Confessions of an ABP Conference Dean: How to write a great speaker submission

writing 2Over the last few weeks the ABP Conference Speaker Team has been in a very exciting and unprecedented position of having to review a record number of Speaker Submissions for this year’s event.  With nearly 80 submissions and only 32 speaker slots within the timetable, we had to make some really tough decisions.

Hence, it got me thinking about what does it take to be a great speaker?

Starting with the submission side of things, what do you need to do to get yourself onto the Programme in the first place?  Here are my suggestions on what you need to do to stand out from the crowd:

  • A catchy title.  Does the title grab the attention, make sense, isn’t too long and also does what it says on the tin?
  • A clear session outline.  Could a stranger pick up your submission and actually tell what you plan to do during your 60 minutes of Conference-based fame?  I’m talking detail here!  Generic one liners of ‘engaging workshop format with group discussion’ is never going to float the boat of a review panel…  especially when it is the 35th time they’ve read it that day.  Information on how you will make it an ‘engaging workshop’ will made a speaker team much happier bunnies.
  • Obvious connection to the Conference theme.  Dont make the reviewers do all the work here.  Show the connections and make them feel that they couldnt possibly put on a good conference without your session being part of it.  For example, the underpinning philosophy of the 2013 Conference is “So what & a stick of rock”.  The stick of rock bit means that no matter which way you cut the Conference, the theme of “doing more with less” will be clear and obvious.  Hence, as we opened each submission we quietly whispered to ourselves “please, oh please, tell us why you think you session will have something interesting and useful to say on this topic!”
  • Identify your audience. This is a really key one, and also ties into the point below.  With a range of experience represented at most conferences, the review team have got to be able to see where your submission might fit within the Programme.  Beginner, Intermediate or Expert, they need to know.  Also, if you are aiming at the Expert level  can you show that you can handle a bunch of delegates who might think they know as much as you?
  • Answers the “So what?” question.  The other half of the philosophy of the ABP Conference is about delegates being able to take something useful from each and every single session. This is a question all conference organisers want to know, so tell them in clear and explicit terms what a will delegate get out of attending your session.  What’s in it for them?
  • Previous experience.  Ok, this is a tricky one for those who are new on the speaker scene.  The tough reality though is that Conferences want experienced speakers, as they need people who have a track record, know their stuff and can handle a crowd.  So, make the effort to list what events you’ve spoken at previously and when.  Also, if you’ve spoken at that particular conference before make sure you tell them. Including links to videos and delegate feedback will also make the review team very happy.  It could even set you apart from those speakers who dont, as it’s more evidence in your favour.
  • Highlight how you are special.  The bigger or more high profile the event, the greater the competition for slots on the speaker programme so put the effort in to show how you stand out from the crowd.  Obvious things to list here are any books you have written, accolades, awards won, etc.   If the review team has time they will check out your website and LinkedIn profile to make sure they dont miss anything.  However, if they have to do this to discover you are an award winning speaker/author, etc you are just creating a barrier to them seeing how great you are and they might not jump this hoop if they are high on submission numbers and short on time.
  • Show that you care – put some thought into the submission.  This seems like an obvious one, and is the headline point of everything I’ve written so far.  However, I was personally gobsmacked how many submission forms I saw submitted for the ABP Conference that literally had a one line answer in a box.  Not cool.  The organisers of an event care about their Conference and they want to know that the speakers care about being part of it too.

For anyone who is new to the business of writing speaker submissions I hope the above will help you put together better quality and higher impact session outlines.  It may also provide a timely reminder of the key points for any veterans out there.  Good luck!!

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The ABP Conference

The 2013 Annual Association of Business Psychologists Conference is being held 25-27th April, and is the only event in the UK for practioners of business psychology.

For more information about the Conference visit the ABP Conference web pages.

You can also visit us the Official LinkedIn ABP Conference Group where you can interact with us and check out the latest updates from the team.

Finally, for bite sized updates follow us on Twitter: @ABPsychologists

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