Advice on writing submissions

Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | by

We’re expecting some 400 submissions for approximately 200 presentation slots this year for the regular track sessions. That means only about half of the submissions we get are going to be accepted. What can you do to help ensure your presentation is accepted? Here’s some advice.

Consider your reviewers. They have to:

  1. Read your proposal,
  2. understand what it is about,
  3. decide if its similar (but not too similar!) to other proposals,
  4. consider if it would have an audience,
  5. consider who that audience is,
  6. consider how it would fit into the program,
  7. and finally, rank it.

And they have to do this 400+ times. It’s exhausting. The best thing you can do to improve your submission is: make the reviewers’ job easier.  As a bonus, when your paper is accepted, you’ll make your audience’s job easier, too.

So how do you make it easy on the reviewers?

Keep the title simple and straightforward

Overly clever or obtuse titles make it harder to understand what your presentation is about.

Keep the description as short as possible, but no shorter

Einstein is often quoted, probably apocryphally, as saying “everything should be made as simple as possible, but not simpler”. Regardless of who came up with it, it’s good advice.

Be clear about the audience and their skill level

Is this targeted at developers, end-users, a general audience? Are they beginners, advanced? Be explicit.

Get another person to read through your proposal

You’re probably submitting close to the last minute (admit it, you know it’s true). Writing a good proposal takes time, and if you don’t have time to step away from your proposal and come back to it later, you’re probably going to end up with a worse proposal. Have another person read through it, and ask them if it’s clear. If they have questions, your reviewers will have questions. (We don’t like questions — it makes our job harder.)

If you can’t have someone else review it, read it out loud to yourself. Yes, it feels weird to be talking to yourself in an empty room, but there’s no quicker way to know if your proposal is clear. Trust us on this one.

Write your proposal early

A proposal written at the last minute is inevitably a poorer proposal. Take the time to do it well.

Remember, proposals are due April 15th. We’re looking forward to reading yours!