If At First You Don’t Succeed

I’ve wrapped up reviewing all of my assigned abstracts yesterday in one glorious 5+ hour session. With over 350 abstracts proposed and only 90-ish required…well you do the math. About 75% of proposed sessions are rejected.

Why? How? It may seem very mysterious and subjective but it’s really straightforward.

Here’s the multi-step process:

  1. Personally review assigned abstracts online (not all 350). Basically each session gets a Yes-No-Maybe vote, from at least two reviewers. This leads to the conference calls.
  2. Series of multi-hour conference calls. Yes-No-Maybe vote based on the comments and questions of the initial reviewers. This leads to the committee workshop.
  3. Committee workshop. Friday morning. If the session has already received two “No’s” (see Step 1 and 2) then it’s really unlikely to be approved.
  4. Committee workshop. Saturday morning. Review the Yes and the Maybe. Start to put the “Yes’s” on the wall inside a giant grid and look for gaps in the program (thanks again Dezi!). Move sessions around.
  5. Committee workshop. Sunday. Confirm the final Yes’s. In some cases, fill gaps by reaching out directly to known and accomplished speakers on key topics that are missing.

It’s not all fun and games. Gets pretty tense after three days being in a conference room with the same people. Meals are catered in this room. Must stay focused or brows will be furrowed in your direction!

Once we all agree we take lots of pics of the Wall of Honor, back it up with a spreadsheet and open a bottle of something to celebrate!

So what happens if you’re abstract was rejected? There’s a couple of reasons.

  1. Poorly written and vague submission by first time speaker. What did you expect.
  2. Well written and fantastic submission by first time speaker. If you proposed a topic with lots of expertise and other similar submissions – it’s really hard to get selected.
  3. Well written and wonderful submission by known speaker. Check past speaker scores for your presentation and documentation quality.
  4. Well written and amazing submission by known speaker with high speaker scores. You’re probably in – but if there’s a lot of similar proposals we’re probably not going to select them all. Not every great proposal gets selected.

So you got rejected. Happens to the best of us. A couple of options.

  1. Write a nasty-gram to the selection committee. Not a good idea. Your rejection wasn’t personal but your email written in anger is. That’s why angry email and handguns should have a 3 day waiting period.
  2. Count yourself lucky. I believe Tim Waldock’s assessment that it takes 80 hours to prep for a one hour presentation. Now you can go to BILT and relax.
  3. Try to partner with a known speaker on their session. Selecting an unknown speaker is risky. Reduce the risk by becoming a known-known. Practice speaking and presenting in public at your local Revit User Group Meetings.
  4. Attend BILT and take notes. What makes a great session? Careful preparation (95% planned) with a bit of theater (5% spontaneity).  Don’t overdo the spontaneity…looks like you’re unprepared and winging it.
  5. Ask speakers to see their winning proposals (or review the abstract synopsis and description). Look for winning patterns.

And last but not least: Submit again for 2018. Don’t give up. Back on the horse while your ass is still sore. Win.

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