9 Sentences You’ll Rarely See In Winning Call For Papers Proposals

Every year we try to provide some outlines for what makes a good topic proposal for Mobile World Congress. Our top-line advice is as follows:

  • Use fact not theory
  • Deliver thought leadership not a sales pitch
  • Include relevant research
  • Remember, projections are good, actual data is better
  • Keep it short and to the point
  • Consider maximising the seniority of your speaker

In honesty it’s quite heartening to see the improvement in the average quality of topic proposals over the last few years as people follow this advice. The downside is that we have to let plenty of good, interesting proposals go because we simply don’t have the time and space in which to host them.

Looking at some of the ones that didn’t make the cut highlights some other, more detailed criteria which we think about when making our selections. So here, for your delectation, is some clarification about what doesn’t sell your proposal and why (Note, to spare blushes none of these are literal transcriptions from Call For Papers… but they’re pretty close).

  • “Making your apps faster to develop is always a headache” The people who spend significant chunks of their time developing apps are liable not to be a significant proportion of our audience. Instead we get a large number of VPs and CxOs, who might be developing strategies integrating apps but are unlikely to actually be tinkering with code. Pitch your message appropriately.
  • “CEOs and Boards globally love my presentation”. So if we put you on stage there’s a good chance the audience has already heard it? We’re looking for unique, fresh material.
  • “In just an hour, audience members will learn…” Sorry, but time’s at a premium even for keynotes. Anyone getting 15 minutes of solo stage-time is doing well. Tailor your messages to a 10-15 minute delivery window.
  • “We can talk about a lot of things” Undoubtedly, but it doesn’t really set you apart.
  • “Get fit and manage your way to a healthier work-life balance” While generic management training or advice is good, it’s not what people are here for. They are on the lookout for industry thought leadership, new business opportunities or ways to solve their business headaches… and I don’t mean reflexology.
  • “Business leaders hate me because I’m so radical”. Hmm… now there’s a conflict. We try not to shy away from controversy, but at the same time is our audience (business leaders) going to come and listen to somebody they hate? No use being controversial to an empty room. Also the language comes across as being more about the individual and their ego than about thought leadership, although that might be mitigated in the wider context of the proposal. Certainly not the sales point the writer thought though.
  • “IEEE Standard Glossary of Software Engineering Technology std. 610.12-1990 says the following…” We’re reading through several thousand topic proposals. Make it short, make it impactful, make it memorable. Then we can imagine that impact on stage much more easily.
  • “The platform comes with some amazing features” Don’t talk about your company, don’t talk about your products – talk about your observations, your research, your concerns etc. They might arise from developing or deploying your products or services, but that’s incidental. People can learn about all the products they want on the exhibition floor.
  • “Will explain if you pick this one” Maybe… if the proposal’s by Bill Gates