You’ve put out the call for session proposals and you have a nice variety from which to choose. Unfortunately, many planners stall in this point of the process. Knowing how to not only choose but how to select great sessions is vital to hosting a successful event that gets people talking.

Tips for How to Select Great Sessions

First, you’ll want to ensure that you have a nice variety of session topics. No one wants to attend a conference with 10 sessions on the same topic. That can get boring really quickly.

Make a List of Categories

Start by making a list of the categories that will be covered at your event. You’ll want to make sure you include some beginner topics as well as intermediate and advanced topics.

For example, if your conference is for IT professionals, you might include categories such as:

  • Network Infrastructures
  • Specific Software Platforms
  • Database Management
  • Troubleshooting System Problems

As you choose the categories, work from the easiest beginner topics to the most advanced topics. You may even want to create three categories (beginner, intermediate, advanced) and then create sub-categories within those categories.

Sort Proposals into Categories

Once you have your categories in place, it’s time to go through each proposal and decide which category it fits in. Make piles of proposals in each section until you’ve categorized all the proposals.

If you find that you have some categories that are lacking in advanced topics, look at the proposals for beginner or intermediate topics. Are any of the proposals by expert speakers? Contact those speakers and ask them to rework the description into something more advanced.

Another option is to slot your keynote and special speakers into these sparse areas.

Select Great Sessions in Each Category

What exactly  makes for a great session? There are a lot of factors that go into a workshop that attendees will remember for years to come.

  • The idea is unique and hasn’t been covered the last three years in a row.
  • The proposal puts a unique spin on an old topic.
  • The workshop includes opportunity for audience interaction.
  • The proposal is from a skilled speaker you’ve seen before and who you know can deliver a great session.

Take the session proposals that meet these criteria and place them at the top of your pile.

Double Check

Once you’ve selected a few workshops for your categories, go back and double check that you’ve not repeated topics and that you don’t have speakers overlapping too much. While one speaker can certainly cover more than one session, five sessions would be stretching it quite a bit.

Also, check the speakers again on each proposal you’ve put at the top of that category pile. Do they have any videos online you can view? Do you know anyone who has seen this person present a workshop? Your goal is to make sure that the person can do more than just pitch a great proposal. You also want to make sure that the speaker can engage an audience and keep attention for the length of the session.

When in doubt, get advice from a trusted colleague from the planning committee. Sometimes, two or three people will choose different types of topics, but this is a good thing for offering a wide variety of topics.

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