Having just weeded through a very large queue of FDIC 2016 speaker proposals, I thought I might share some tips and pearls for prospective conference speakers and presenters. Three times or more each year, I cull through speaker proposals, grading and selecting those I believe would best serve the needs of FDIC, EMS Today (our sister magazine "JEMS" annual conference) and Pulse Check (a small New York State EMS Conference). Some conferences limit the number of submissions, others don't. FDIC allows only two submissions per person, which implies a need to make each submission count. As a reviewer and conference advisory board member, I have some opinions to share. There are three imperatives every submitter should keep in mind:
Once you submit a speaker proposal, it runs through multiple layers of review. The conferences I sit on advisory boards for all use multiple reviewers for each proposal. Some score the proposals, others ask for Yes/No and, "explain why." This is where things get a bit tricky. For starters, every proposal is a small fish in a big sea. The size of the ocean can kill your submission right off the bat. For example, last year (FDIC 2015), there were literally two dozen proposals on autism. This year, there was a plethora of proposals on behavioral health as well as cancer in firefighters. When your submission happens to address the same topic submitted by a couple dozen others, reviewers lean towards selecting known subject matter experts (if you're reading this post, that probably is not you). Another 'size of the ocean' phenomenon pertains to the type of sessions. There are far more 90 minutes classroom sessions at FDIC than there are 4 hour HOT classroom sessions yet both tend to get equal numbers of submissions. Putting your chips in the bigger pool (90 minute classroom sessions) increases the likelihood of being selected.
Not every proposal can be successful and not every presenter can get onto every program. I am fond of letting people know that my own submissions to speak at FDIC are often rejected. The same happens to big names like Rick Lasky, John Salka, and Alan Brunacini. Don't take it personally and try to learn from the experience. The staff who process submissions for any conference are more often than not very happy to provide feedback on why your submission(s) weren't selected. All you have to do is ask.