Tips for Submitting a Great HostingCon Speaking Session Proposal

If you’re interested in submitting a proposal for speaking at HostingCon in 2013, you probably saw that we issued our call for speaking proposals earlier this month. We’re going to be accepting speaking proposals until January 14.

All the specific details on how and where to submit a proposal are available here. For some insight on what makes a good proposal, read on.

As you may already know, sessions are selected based on the combined input of attendees (whom we invite to vote via the HostingCon website, our advisory board, who vote on sessions but also discuss them in depth, and the HostingCon staff, who will attempt to steer

The fact is, we get a lot more submissions than we’re going to be able to use. It’s possible, even likely, that we’re going to receive more good quality submissions than we have room for in the program. What I’m getting at is that it is completely inevitable that we’re going to have to turn down plenty of okay, even good submissions for sessions at HostingCon 2013.

That means, if you want to present at the show, your proposal is going to have to stand out from the crowd. With that in mind, here are some tips for how to submit the kind of proposal that will have the biggest impact on the people (attendees, advisors and staff) who will ultimately make the decision.

Complete the Whole Submission Form

There are a lot of fields in the form. If you have a pre-written submission that doesn’t quite fit the form we’ve constructed, take the time to fill out the parts of the form you haven’t pre-written. All the information we’ve requested in the form, we’ve requested for a reason. It will help the people responsible for voting have a complete understanding of the session you want to present. An incomplete speaking submission looks different from the rest of the submissions we receive in a negative way. And think about what it implies about the quality of the final product (the actual HostingCon presentation). It’s a simple way to get a leg up: make sure you fill out the whole form.

Make it Original and Specific

As I said, we’re going to receive a very long list of submissions. And given that the hosting business is a somewhat narrow area of focus, it is inevitable that we’re going to see a lot of duplication in the speaking proposals. I can promise you a proposal on “understanding and mitigating the DDoS threat,” will be one of several. Consider ways around this. Try making your presentation and proposal more specific in the subject it addresses – rather than look at a general subject area, compare a couple of similar technologies, or provide a plan for building a particular strategy. Secondly, talk to the colleagues (or competitors) who might pitch a similar sessions, and collaborate on a panel discussion.

Make it Unique to HostingCon

We realize that speaking at tech industry conferences is a regular exercise, but in addition to standing out from similar sessions that others might have pitched to HostingCon, make sure your pitch stands out from other sessions you might have presented at other events this year. This one is pretty simple: in the interest of making the HostingCon program a valuable and unique experience for everyone that attends, we definitely will not be considering sessions that are repeats of past HostingCon content, or sessions that have been presented at other events. An important note: if you delivered a session at HostingCon last year, or are delivering a presentation at a conference in early 2013, and you’re pitching a similar (but different) session to HostingCon, make sure it’s clear how your HostingCon session is different. Don’t leave it up to the audience, advisors and staff of HostingCon to figure out how it is different. Make it very clear.

Don’t Make it Sounds Like a Sales Pitch

This is extremely important. It is one of our highest priorities that HostingCon’s educational program is among the best educational resources there is for hosting businesses. And we hear very strongly from the HostingCon community that attendees do not want to sit through sales pitches in the educational program. The obvious result of this is that we have no tolerance for sales pitches in the program. Not only do we not ask a speaker to return if we receive negative feedback about their session being “pitchy,” but we also actively attempt to weed out those sessions while building the program. Your session should not be a sales pitch. Obviously, we want our speakers to talk about subjects in which they have a lot of expertise, but if possible, avoid pitching a session that has to do with your product, specifically.

Important note: you may not think your session is a sales pitch, however that may not be apparent from your proposal. If your proposal sounds like a sales pitch, not only is it unlikely to be voted up by the HostingCon community, it is likely to be flagged as pitchy by the HostingCon staff.

So, if your session has to do with a subject matter that is particularly close to your products, make it very clear in the proposal how you’re going to avoid making your session a sales pitch.

Write to the Content Track

As you’ve probably seen (or will see, if you submit a speaking proposal), the HostingCon program will be divided into four tracks: Sales and Marketing; Industry Trends; Technology; and Business Development. Each of those subjects demands a different sort of presentation.

Sales and Marketing: There’s a place for marketing theory and broad strategy in the HostingCon program, but Marketing is also a track that benefits from specifics about what works and what doesn’t work in online marketing.

Industry Trends: Clearly, “industry trends” casts a wide net, but for this track we’re looking for some insightful discussion off the issues that are disrupting or otherwise impacting the hosting business, on a large scale, and in specific situations. Presentations that will give attendees access to research or data are great here.

Technology: One thing we frequently hear from attendees is that they want the tech track to be more technical. It’s an ongoing effort for us to get deeper dives, and more practical sessions. We absolutely are not looking for tech sessions that are too general or too surface.

Business Development: For the business development track, we’re looking for practical sessions on operating or building business for hosting providers – examples could include staffing and HR, building partnerships, or other activities related to the operations of a business, hosting or otherwise.

Something Truly Unusual will certainly Stand Out

Given that almost every speaking proposal will assume some variation of a presenter, standing in front of a group, going through a slide deck, creative attempts to change up the format will almost certainly stand out from the crowd. Why not do a live critique of an attendee’s homepage, from a sales point of view? Stage a lively debate between opposing points of view. If the subject matter is good, I promise you these proposals will get noticed.

Give Attendees Some Practical Take-Aways

Theoretical discussions of business issues have a place, but one of the things we strive for in the HostingCon program is to have each session produce some practical, actionable advice that the attendees can walk away ready to apply to your business. Try to include in your proposal some insight into what you’ll offer attendees in terms of practical take-aways.

Other things we like:

–    Panel discussions
–    Case studies
–    Speakers who are real subject-matter experts

That’s probably enough for now. Of course, it’s possible to write an excellent HostingCon speaking proposal without following any of this advice. However, if you’re looking for some insight, I hope this will help you appreciate how to grab the attention of the HostingCon community, and submit a proposal that will be recognized.

Thanks. And see you in Austin.

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