7 Tricks for Writing Strong Conference Speaking Proposals
If you want to stay on top of what’s happening in e-learning, industry conferences like DevLearn, Learning Technologies, ATD ICE, Learning Solutions are well worth checking out. They showcase sessions, discussions, and examples that can help you push the envelope of what’s possible now and prepare for how learning technology will evolve in the future.
So these are exciting events to attend. But have you ever considered doing a speaking session at one yourself? Since most speakers are people in learning development just like you—people with practical, real-world experience who can assist others—that goal isn’t far out of reach if you’re interested.
If you’re considering submitting ideas or even wondering if you have anything suitable to share, we’re here to help you along with a few tips.
1. Identify a topic to share—and remember it doesn’t have to be earth-shattering
People sometimes opt out of submitting speaking proposals because they don’t have a substantial online following or cutting-edge projects to talk about. But you don’t have to have industry fame to get a speaking slot. And you’d be amazed at how often what can seem mundane and everyday to you can spark ideas and insights in others.
Not sure what you have to share that would stand out to others? Try these tricks to uncover ideas:
- Talk with someone else in our field about your projects and industry interests. Do you see them light up about something you shared? That’s a good clue for a possible topic!
- List out aspects of your work you’re passionate about. Maybe you love checking out new multimedia creation tools. Or perhaps you geek out about project techniques that speed up e-learning projects. If you’re earnestly excited about a topic, that’ll come across to conference organizers and attendees.
- Take a look at old conference programs. That can help you spot content gaps you could fill. And it can give you ideas for topics that tend to make the program that you have a unique spin on.
2. When in doubt, consider a case study
Telling the story of a project or initiative is one of the easiest topics to craft a proposal around. You worked on it, so you’re already an expert on the topic. And conference attendees love getting a behind-the-scenes look at how something got from idea to launch.
And don’t think you have to pick a situation where everything went perfectly. Stories about times a project didn’t go as planned are great learning experiences and can help others avoid the same pitfalls. Nervous about sharing project missteps with your peers? You’ll be glad to know the audiences at these events are supportive and appreciative of speakers willing to share the realities of how our field works.
3. Frame your topic in a way that appeals to a wide audience
Event organizers don’t want to include sessions that only appeal to a few attendees. So if your initial idea seems niche, consider how you can take the insights you’re excited to share and expand them so they can apply to more situations. Sometimes this means broadening your original idea—like shifting from how to build surgical simulations to the related but wider topic of high-stakes simulations. But other times all you need to do is tweak your wording so it’s more obvious to attendees how your session connects to their challenges.
4. Make it clear what your session will cover
If you were reviewing session proposals, which would you pick: one that vaguely mentions it’ll share content writing tips or one that states it’ll cover eight ways to write more engaging content—and then outlines each one? That second one is the better bet, because conference organizers and attendees know exactly what they’re getting. So make sure your proposal isn’t too hazy and don’t be afraid to share spoilers!
5. Take a look at past session descriptions
What exactly does a strong speaking proposal look like? A quick source for examples is the concurrent session descriptions for past events! Those descriptions are typically just edited versions of the submitted proposals. So what you see there can give you ideas for what to write.
6. Take advantage of the resources conferences offer prospective speakers
Event organizers want you to submit the best proposals possible. That’s because the more solid proposals they get, the easier it is for them to build a great event. So, many conference organizers offer resources to help you out. For instance, The Learning Guild shares proposal examples, holds live Q&As about the process, and will even chat with you about your ideas or drafts before you submit them.
Can’t find the resources you need? The people who organize conferences in our field are a kind bunch. So don’t hesitate to reach out to them for assistance.
7. Ask us for help too!
Several of the Articulate community team members have spoken at industry conferences. And we’re happy to help you navigate the process or brainstorm ideas! Just comment on this post, and we’ll be there to assist!
With these tips, you should have a good start on writing a session proposal that stands out from the crowd. For an even deeper dive into the topic, check out this interview between our own Trina Rimmer and David Kelly from The Learning Guild.
And if you end up getting your proposal accepted, be sure to come by the expo hall and say hi to us!