Science and technology

13 suggestions for getting your speak accepted at a tech convention

As tech convention organizers ramp up for the autumn season, it’s possible you’ll be seeing requires papers (CFP) touchdown in your electronic mail field or social media feeds. We at All Things Open (ATO) have seen a whole lot of presentation proposals over time, and we have discovered a couple of issues about what makes them profitable.

As we put together for the eighth annual ATO in October 2020, we thought we might supply a couple of greatest practices for writing profitable CFP responses. If you are contemplating submitting a chat to ATO or one other tech occasion, we hope the following tips will assist enhance the probabilities that your proposal can be accepted.

1. Know the occasion you are submitting a chat to

This looks as if the proverbial no-brainer, however some individuals do not take the time to analysis an occasion earlier than they submit a chat. Peruse the convention’s web site and evaluate the talks, audio system, subjects, and so on. featured within the final couple of years. You may also discover a whole lot of info just by googling. The time you make investments right here will assist you to keep away from a submission that’s utterly out of context for the occasion.

2. Understand what the occasion is in search of

Look for details about what the occasion is in search of and what varieties of subjects or talks it expects can be a great match. We attempt to present as a lot info as doable in regards to the ATO conference, why someone would want to speak, and what we’re looking for (each basic and particular curiosity subjects). We additionally attempt to make the submission course of as straightforward as doable (little doubt, there may be room for enchancment), partly as a result of we imagine this improves the standard of submissions and makes our evaluate course of go extra easily.

three. Reach out to the organizer and ask questions

If you are contemplating submitting a chat, do not hesitate to achieve out and ask the occasion organizers any questions you may have and for steerage particular to the occasion. If there isn’t any or little response, that needs to be a crimson flag. If you may have any questions on All Things Open, please attain out straight at info@allthingsopen.org.

four. Be clear about what attendees will be taught out of your speak

This is without doubt one of the commonest errors we see. Only about 25% of the proposals we obtain clearly clarify the proposed speak’s takeaways. One cause you must embrace that is that just about each occasion attendee makes their schedule based mostly on what they are going to be taught in the event that they go to a session. But for organizers and proposal reviewers, having this info clearly acknowledged upfront is pure gold. It simplifies and hastens the evaluation course of, which will get you one step nearer to being accepted as a speaker. A paragraph titled “Attendee Takeaways” with bullet factors is the holy grail for everybody concerned.

This is one other mistake we see lots. Many talks are submitted with both a single sentence description within the summary or a rare lengthy quantity of textual content. Neither is a good suggestion. The solely exception we are able to consider is when a subject may be very widespread or topical, and that alone is sufficient to win the day even when the summary is extraordinarily brief (however this is uncommon). Most abstracts needs to be between 75 and 250 phrases, and maybe extra for an prolonged workshop with conditions (e.g., preexisting information or required downloads). Even then, attempt to maintain your proposal as sharp, concise, and on-point as doable.

Disregard this recommendation at your personal threat; in any other case, there is a excessive chance that your proposal can be met with certainly one of these reactions from reviewers: “They didn’t take the time to write any more than this?” or “Sheesh, there’s no way I have the time to read all that. I’m going to give it the lowest score and move on.”

6. Choose a great title

This is a debate we see on a regular basis: Should a chat’s title describe what the speak is about, or ought to or not it’s written to face out and get consideration (e.g., evoking emotion, anchoring to a well-liked popular culture subject, or asking a compelling query)? There is not a single right reply to this query, however we undoubtedly know when a title “works” and when it does not. We’ve seen some very artistic titles work nicely and generate curiosity, and we have seen very easy titles work nicely, additionally.

Here is our rule of thumb: If the speak covers a subject that has been round some time and isn’t significantly scorching proper now, strive getting artistic and spicing it up a bit. If the subject is newer, a extra easy title describing the speak in plain phrases needs to be good.

Titles on an occasion schedule often is the solely factor attendees use to resolve what talks to attend. So, run your potential speak titles by colleagues and pals, and search their opinions. Ask: “If you were attending an event and saw this title on the schedule, would it pique your interest?”

7. Know the fundamental standards that reviewers and organizers use to make selections

While this is not a complete checklist of evaluate standards, most reviewers and organizers think about a number of of the next when evaluating speak proposals. Therefore, at minimal, think about this checklist while you’re creating a chat and the elements that go together with it.

  1. Timeliness of and estimated curiosity within the subject: Is the subject relevant to the session’s target market? Will it ship worth? Is it well timed?
  2. Educational worth: Based on the summary and speaker, is it clear that attendees will be taught one thing from the speak? As talked about in merchandise four above, together with an “Attendee Takeaways” part is admittedly useful to ascertain instructional worth.
  3. Technical worth: Is the expertise you propose to showcase relevant, distinctive, or being utilized in a brand new and inventive means? Is there a dwell demo or a hands-on part? While some subjects do not lend themselves to a demo, most individuals are visible learners and are higher off if a presentation contains one (if it is related). For this cause, we place a whole lot of worth on demos and hands-on content material.
  4. Diversity: Yes, there are exceptions, however the majority of occasions, reviewers, and organizers agree that having a various speaker lineup is perfect and ends in a greater general occasion in a number of methods. A subject delivered from a unique perspective can typically result in artistic breakthroughs for attendees, which is a large value-add. See merchandise 10 under for extra on this.
  5. Talk problem stage: We establish All Things Open talks as introductory, intermediate, or superior. Having a great mixture of speak ranges ensures everybody in attendance can entry relevant content material. See merchandise 9 under for extra on this, however usually, it is sensible to point your speak’s stage, whether or not or not the CFP requests it.

eight. Stay present on the occasion’s business or sector

Submitting a proposal on a related subject will increase the likelihood your speak can be accepted. But how have you learnt what subjects are of curiosity, particularly if the CFP does not spell it out in easy phrases? The greatest option to know what’s well timed and fascinating is to deeply perceive the sector the occasion focuses on.

Yes, this requires effort and time, and it implies you benefit from the sector sufficient to remain present on it, however it’ll repay. This information will lead to the next sector IQ, which can be mirrored in your subject, title, and summary. It can be acknowledged by reviewers and instantly set you aside from others. At All Things Open, we spend the vast majority of our time studying about and staying present on the “open” area in order that we are able to characteristic related, substantive, and knowledgeable content material. Submitting a chat that’s related, substantive, and knowledgeable vastly enhances the prospect will probably be accepted.

Some CFPs do not ask for this info, however you must supply it anyway. It will make the reviewers and organizer very pleased for a number of causes, together with these:

  1. Unless the occasion targets attendees with a sure ability or expertise stage (and most don’t), organizers should embrace content material that’s interesting to a large viewers, together with individuals of all ability, expertise, and experience ranges. Even if an occasion focuses on a selected kind of attendee (maybe individuals with larger ranges of expertise or abilities), most need to supply one thing a little bit totally different. Listing the speak stage makes this a lot simpler for organizers.
  2. News flash: Reviewers and organizers do not know every part and will not be specialists in each doable subject space. As a end result, reviewers will generally search for a couple of key phrases or different standards, and including the speak stage can “seal the deal” and get your speak confirmed.

10. Tell organizers in the event you’re a member of a traditionally underrepresented group

A rising variety of occasions are getting higher at recognizing the worth of variety and guaranteeing their speaker lineup displays it. If you are a part of a gaggle that hasn’t sometimes been included in tech occasions and management, look to see if there’s a place to point that on the submission type. If not, point out it in a conspicuous place someplace within the summary. This doesn’t assure approval in any means—your proposal should nonetheless be well-written and related—nevertheless it does give reviewers and organizers pertinent info they might worth and take into accounts.

11. Don’t be ashamed of your credentials or talking expertise whether it is gentle

We speak to lots of people who want to ship a presentation and have lots to supply, however they by no means submit a chat as a result of they do not really feel they’re certified to talk. Not true. Some of one of the best talks we have seen are from first-time audio system or these very early of their talking careers. Go forward and submit the speak, and be trustworthy when discussing your background. Most reviewers and organizers will deal with the substance of the submission over your expertise and acknowledge that new methods of approaching and utilizing expertise typically come from newbies fairly than business veterans.

One caveat right here: It nonetheless pays to know your self. By this, we imply in the event you completely hate public talking, haven’t any need to do it, and are solely contemplating submitting a chat as a result of, for instance, stress from an employer, the speak shouldn’t be prone to go nicely. It’s higher, to be trustworthy, on the frontend than pressure one thing you don’t have any need to do.

12. Consider panel periods rigorously

If you’ve got received an concept for a panel session, please think about it rigorously. In greater than 10 years of internet hosting occasions we have seen some actually good panel periods, however we have seen way more that did not go so nicely. Perhaps too many individuals have been on the panel and never everybody had an opportunity to talk, maybe a single panel member dominated the complete dialog, or maybe the moderator did not maintain the dialogue and engagement flowing easily. Regardless of the problem, panels have the potential to go very flawed.

That stated, panels can nonetheless work and ship a whole lot of worth to attendees. If you do submit a panel session ensure to remember the period of time allotted for the session and make sure the variety of panel members accordingly. Remember, much less is at all times extra on the subject of the panel format. Also, ensure the moderator understands the subject material being mentioned and does not thoughts implementing format parameters and talking cut-off dates. Finally, let organizers know panel members and the moderator will have interaction in a pre-conference walk-through/preparation name earlier than the occasion to make sure a clean course of in entrance of a dwell viewers. Remember, organizers are nicely conscious panels might be terrific however may also go in the wrong way and really simply result in a whole lot of adverse suggestions.

13. This shouldn’t be a chance to promote 

This is a delicate subject, however one which completely have to be talked about. Over the years we have seen actually lots of of talks “disqualified” by reviewers as a result of they considered the speak as a gross sales pitch. Few issues evoke such a visceral response. Yes, there are occasions, tracks, and session slots the place a gross sales pitch is suitable (and possibly even required by the corporate paying your prices). However, make it a precedence to know when and the place that is acceptable and acceptable. And at all times, and we imply at all times, err on the facet of constructing substance the main focus of the speak fairly than a gross sales angle. 

It would possibly sound like a cliche, however when a chat is delivered successfully with a deal with substance, individuals will need to purchase what you are promoting. And in the event you’re not promoting something, they will need to observe you on social media and customarily have interaction with you—since you delivered worth to them. Meaning: You gave them one thing they will apply themselves (schooling) or as a result of your supply type was entertaining and interesting. With uncommon exceptions, at all times focus any summary on substance, and the remaining will care for itself. 

Go for it!

We vastly admire and respect anybody who submits a chat for consideration—it takes a whole lot of time, thought, and braveness. Therefore, we go to nice lengths to thank everybody who goes via the method; we give free occasion passes to everybody who applies (no matter approval or rejection), and we make each effort to host Q&A periods to supply as a lot steerage as doable on the entrance finish. Again, the extra time and consideration audio system put into the submission course of, the better the lives of reviewers and organizers. We must make all of this as straightforward as doable.

While this isn’t a complete checklist of greatest practices, it contains a few of the issues we predict individuals can profit from understanding earlier than submitting a chat. There are lots of people on the market with extra information and expertise, so please share your greatest suggestions for submitting convention proposals within the feedback, so we are able to all be taught from you.


All Things Open is a universe of platforms and occasions specializing in open supply, open tech, and the open net. It hosts the All Things Open conference, the biggest open supply/tech/net occasion on the US East Coast. The convention usually hosts hundreds of attendees and most of the world’s most influential firms from all kinds of industries and sectors. In 2019, almost 5,000 individuals attended from 41 US states and 24 nations. Please direct inquiries about ATO to the group at info@allthingsopen.org.

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