Writing Great Conference Talk Proposals

Writing Checklist in Notebook

I hope you are enjoying our series on Becoming a Better Public Speaker. Last time we discussed finding the right conference for you and your goals, and today we’ll cover the details of writing the talk proposal itself.

One of the first things to realize is that every conference is a little bit different. Some will do an official call for papers, with due dates and official formats, and others are more backroom planning. For these reasons, I again recommend you audit your industry conference list and contact the organizers early and often.

No matter the exact format there are four helpful pieces of content to write out as you prepare your proposal:

Title

The title is your one liner, you quick sales pitch. In many ways it will be the hardest component to construct. Many attendee might only see the title, so make it clear and interesting. Avoid non-descriptive funny stuff.

Be aware of title length. Some content systems and displays may concatenate your title, so keep that in mind when positioning key words.

Summary

The elevator pitch for the talk. How another attendee might describe it in the hallways. Needs to be short, one paragraph, 200–300 words. Remember to not only describe what the talk will be but make sure to sell it as well. Explain the attendee pain, and offer your talk as the road to the solution.

Description

Attendees may or may not see this lengthy description, but it will be key for getting your talk approved by the conference committee. Aim for a few small paragraphs reviewing how your talk will flow and what content will be covered. Include information on who this talk is targeted at and what they will walk away with.

Notes

Provide some backstory about yourself. Explain to the conference organizers why you are excited about this topic and why you are best suited to deliver a talk about it. Give some professional credentials without sounding like a resume. If you talk requires special AV needs or anything else, put that here too.

Examples

Here are two proposals I recently wrote up and were accepted for the iOS conference 360iDev.

Getting Feedback

As with any professional writing, don’t expect to get something great out of a single writing session. Spread out your writing over the course of a few weeks and get some peers to proofread your work. Consider offering your help with their writing in return. After a few rounds you’ll have a quality talk proposal to send out.

Congratulations, your talk proposal was picked! – Now what? Next time we’ll explore how to plan and build up your talk. Stay tuned.


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