How do you craft a proposal that will catch the attention of conference planners? Here are three tips to keep in mind:
1. Follow the rules.
Many associations and organizations provide concrete details on how they’d like to receive speaking proposals. It’s important to make certain you have all your ducks in a row early to ensure you meet the deadline and that your proposal isn’t rejected over a technicality. Those reading the proposals will appreciate the time you took to meet their requests.
• Are there character limits?
2. Start early, and do your homework.
• Do you have to provide learning objectives? If so, how many?
• Is the submission form online or do they prefer materials sent over email?
• Must a bio be included?
• Is membership in the organization required?
• Do speaking references have to be included?
Don’t wait until the last minute to submit your proposal; take adequate time to develop an audience-specific submission. Conference coordinators like to receive proposals that are customized to their audience versus receiving irrelevant topics that don’t match the conference theme or purpose. Tips for ensuring a high-quality proposal include:
• Research the audience demographics. Call the conference coordinator to learn who attends and ask what they’re seeking for topics. Visit the organization’s website to learn more about what it stands for and key issues it’s helping members navigate.
3. Collaborate with clients and partners.
• Find out what keeps the conference audiences in your industry up at night. This can be done by talking to your clients, asking your sales reps/account managers what they’re hearing in the trenches, and reading industry publications.
• Look at who spoke last year, and make certain your topic isn’t exactly the same.
• Many conferences request that you select a track. Identify which is the most appropriate for your organization.
• Once you determine your submission topic, think about what insight you can provide to attendees and what actionable takeaways you can share. Be sure to include those in your submission.
• Make certain your submission is not commercial in any way.
If you’re considered a vendor in your industry, you might consider partnering with a client, associate, industry expert, or even a competitor for your session. Many conferences have shied away from having a service or solutions provider deliver presentations, because they have received complaints from attendees about their being too commercial. Thus, panels are often encouraged and better received by conference organizers. By coupling your expertise with others in your industry, you can provide a well-rounded session that offers cogent insights.
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By following these tips you will increase the likelihood of drafting a winning proposal for whichever show you are targeting. Securing such an opportunity can boost your organization’s credibility and ability to attract and retain clients.
What other speaking proposal tips would you share?
Bethany Cramer is a public relations manager at Marketing Works, while Stacy Wood is vice president at the agency. A version of this story originally appeared on the agency's blog. Follow Marketing Works on Twitter @MktingWorks, as well as Bethany @heybethanyrae and Stacy @stacywood.