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Tips to get your talk proposal accepted

We believe that you learn best by teaching. So if you are learning, consider giving a talk at a conference and see how this boosts your learning! The part most people struggle with is the initial proposal. So here are our tops tips for proposals.

  1. Pay attention to the format the conference organisers want the proposal in. They go through hundreds of proposals and they will put as much effort into reviewing your proposal as you put into writing it. I don’t care if you are Mr Important Agile Guy, make an effort.
  2. Pay attention to your title. Shorter is better than longer. Don’t try to be salesy, or too funny.
  3. There is always an intro paragraph or summary. This is where you win or lose the people reviewing your proposal. It needs to tell me exactly what your talk is about. Don’t be secretive or allude to great things. Tell me your magic secret and why I must be there.
  4. Most proposals have a learning outcomes section. Phrase these as what people will learn in your talk. For example: “Learn how to run a successful stand up” instead of “Standup tips”.
  5. You don’t need a finished polished talk to submit a proposal. The reviewers need to understand your thoughts and ideas right now. Most proposals have a mechanics sections – fill this in, even if it might change. How do you plan to make use of the time you have asked for? This is especially important if you have picked a long timeslot like 90 minutes or 3 hours. Avoid large walls of text here, they are very hard to read. Use paragraphs, headings and spacing.
  6. Bios. People want to know who you are and what you love. Not ever certificate and qualification you have ever gotten.
  7. If conferences as for previous speaking experience then provide some. Ideally link to a video on youtube or similar. Mostly they want to check that you can speak the language, and won’t bore people to death. If you’ve never spoken before, don’t be afraid to admit it.
  8. Get someone else to read your proposal before you submit it. Check for: spelling, full sentences, grammar. Now check that you answered each section of the proposal with what the conference organisers asked for.
  9. Once you have submitted, there might be some questions from the organizers. Answer then as quickly as possible. Be open to suggestions and tweak your proposal accordingly. Having been on a review committee, I know that if you ignore these comments and questions, your submission will also be ignored.
  10. Lastly keep a copy all of your proposals. It helps to read through them and see which ones got accepted and which didn’t. Also you can submit the same proposal to many different conferences, with just a few tweaks to fit the specific conference format.

Putting this much effort into your proposal shows that you care and are serious. Should you get accepted – this detailed proposal is a nice start to your talk, with a lot of thinking work already done.

If you’d like to improve your proposals even more – join a conference review team. I know Agile 20xx is always looking for people around November/December. You very quickly learn what makes a good vs poor proposal.