There are a lot of reasons as to why you would want to speak at a conference. It could be community interest, building your brand or trying to get your product known across the audience. Perhaps you are trying to recruit people for your company. Or you are simply trying to talk about something you are passionate about.
No matter the motive, there’s a long road ahead of you before you walk on the platform and face the audience. Getting your conference talk accepted is no easy feat — no matter who you are. Be ready before you decide to apply.
Even if there are countless reasons to publicly speak in a tech conference, the number of ways to improve your chances to get accepted is way smaller. Here are seven airtight ways to get your first conference talk abstract away from amateur levels and into the pro field.
Be ready before you decide to apply
When you want to apply to speak at a tech conference, you will be asked for a title, an abstract and a short bio about yourself. You need to take care of these three – important – things last. Before you take care of the title or start writing the abstract, you need to have an answer for the talk’s what, why and how.
You need a topic, a structure for your talk and you need a reason to do it (as to not lose motivation). Once you have your talk’s heart and soul covered, you can move onto the body — the abstract, title and your bio.
Let them know who you are
The easiest way to start taking care of the three core issues (title, abstract, bio) of your talk is to get your short bio out of the way first. This will work as an introduction for both the reviewing staff and future attendees if you get approved. This shouldn’t be as dry or serious as a CV: let them know who you are, what your experience is, who you are working for and what you are working on.
Try to add a video of you speaking — even if you have never done a conference before, you can record yourself to show a sample of your future work. The key here is not to inform but rather entertain and spark the people’s curiosity about yourself as a speaker.
Let people know what you're going to talk about and why
Your abstract should be 150 words or less. You need to carefully explain what you are going to talk about. Don’t give your entire talk away, but rather create interest to make people want to listen to you. You should also imply why you are doing this talk — show how important it is for you and how passionate you are about the subject. Don’t try to sell the product you are going to talk about, but rather the idea of the talk itself.
Be prepared to sell yourself with ten words or less
The most important thing about your application will be the shortest one. The title is what’s going to capture everyone’s attention at first. It’s going to determine whether your talk is important or not — even if they don’t read your bio or abstract. A good title is an art in and of itself. Don’t worry if it takes a while before you can come up with a great one. Your title should be clear, concise and it should have your product or company name in it as well.
Get feedback from friends, family, and colleagues
Once you have everything covered, the hardest part is at hand: gathering an audience to test your material. You’d like to have someone friendly and honest to let you know what they truly think. Run through your title, bio and abstract first. Afterward, try little bits and pieces of your talk to see how good it is. You should also ask for feedback regarding how well the talk itself is related to your title and abstract.
Be willing to write and rewrite everything over and over again
By the time you have tested your work, you’ll have enough feedback to rewrite over half of it. Save every draft you create and be willing to start from scratch if you have to. Great talks don’t come out of the blue. They are the result of a hard, grueling process that requires motivation, discipline and hours’ worth of work.
Understand a loss is a lesson
Even if you do everything right you might get rejected. On average, only 10% of applicants get accepted to talk at a conference. You should keep this in mind when you apply. Do not get upset if you get rejected on your first – or even tenth – try.
If (and when) you get rejected, ask for feedback. Remember you might not get accepted on the first try, but there’s always another conference next year: do not burn bridges. As long as you are confident in your work and keep looking for places to speak, you’ll land your first big conference in no time.
Interested in getting started? Check out the call for papers site and consider submitting a talk today! Was 2019 the year you did your first conference talk? Let me know on Twitter, share any tips or additional ideas so we can all get better at it. As always thanks for reading!