Speaking at AFP’s Annual Conference is a great opportunity to share what you’ve learned with your peers on an important stage. But before you speak, your session submission needs to be selected.
You only have 150 words to make your topic stand out from among the more than 600 submissions that will vie for one of the coveted 120 spots on the conference agenda. And the window for submissions closes January 19.
The AFP Annual Conference Task Force is looking for the following as you put your speaker submission together:
- Hot topics make timely sessions. Pick a topic that’s a hot issue with your staff. Chances are good if you’re focusing on it, others are too. Have a fresh, compelling perspective to share? Did you tackle a common problem in a new, unique or groundbreaking way? Have you accomplished something that truly rises to the level of best practice? If so, then you’re off to a good start.
- Create a title that intrigues. The first thing the Task Force will read is your submission title. This is your opportunity to make a splash. Don’t squander it! Titles are limited to seven words so it’s crucial you build drama while communicating what your presentation will cover. Beyond catching the attention of the Task Force, your title will also need to entice attendees to add your session to their conference schedules.
- Everyone loves a good story. Think of your session description as a story. Start by setting up the challenges you and attendees face, common headaches you share, things that keep you up at night. Then lay out how you addressed these problems and implemented solutions that delivered noteworthy results. Don’t include the granular details of your approach; you’ll cover that in your actual presentation. Think of it this way: If you could talk one-on-one with a peer who’s facing your same issue, what would you tell them?
- Provide enough detail to draw in the reader. You’ll want to include enough specifics so the Task Force understands the depth of what you’ll be sharing with attendees. If you’ve developed a new process, created a dashboard that brought information together, worked with non-treasury and finance departments to achieve success, or innovated a new way to use technology, make sure to summarize this in the description.
- Toot your own horn. Your success is the happy ending to your story, so share the good stuff. Did you save your company a billion dollars? Were you able to cut the time it takes your staff to execute processes by half? Success-related results validate the importance of your session and can be used to wrap up a stand-out description.
- Think outside the box for a unique session format. AFP is always looking for the most interesting topics and engaging formats to offer attendees, so they’ve introduced new session formats for 2015. Consider adopting one to differentiate your session. If you can bring together an interesting group of industry experts to share different perspectives on your topic, consider a roundtable. If you want your audience to participate in problem solving, a simulation might be the right choice. If your industry issue is grappling with a wide range of views and challenges, consider assembling a panel of practitioners for a point-counterpoint session.
The competition to speak at AFP Annual Conference is tough. To break through your submission needs to be bold, assertive and captivating. A well-written submission that’s focused on a compelling, highly relevant topic, with expert practitioners as speakers, will make it that much harder for the Task Force to ignore. Think big, be bold and create a submission that stands out.
Good luck!Aurora Gregory is a communications counselor. David Pitlik is a writer and content creator. Both are based in Los Angeles