This post was first published by Hanah Johnson on March Communications’ blog, PR Nonsense, and may be viewed here.
While summer draws to a close, speaking season is rising in full-swing. Although the majority of upcoming conferences are slated for early 2013, PR-pros are gearing up early to get those calls for papers in. Winning a speaking slot at a world-renowned conference is no easy task – consider RSA’s annual security conference, which last year received thousands of submissions, accepting less than one out of five!
Hugh Thompson, RSA Conference’s program committee chairman, and Jeanne Friedman, RSA Conference’s content manager, offered up some valuable tips in a recent webinar event, “Getting your Session Proposal Accepted in 2013.” From their past experiences in selecting the best CFPs, Hugh and Jeanne outlined seven habits of highly successful submitters.
Habit 1: Be original.
Highly successful submitters avoid stale content – they’re constantly evolving and pushing the envelope. Ask yourself: Why is your topic important? Why do you have a unique viewpoint and how did you draw your conclusions? Why would you attend your own session over several others in the same time slot?
Habit 2: Be creative.
The most memorable abstracts demonstrate intrigue – they’re bold, funny, and provocative. Plenty of submitters presume that if they have an accomplished speaker with a great bio, this alone will get them accepted. Program committees are looking way beyond an impressive title, and are eager for compelling topics that trigger curiosity.
Habit 3: Make it sizzle, but don’t forget the steak.
After you’ve committed to the first two habits and have the judges successfully hooked, provide substance to back it up. Judges are looking for evidence and specifics. Think of your general abstract as a promise to judges about what you can deliver, with closer details as a way of showing judges how you would deliver on that promise.
Details shouldn’t be limited to the technicalities of your proposed topic – understanding the flow of your presentation is equally crucial in showing the judges you’re prepared to present. The use of video has presented a game-changing way to get your presenting capabilities across to judges. Beyond a compelling topic, judges will take notice of your ability to articulate it, and really come across to an audience. It’s not just about excellent content, but also excellent delivery.
Habit 4: Don’t sell stuff
Highly successful submitters (even vendors!) don’t start talking about version X of their product, what it does, and why they’re excited about it. Instead, they leverage their expertise in a particular space and speak to the industry’s wider trends. Remember that judges are fine-tuned to something that might appear like a sales pitch, even if it isn’t.
Habit 5: Take pride in your submission
Judges will notice of a submitter who truly cares about his/her topic and is able to express that on paper. You might consider beginning your proposal with a question that intrigues you and why, followed by analytics that support your conclusion. Think about communicating your proposal in terms you would use in describing it to a colleague – this is a great way to word your submission in a way that conveys you personally care about the topic.
Habit 6: Speaker and topic make sense together
The speaker’s expertise must line up with what they deliver – judges are always sure to check this. If you have a VP of marketing speak about reverse engineer malware, it might seem like they are positioning a product for something more like a sales pitch (see Habit 4).
Habit 7: They submit!
One of the easiest ways to get your proposal rejected is an incomplete submission. This might seem like a no-brainer, but plenty of submitters with worthy presentation topics are rejected for something as simple as a missing a form field, or failing to submit within the call for speaker deadline. Track important dates, confirm your proposed panelist/speaker, and be sure you have filled in all required fields before clicking “submit.”
What other tips do you have getting your submissions accepted?