar’… and talk about how their similarities and differences).

My speaking qualifications are there

I’m sending enough information in my submissions to convey I’m decent on stage)

Suggestions for Conference Organizers

Feedback like this would be very very awesome to send out to people who asked to speak at your conferences. Brutal honesty is best: otherwise the speakers won’t know what to change to get better.