As part of our commitment to transparency within the cloud native community, we are providing an inside look into the work that goes on behind the scenes to bring the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon schedule to life. Note that every conference we put together has a post-event conference transparency report that includes a lot of the information we cover below. We are committed to improving the process after every conference.

The schedule is curated by the KubeCon + CloudNativeCon Program Committee, a group of volunteers who are subject matter experts in the conference topics and tracks, led by the conference co-chairs. 

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon conferences have become very competitive with a large number of submissions and the average acceptance rate in the low to mid-teens.

KubeCon + CloudNativeCon CFP Averages:

  • Europe: 1,500 (16% Average acceptance rate)
  • China: 800 (15% Average acceptance rate)
  • North America: 1,900 (12.6% Average acceptance rate)

Our latest CFP is no exception with an acceptance rate of 15.3%. 621 submissions were received from 910 proposed speakers at 304 companies. Of those, we were able to accept 95 talks with 133 total speakers. Here’s how the submission data breaks down for KubeCon + CloudNativeCon EU 2021. 

  • 133 Accepted Speakers – Breakdown by Company Type
    • 71.43% from Vendors
    • 23.31% from End Users
    • 5.26% from Other*
  • 95 Accepted Talks** – Breakdown by Company Type
    • 65.26% from Vendors
    • 17.89% from End Users
    • 10.53% with Speakers from a Vendor and an End User company
    • 6.32% from Other*
  • 621 Total Talk Submissions – Breakdown by Submitting Company Type
    • 73.11% from Vendors
    • 21.10% from End Users
    • 5.8% from Other*
  • 304 Companies Submitted Talks – Breakdown by Company Type
    • 72.04% were Vendors
    • 22.7% were End Users
    • 5.26% were Other*

*Other: Individuals without a company affiliation, non-profits, and training organizations

**Does not include talk slots held for SIG groups, of which we have 20 for this event

Previously, KubeCon + Cloud NativeCon NA 2020 had 856 submissions and an acceptance rate of 15%, resulting in 345 total speakers for the event. 

How the Program Committee is chosen 

To create the Program Committee, CNCF invites contributors from the community to participate.

An email is sent to CNCF Maintainers and the CNCF Ambassadors inviting them to fill out the interest form. On occasion, the co-chairs will have specific individuals to invite, but the majority of the program committee comes from CNCF projects and ambassadors. 

There are at least 5 program committee members assigned to each track/topic to review. The co-chairs assign them to each track.

On average, the Program Committee consists of:

  • Europe: 90
  • China: 60
  • North America: 115
  • Track Chairs Average: 30
  • Keynote Sessions: 15–25

Program Committee Responsibilities

Our Program Committee is responsible for giving scores and comments to proposals within their selected topic areas. You can learn more about the scoring guidelines that are used here.

Program Committee members donate a significant amount of time to reviewing talks, and the timeline is very short. They’re only given two weeks to review. We’ve estimated out how long the expected time commitment is: 

  • 8–18 hours (50-99 proposals)
  • 18–34 hours (100-200 proposals)
  • 34 hours or more (200+ proposals)

After the review period has ended, track chairs will incorporate the feedback to create a list of the top 30% of talks they would recommend to the co-chairs to accept, based on a number of criteria. The co-chairs then review these lists to make the final decisions on proposal acceptance and build out the schedule.

How the program committee is compensated

We offer reviewers a tiered registration discount system:

  • 50% off regular attendee registration for members that review 50-100 proposals.
  • 100% off regular attendee registration for members that review 101-200 proposals and a $100 USD Amazon gift card.
  • Members receive this discount and gift card after completing their reviews.
  • Each member also receives a certificate badge to place across social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, letting the public know you are a trusted thought leader of the Cloud Native and Open Source community. Here is an example of what the badge looks like from Europe 2020.

Responsibilities of Track Chairs

Track chairs are responsible for reviewing the results of the program committee scores to form a list on which top 30% proposals to accept with consideration to speaker, company, and gender diversity as well as experience level balance within their track. Track chairs are also under a two week timeline for this work. 

The final talk selection is made by the conference co-chairs, taking into account the recommendations from all track chairs and the need to balance diversity and that each speaker will give at most one talk.

Track Chair Benefits

As a thank you for their efforts, track chairs receive the following benefits:

  • Public recognition as a track chair.
  • 100% off the cost of registration to attend the events they participate in.
  • $400 Amazon Gift Card, to be sent upon conclusion of the program due to session moderation.

Track Chairs have additional constraints to keep in mind:  

  • At least 8% of speakers in each shortlist must identify as a woman or non-binary.
    • Past results have been 14%.
  • There must be a good mix of company representation, especially from end-users, and no one company may be over-represented.
  • There needs to be a good balance of Beginner and Advanced tracks – near 50/50.
  • 30–40% of speakers should be first-time speakers at KubeCon.

Responsibilities of Co-Chairs

Co-chairs finalize the schedule based on the input from the program committee and the track chairs.  They receive scores and feedback from every reviewer per submission, and have access to the full list of submissions. The Co-chairs are chosen by CNCF and are on a rotating basis for each conference and are professionally contracted and compensated for their time.

Conclusion

If your talk was not accepted, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t great! Program Committee members have to make difficult decisions, and there are any number of reasons it might not have made the cut. Many Committee members are more than willing to chat with you to provide feedback on your submission. You can also read more about how to get your talk accepted here, and we even have had outside community conferences established to recycle talk submissions!

Finally, we’re incredibly grateful to the entire global community that comes together to make KubeCon + CloudNativeCon a success every time.