The Making of a Quality Conference Speaker Proposal

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Speaking at a conference can benefit you in a lot of ways, and there are dos and don’ts when it comes to submitting a speaker proposal. You only have one opportunity to make your case for speaking, so make the most of it.

Shawn Collins speaking at Affiliate Summit APAC 2019

Pay attention to the details and invest time in a quality speaker proposal.

Don’t rush through it.

Typos, lack of clarity in your writing, and failing to follow the instructions send a very clear message that this is not a priority for you.

I’m guessing you don’t want to send that message since you’re bothering to read this.

Based on the thousands of speaker proposals I’ve seen over the years, I’ve compiled the following on what to do to improve your chances of being selected.

Read the Guidelines and Follow Them

This should be basic advice – so basic that it doesn’t need to be included here.

However, every time we put out a call for speakers, I see lots of talented, successful people turn in proposals that show they’ve paid no attention to the guidelines.

If there are character or word constraints, be sure to follow them.

It’s that simple.

Failure to follow simple instructions can disqualify a good session, so read the guidelines like they matter… because they do.

Check Your Schedule

Are you sure you do not have a conflict on your schedule with the conference day(s)?

Check and double-check your schedule to see if you have any other obligations.

If you realize you have to cancel after being accepted to speak, it could hurt your credibility and cause trouble for the conference organizers.

Adhere to the Deadline

There is inevitably a deadline to turn in a speaker proposal. If you want to speak at a given conference, make it a priority to get the proposal in on time.

Lots of successive dates hinge on that deadline, and if that doesn’t work for your schedule, so be it.

But your failure to meet the deadline is just that – your failure.

Don’t Be Lazy

When you are submitting your speaker proposal, provide the requested information in full.

Don’t cut corners with comments like “I will provide this later,” because there will likely not be a later.

Exhibiting such arrogance, that you think the conference wants you to speak so bad that they’ll accept your incomplete submission, may well result in your submission being declined.

Proofread!

There seems to be a theme here about attention to detail, right? Right.

Run spellcheck, read through your material for clarity, and have somebody else look it over before you send it.

People with typos on their resumes don’t get hired.

Don’t Be Too Broad

Are you one of those people who hopes to give a 30,000-foot view of your chosen topic?

If so, stop with the buzzwords and focus on a topic.

The big picture can be nice for a keynote, but if you’re interested in giving a presentation at a breakout session, broad is bad. People want specifics.

Sell the Topic

Your speaker proposal should focus on the benefits, takeaways, etc. of your proposed session.

Don’t talk about yourself. That is the function of your bio.

Review Past Agendas

One of the best ways to get a feel for the type of content that is typically featured at a conference is to review the past agendas.

Then, come up with a new, unique, interesting topic that draws some inspiration from past, recurring themes.

Don’t Recycle

It’s really nice to recycle paper, plastic, and grass clippings, but don’t recycle content.

Nobody wants your greatest hits from the past few years. Respect your audience and propose new, quality content.

Focus on Clarity

Be clear about what you want to cover in your presentation. It should be something you can sum up in a sentence.

A string of buzzwords is annoying to read, has little meaning, and will likely help to put your proposal in the reject pile.

Have You Attended the Conference?

While there are certainly first timers speaking frequently at conferences, it is in your best interest to first attend conferences where you hope to speak at beforehand.

Know the conference culture and types of attendees, so you’re not going into it blind.

Find Out What They Want

Do your homework as to which sessions have been most popular in the past, so you know what attendees like.

Also, read blog posts on the past conferences to gain insight.

Don’t ask the organizers what they want – they want quality, original content.

Know Your Limits

It can be tough to carry an hour-long session by yourself.

Are you ready? If not, try proposing for a shorter time slot, or submit a proposal for a panel.

Running a long session shouldn’t be your first step. It’s really helpful to get some experience by speaking at meet-ups and other smaller, professional get-togethers.

OK, now you’re ready to submit that killer speaking proposal.

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