Pitching a conference talk can be nerve-racking. Which topics are hot? Should I co-present with someone? What do these people WANT? We’re here to help. In no particular order, here are All The Things speakers need to know before pitching a talk, at Confab or elsewhere ...
While it can be tempting to infuse your title with something bizarre or playful, never do so at the cost of clear language. It’s possible to add tone or flavor without sacrificing what the talk actually is. And business jargon is a no-go at Confab. Here are several examples of titles that miss the mark, aiming for comedy, curiosity, or business-speak without communicating value:
As we review proposals, we won’t know what any of these things mean. It’s OK to use fun storytelling devices later, when you develop your slides or the narrative arc of your talk. But your title should clearly describe what your talk will teach our audience—or how it will help solve their problems. Here are a few titles that balance a playful voice with understandable value:
Conference attendees tell us again and again: Session topics are why they show up at our conferences. But nailing the perfect topic is perhaps the most challenging aspect of pitching a talk.
Here are the ways past Confab speakers have succeeded:
The Confab audience is here to learn—not about you, but about themselves. What can you help them understand better? How can you transform their work? They may gain insight from your lived experiences or a strong case study, but your proposal needs to emphasize what the audience will take away with them.
As you pitch your talk, consider these audience benefits and how you might fulfill them:
That last one may sound strange, but that’s ultimately what happens when you appear onstage at a conference. The more you can demonstrate the value of what you’ll teach the audience, the more likely you’ll have your presentation selected.
While it’s true that conference audiences are open to hearing about new tools and services, they reeeeeeally don’t like thinly veiled promotional tricks. Don’t pretend to pitch an educational talk when you really want to demo a product or sell your expertise. If you do have something to pitch, here are better ways to do that:
Audiences consistently give higher ratings to individual speakers than teams. That’s because co-presenting is really, really difficult to do well. Uneven speaking styles and awkward transitions tend to weaken a presentation.
The exception to this rule is when two speakers offer significantly different perspectives. You might want to talk about how a writer and a designer collaborated together to solve a UX problem. Or perhaps an agency and a client want to share together about how they approached a tricky project.
If you’re just feeling nervous about taking the stage alone, that’s not a good reason to add a second speaker. Hey, don’t sweat it—some of our most popular sessions have come from first-time presenters!
Our call for Confab 2022 speakers is now closed, but we’re always happy to accept talk proposals for future consideration.
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