Submitting a Talk Proposal to a UX Conference This Year? Read This.

This year I’m curating one of the tracks for the Information Architecture Summit 2013 together with Leisa Reichelt. This has involved reading over 100 submissions and choosing just 15 of them. In doing this I’ve picked up a fair bit of insider knowledge – it’s amazing how many submissions contained the same types of mistakes. So here are some pointers if you’re thinking of submitting a proposal to any other UX conferences this year:

Show us a video of you doing some public speaking
It’s obvious really: great slides on slideshare or well written blog posts are nice, but they’re not proof that you’re a good public speaker. There are plenty of people in our industry who still give dull, monotonous talks and we need evidence that you’re not one of them. Some iPhone footage of you giving a 5 minute talk at a local UX meet-up is all you need. Put the URL in your proposal.

Don’t assume we know who you are
Even if you’re well known in your city, if you apply to an international conference you might be assigned a reviewer from a different country. Don’t expect us to Google you and spend 15 minutes researching your background (15 minutes * 100 submissions = massive time drain). Put a short bio in your proposal and make sure it explains why you are able to speak authoritatively on the given topic.

Don’t try to use terminology or complex language to impress the reviewers
A lot of the talk summaries I read were wrapped up in elitist terminology. Don’t bother, it just adds mental effort for the reviewers – we have to decode your blurb. If anything, it can make you look like a blagger and can stack the odds against you. It’s kind of ironic that the UX industry never shuts up about plain english when we talk to our clients, but when we try to impress each other it’s all frameworks, methodologies and unifying theories.

Offer options
Are you willing to give a shorter or longer version of your talk? Would you be willing to change it into an interactive session? If you are, say so. Organising a conference track is like a tetris game and it helps your chances if you give us different shapes and sizes to work with.

Submit multiple talk ideas
This was one of the most unexpected tips I picked up: some of the most well known speakers on the circuit submitted numerous talk summaries on a range of totally different topics. As a result they were much more likely to get selected. It’s a perfectly valid approach so long as you actually know what you’re talking about.

Tell us if you’ve given this talk before
Chances are that if you’ve given the talk multiple times, it’s a good one that’s worth repeating in another location, so don’t be scared of your own success. It’s best to be honest – lay the facts out about where, when and who you’ve presented variants of your talk to.

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