Radio Tuning: Turn up your chances of writing a successful speaking proposal

Key Elements to writing a successful proposal for a conference/speaking opportunity.

It is the time of year when industry conferences are soliciting proposals or submissions for speaking opportunities. Rather than producing yet another guide on how to write a proposal that will get accepted by conference organizers, we’re highlighting the best tips from previously written articles, providing examples, and a primer on how to write a bio you’ll be proud to share.

All the articles quoted here share common threads of advice:

  1. Be respectful – Use terms that are inclusive and welcoming for your intended audience (some commonly used terms that may not be inclusive: How to stay sane as a developer, 3 dumb things to avoid in …, etc.)
  2. Avoid buzzwords or utilizing your title as clickbait (how many times have we seen “rockstar” on a title or chosen a presentation based on a title that wasn’t actually the basis of the talk?)
  3. Tell a story. What is the narrative of the talk? Is there a beginning, middle, and end? Example: I will learn the basics of blockchain, how it can be applied to my particular problem, what I should avoid, and come out of the session with new knowledge to apply to my role.
  4. The audience is important.
    1. Understand your audience – consider the type of attendee that goes to the conference and, if you are writing for a particular segment, make sure that you specify the skill or experience level of that segment in the supporting details or intended audience section
    2. Your audience is the attendee, not the reviewer. Put yourself into the mindset of a conference attendee, one reviewing titles and deciding which sessions to go to based on the strength of your proposal. What will the attendee get from the session? In this case, use “you” more than “I” – This includes your title, abstract, key takeaways and your expertise.
  5. Do your research – Take a look at previous conference sessions to see if you’re repeating something that’s already been done or can offer a ‘fresh’ take of a session that was previously offered. An update, perhaps, based on relevant, new information.
  6. GER (Grammer, editing, reviewing) – Make sure you don’t have any typos, spelling mistakes, or other formatting errors in your proposal. Read your proposal aloud – listen to how it flows and edit accordingly. Ask a friend (or friendly enemy) to review your proposal with a critical eye.

One last piece of advice on writing a successful proposal is to be enthusiastic. If you are genuinely interested in what you’re going to be speaking about, that should come through in your writing. And by that, we don’t mean use lots of exclamation points, but, in the same vein as ‘telling a story’, put a human voice into the proposal. This is your written 50-floor elevator pitch.

Now onto your bio…
A well crafted bio is not easy to write – especially if you don’t have an experienced marketing and PR firm behind you. The bio serves two distinct needs for conference proposals and conference agendas: it tells the conference reviewer that you’re qualified to speak about your proposed topic (and is where you can insert some levity), and it helps to guide a conference attendee decision as to whether to attend your talk or a competing one, i.e. “that’s an interesting background, I want to hear what she has to say about X”. 

Here are a few pointers to keep in mind as you’re writing your bio:

  1. Google yourself – see what the interwebs have to say or show about you. Does it align with who you really are or how you want to present yourself? If so, kudos! If not, here’s a great chance to put another version of you out there.
  2. Unless you’re writing a general bio, tailor your bio to the audience, highlighting relevant experiences, publications, etc.
  3. Define your title – if your job title is ‘Distinguished Engineer’ or ‘Developer Evangelist”, tell the audience a bit more about what you actually do
  4. Don’t sell yourself short! You have done amazing things; it might not feel like it but to the people in the audience your real-world experience is invaluable. Don’t be afraid to include a product accomplishment or two.
  5. But don’t pat yourself on the back too much. Share your accomplishments but recognize that listing all of them may put you into the bragging category.

“Writing a good bio isn’t easy,” said Ian Glazer when asked. “In trying to boil down what is interesting about your work and your life, one will often leave out the things that are probably most interesting to the reader. And don’t forgot, it’s likely someone is going to read that bio as you walk on stage… it’s the first thing the audience is going to hear. But don’t stress; have fun with your bio and make the reader has a feel for the real you.”

Should you be interested in another review of your conference submission, send us an email – we’re happy to lend an eye. 

Hopefully this advice will serve you well as you seek to conquer the conference world. 

Let us know how it goes.

Editorial Committee

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