Guest post by Brian Bourne:
“How can I get my talk accepted for SecTor?” We get this question on a very regular basis. It turns out the answer is overly simplistic. Have a great talk that everyone should pay to see. I know, that wasn’t helpful – so here’s how speaker selection works at SecTor. We go through two rounds of submissions before the conference in October. Round 1 typically ends at the end of April. This allows us as conference organizers, to have content up on the site for people to start to get an idea of what will happen at the show. The first round of submissions is generally a much smaller group of submissions than second round, so if you can get your research plan together and submit a compelling talk for the first round then you drastically improve your chances of being selected simply by having less competition. The second round of submissions is generally 3-4 times larger by volume so we often have to decline talks that are otherwise pretty good submissions, but we just run out of speaking slots.
The actual selection process is a great deal of fun. The entire advisory committee comes together to review all speaking proposals. Any time the committee comes together, it’s generally a night of great amusement. Let’s just say the group has strong opinions and delivers them with a great sense of humour. So yes, if your talk oozes marketing, there may be some mocking that occurs before we send our polite decline letter.
We say yes when any of the following happens:
- An advisor says “OMG I saw that person speak at some other event and they were awesome”. Hey, we like to stack our deck with great speakers, so if you’ve built a brand for yourself as a great speaker, you still need a good talk, but you’re already ahead of the game.
- As a group we review your paper and say “we don’t have any other submissions on this topic, and it’s really important for the audience to start thinking about this”. If we have two submissions on the same topic, we go for either the better speaker or the most complete research presented in the submission.
- Instant winners are when the entire committee instantly agrees “I would definitely go see that”. Topics that generate this response are few and far between and generally require something really new and/or really sexy. You know, the stuff that makes any smart IT pro’s jaw drop with a “wow”.
It’s easy to say “new research or topics that need to be talked about that aren’t being talked about enough” gets selected, but understand that the advisors get to a lot of events and we see a lot of content, so we’re a hard group to impress. If you’re putting forward a topic that has been talked about a fair bit, you really need to start with an explanation about what makes your presentation a new take on the topic and/or how your audience will be able to come away better prepared to defend their environments.
I hope this helps with your submission.
Good luck, and see you at the next con!
(Image used under CC from Christophe Verdier)