Writing a Primetime-Ready Speaker Proposal: Tips and Tricks

  • By Aurora Gregory
  • Published: 1/31/2022

Updated 11/17/2022

Tips for a great proposal

Speaking at a national conference of your peers is a great recognition of your hard work and success. Lots of proposals will be submitted for AFP 2023, so how can you make sure your topic shines and gets strong consideration? Aurora Gregory, marketing communications strategist and co-author of “Get Picked: Tips, Tricks and Tools for Creating Irresistible Speaker Proposals,” has some tips and best practices that will help you write a proposal that is ready for primetime.

The form is the proposal boss. Get to know the online form you’ll be submitting the proposal through really well. Look at it in its entirety before you start writing so you’re clear on what’s required. Creating a great proposal can take time so here’s what I do: create a template of the form in a Word document and do all of the writing in it. When you’ve got the template completely filled out, go to the online form and cut and paste your copy into each field. Pro tip: Don’t leave any field blank. Every space is a chance for you to build the case for your topic to be chosen. Use every space and every word allotted to communicate the value of what you can share.

Don’t trip yourself up with a bad topic. Your topic is foundational to the success of your proposal, so be very thoughtful when making your choice. As a treasury and finance professional, you’re living the most pressing issues along with your peers. You know what current trends are and how they are being addressed by organizations just like yours. You can address the topic in a discussion, as a case study showcasing your success, or even share a work in progress that highlights how you’re managing today’s dynamic treasury and finance landscape. Make your topic timely and on-trend and you’ll score points with reviewers. Pro tip: Check the list of hot topics the AFP has on the submission portal for suggestions and inspiration.

Make your proposal pop with a great title. The first thing that gets read is the title, so this little bit of copy has to draw the reader in right away. Sometimes titles have to be functional with no creative flair. If that’s the case, use powerful words that communicate the depth of the story you’ll tell and the value the audience will receive. But if you can bring some creative flair to your title, do it! Nothing draws a reader in like a great title. And if you’re selected, your title will also draw an audience because it will stand out from the other sessions. Pro tip: Use alliteration, twists on movie or book titles, or nods to pop culture for a creative pop.

Ready to join us in San Diego in October? Want to be a part of the program as a speaker? If the answer is yes, now is the time to write. Submit your topic.

Let the story do the talking. Promising a good story is the fastest way to draw an audience in, or in this case, the committee. Help them see the journey, the story you’ll tell from the stage if your proposal is accepted. Communicate that you understand the challenges your peers face. Highlight the journey you’ve taken to transform those challenges into triumphs and that you’ll show them how they can do the same thing. Give examples of what the audience will learn, and what kind of success they can expect after listening to you. Pro tip: Be descriptive but focused so your proposal has a lot of clarity, all while being brief; you don’t have a lot of words to work with, so make them count.

Time’s a tickin’. Remember that getting picked to speak at the conference is a competition — as many as 600+ proposals could be submitted for less than 200 speaking spots. Don’t throw your proposal together at the last minute; take time to think about every word, every element before you submit. Don’t wait until the 11th hour. Start now so you can take the time you need to write a winning proposal. Pro tip: Have a colleague read your proposal to get some feedback, and leave time to proof your proposal and double-check word counts before you submit.


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