Consider who's your audience when submitting a talk

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Imagine that you're going to organise a conference. Obviously, you would need speakers. There are two ways to get speakers for your event: You can invite them or you can put out what is commonly called a Call for Papers (CfP for short).

The two approaches are not mutually exclusive, btw. Keynote speakers are often invited, for example, whereas the rest of the speakers might be selected via a CfP.

Anyway, let's assume you're going to do a CfP. You're probably going to set up a web form for potential speakers to fill out. You want to know their name, biography, the title of their talk, and a short summary of what they're going to talk about (commonly referred to as the abstract). Hopefully, you'll also provide a text field where they can explain to you, i.e. the conference organiser, why they think they would be a good match for your conference.

At the end of the Call for Papers, you'll have a lot of these abstracts from a lot of people, most of which you probably don't know. So how are you going to select the speakers to pick?

Even if you're trying to be objective, the first submissions that you're going to weed out are probably the ones that have problems with the form: Submissions where people didn't bother to fill out all the fields you asked them to fill out. Submissions that have lots of typos. Submissions where it's not clear what the topic is - or why it would be relevant for your conference. In other words, submissions that are either sloppy or too generic.

Once you're through this first round, you'll start looking at the others in more detail, e.g. look up the speaker on the web, visit their homepage, look at their Twitter account, and so on.

Now, I don't want to go into the details of the selection process from this point on, since it very much depends on the conference and the sort of focus you have in mind for it.

Instead, I want to change the point of view: Now that you've thought about the job of a conference organiser for a few moments: Which conclusions can you draw for your next submission to a Call for Papers as a speaker?

If you were in the position of such an organiser, would you pick your own submission? Does it look like you care about this submission or does it have a lot of typos? Did you make it clear why your talk would make a good match for this specific conference or did you just copy and paste the talk description that you've used half a dozen times before? Would the organisers be able to quickly find you on the web and get an impression of what it is you do?

When preparing your talk, you should always try and see things from your audience's perspective. Don't forget to do the same when submitting your talk to a Call for Papers. It's a different audience, but to be successful, you need to see things from their perspective as well.

(Photo: Tired businessman working, iStockphoto file #23239962)

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Creative Commons Licence "Consider who's your audience when submitting a talk" by Dirk Haun is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International Licence.