Planning and Presenting a Conference Session

With only one conference session under our belts we don’t claim to be experts on the topic, but we do have more experience than some, and we had a great time with the whole process.  So here we would like to give some advice and ideas for people interested in suggesting and planning a session of their own!

Conference Session Planning 101

Step 1: Figure out what you want the session to be about.

  • This is an important step – Having an idea for a topic, your audience, and the style of session you want to propose is vital.
  • Take a look at the 2011 BC Library Conference Call for Proposals for a better idea of what kinds of sessions they are looking for and a description of each type:

Step 2: Find or decide on speakers.

  • Once you establish your topic, you’ll need to figure out who would be best to talk about it.
  • If you are interested in bringing in someone who may not be a member of the association there might be costs involved, make sure to look into these.

Step 3: Write the proposal.

  • Proposals can be submitted online at
  • Be detailed!  The more the selection committee knows about your awesome session idea, the more likely they are to choose it.  Make sure to fit the proposal to the Conference theme (Best of BC – 100 Years of Association) or to the needs of the audience.
  • This year’s deadline for submissions is Tuesday, October 12th, 2010.

*Wait to see if your session is approved*  (Program selection will be done by October 18th, 2010 and speakers will be notified by the week of October 22nd, 2010.)

Step 4: Start working on your session!

  • It might be months before the conference is to happen, but get started, and set deadlines.
  • If it is just you, be sure to set deadlines for yourself and don’t leave things until the week before the Conference.  Do a few practice runs with a friend or family member to get a feel for your presentation and to sort out your time and pacing.
  • If there are several presenters, set aside some time to meet a few times beforehand and talk about the session, make sure there isn’t too much duplication, contradictions or missing information, and make sure the transitions work.  It is very obvious to the audience when the presenters haven’t talked with each other beforehand or gone through some practice runs.  Do at least one practice run to make sure that your timing and transitioning will work.


Step 5: Revise, revise, revise.

  • If you are going to present, convene a roundtable or lead a panel, revise what you want to say, and work with everyone involved to ensure a smooth session.
  • Be sure that you are familiar and comfortable with what you are presenting.
  • Stay in contact with the Conference Committee during the months leading up to the Conference.  They will let you know about any and all important on-site information, including where and when you will present, as well as information regarding any equipment you will be using in your session.

Step 6: Present!

  • Rest, revise, and have a good meal before your session (whether you are the one presenting or not).
  • Don’t be too nervous about presenting – Your audience is interested in what you have to share and they want you to succeed!

Don’t forget to ask plenty of questions of everyone involved to make sure all steps go smoothly.

It often helps to plan an interactive session.  You want people to learn something, or become more informed on your chosen topic, so have some discussion, a game or other activity planned.  This will keep the presenters from talking the entire time and make sure that the audience is engaged.

As a footnote we would say that if you are even a little bit interested, do it!  The worst that could happen is that your proposal gets declined.  The process is a lot of fun, you learn a lot more about your chosen topic, and the entire process is rewarding both on a professional development level as well as a personally.

Sarah and Shanna  🙂


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