Top 10 – How DO I get my abstract accepted for BILT?

That time of year is here again – abstracts for BILT ANZ 2019 have now opened.  You have up until  Thursday 1 November to submit your abstract here.

Want to give your abstract the best chance of success?  Here’s our insider tips (and trust me – understanding the selection process really does help boost your chances)

1. Don’t leave it till the last minute

Seriously we know you all like to submit #justintime but there are a couple of reasons why not.  Firstly we all know that a better written piece of work is one you have a least had a chance to read over, maybe one that someone else had read over for you too, or you have left a few days to mature (think like good wine or whiskey).  Secondly, if you hadn’t yet realised, you have to get permission from your employer or any clients before you are accepted.  If we accept your presentation and then you have to cancel…see the next point.  Finally, the time between when we close abstracts and accept speaker submissions is pretty short.  Once we allocate the schedule, we don’t necessarily have space for your really cool class, if you don’t submit on time you might have to wait till 2020 (and doesn’t that seem like ages away?)

2. Not have messed up last year (or even before that)

If you have been a speaker previously and you have cancelled at the last minute without a good explanation (ie you forgot to get permission before you submitted your great talk) that counts against you in future.  So does not submitting your handouts or even if our team had to chase you a lot to get you to respond to our emails and make your submissions.  Basically we are expecting you to behave like a grown up consultant and do what you promised to do.  We really appreciate the hard work our speakers put into preparing their presentations, and we expect the same standard from everyone.

3. Write in sentences and provide the information we ask for

Don’t expect your class to be accepted just because its a cool idea.  You have to communicate to us that its a cool idea too.  The better your English and grammar, the more likely we are to get your meaning and agree with you (and Chris Needham is a stickler for editing).  Especially if you are a first time speaker, but for all speakers – if you can’t write a decent paragraph or two we may have trouble believing you can deliver a 75 minute class.   We also want to know things like learning outcomes – its why we ask the question.

4. Be original…but also attractive to a wide range of delegates

Sometimes we reject really interesting original classes because they are too much of a niche market.  We don’t want you putting in hours and hours of effort to prepare a class and then have only 4 people show up.  If your class topic is a niche market, think about who else it could be applicable to and how to communicate this.  Last year I presented a class on interior design, we don’t usually get more than 4 interior designers – but my abstract clearly communicated the class was also for BIM managers, architects and those that work with interior designers, so I got a decent number of delegates sign up and attend.

6. 75 minutes is a long time – but not in a lab

One of the key items we use for assessing classes is related to your content and class length.  Does this class sound like it could fill up a 75 minute class?  Or alternatively (mostly for labs) – do they sound like they are trying to cover way too much in this time frame.  Think about how your class is structured and how it will fill the allocated session time now not later.

6. Be open to a different class style

If your class might suit either presentation or lab style, say so as we will take this into account in our planning.  Don’t be afraid to try something new either – we are always open to well run workshops, debates, round tables or other alternative style sessions.  Just make sure you clearly communicate to us how the session will be run, what the key lessons are and who will be involved.

7. Find a co-speaker

Teaming up with someone with more or different experience to you can make for a really great class submission.  Experienced speakers can mentor a newbie, or bring along a client.  First time speakers can benefit by having an experienced co-speaker.  If you know someone else who is interested in the same topic, submitting one great abstract together is going to have a better chance than if we see two abstracts on almost the same topic.

8. Bring a client, a contractor, a QS or a PM

As we move into wider markets, we are really interested in cross disciplinary stories and case studies.  By hearing two or more points of view you can attract a wider audience (see point 4) but often also tell a more interesting story and communicate more of the challenges you have faced.

9. Submit more than one abstract

You can submit as many abstracts as you like (the record is 27), but we won’t select more than three.  We want to give you a chance to see some other peoples classes too!

10. Practice speaking elsewhere

We pride ourselves on creating an amazing learning experience – we can only do this by having amazing speakers to present to our delegates.  So we have to take pretty seriously our speaker selection process.  This doesn’t mean first time speakers won’t be accepted – we make sure to have a mix of both new and experienced speakers every year.  It just means we need to have some confidence that you are up to the job.  It might be a bit too late for this year, but for first time speakers in particular, you are more likely to be accepted if you have already spoken at a local user group or BIM event.  This gives us the chance to find out about how you went and if people enjoyed what you had to say.  Even for long time speakers, the more you practice, the better you will get!

Finally we have to reject a huge number of abstracts every year – and often some of them are great.  For us this is a sad part of the selection process, but we have so many great submissions that if you don’t score as well as you can across every category, you just might miss out.  Sometimes also its just bad luck – someone else has submitted an even more amazing class on a similar topic.  Don’t worry, just enjoy their class and try again next year!

Image credits:  Douglas Hawkins via Unsplash

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