Well, it’s not that time of year again yet, but it’s not that far off. Once August starts coming to a close, the thoughts on abstracts for Lotusphere start entering people’s minds. The LS11 team will open the flood gates and hundreds of abstracts will be submitted by IBM staff, BPs and customers alike.
Again this year, Gab Davis and I have been asked to help choose content for Lotusphere 2011, on our Show n Tell track. This will be the third year we have taken this time-consuming labour of love and although difficult, seeing a speaker present an excellent, well prepared, knowledgeable session is very satisfying.
Especially new speakers, or people that don’t speak often. Which is what this post is about. And, if you want to skip to the end, we have an offer for people. The vast majority of session abstracts fall at the first fence (about 80% are declined on the first review). Some fall within seconds. Gab and I thought it would be useful to post what makes a good abstract, so here are a few tips.
- If you submit an abstract, and the content is very poor grammar, or poor spelling, or very bad English, that’s a serious negative. Being from Europe, I totally understand that not everyone speaks perfect English, but the reality is that Lotusphere is 99% presented in that language. If you cannot submit a well worded abstract, it’s hard to trust that your content will be understandable.
- If you submit an abstract that is trying to sell something your company makes, forget it. If you think the reviewers do not check for this stuff, you are mistaken. The obvious exception to that rule is IBM and their marketing sessions. Mind you, there is zero chance of a marketing session making it into tracks like SnT, even if you are IBM.
- If you pick an abstract that is very very narrow, that can go against you. For example, a session on Server Availability Index and calculation would not be enough for a presentation. Tying that in with how clustering works and client failover would (I know, this is a session I have presented in the past).
- If you pick a session that is too vague, hitting buzz words like “xpages” that can also go against you. Imagine how many people submit an xpages session. Your session will have to convince the track manager that you will present something of value in xpages that people will want.
- You do not always need to have jokes in your abstract. I’m much more interested in an abstract that will promise good content and impart useful knowledge.
- A catchy title helps. Not much, but it does help.
- Fill out the “reasons why this abstract should be accepted part”. You would be surprised how many people don’t. If you have presented before, mention it. If you have links to reviews of sessions, link to them. If you truly believe that this session will be useful to everyone, “sell” it to the track manager.
- Don’t blunderbus your abstract into every track, hoping you will be picked. Think of a topic, look at the tracks and pick the one that suits it best. For example, the SnT track. Do you plan on teaching people on getting from A to B on a topic. Step by step? If so, that’s your man.
- If you have presented it before, and even have evaluations, be sure to mention it.
- Understand that when you submit, the session is yours to lose, not to win. The track managers want to give you a session. That is everyone. There are no “shoe-ins” on sessions. Nobody gets one by default. Ok.. Allister Rennie may be the exception.
- Read your abstract before you submit. Imagine you are the reviewer, or a person in the audience. Is this a session you would like to see?
- If you have never presented before, ask a well known speaker if you can team up with them. This can help. Remember that Lotusphere is monumentally expensive. The track manager does not want to disappoint and may gamble on someone easier if they co-present the first time. That’s the only way I got a session in 2006. I asked Bill Buchan if I could submit an abstract with him.
With that, here’s the offer. If you have an idea for an abstract, put it together and if you wish, you can send it to myself and/or gab and we will try to help you structure it. Of course, we can’t say “you are going to get a session” but we are offering to help.
Best of luck.