Characteristics of a Good Session

Have you ever submitted a session proposal for a conference, but it did not get accepted? You know the session was good, and you know that the conference participants would have benefited from what you had to offer, yet the conference organizers decided to not pin down your name in that last empty spot on the conference program… Why is that?

However good your session might be, it needs an equally good session proposal to convince the tough jury. It’s pretty much like a good sales person can make the difference with the customer, no matter how competent your team is. Or like the lawyer on which even the most innocent victim needs to depend.

A good session proposal has a number of characteristics, read on to learn more about them!


The title is your session proposal’s first impression. It needs to invite people to read beyond it, into the real content of the session. If the title is not enticing, people will soon move on to your competitor’s session proposal. Strong titles are funny, provoking, … but most of all … they stick!


The description/abstract is targeted at the participants of your session. It needs to be inviting and must clearly explain what the participants can expect. Describe the problem statement for a session introducing a new technique. Elaborate on the context. Don’t give away all the details, but make the reader interested to know more. This is where you can be the sales person and really market your session. The description will attract participants, or make them search for other sessions that are happening at the same moment. When your title is not inviting, people might still read on, when your description is not interesting, you will surely loose your audience.

Your session’s description is the first glimpse into your presentation skills. Make it strong, passionate and powerful to make your session flow.

Process and Timetable

When you are able to make the organizing committee read beyond your title and your abstract, you’re heading in the right direction. You just convinced your audience to come to your session, but you haven’t convinced the organizing committee yet. They are responsible for putting on a high quality conference, and you will need to convince them that you can do more than just write a powerful abstract. 

This is where you defend your session, using facts and references:

  • Having a carefully crafted session outline convinces the organizing committee that you have thought your session through and will show up well prepared.
  • Take into account how an audience retains information. For longer sessions this means that it will likely benefit from an interactive element, where participants not only hear about the topic but can experience it somehow as well. Explain how you include the audience in the session, interactive is not sufficient, be more specific and let the organizing committee know that you are using group exercises, debriefing, or anything else to interact with your audience. If you prepared a lecture, great! But make sure that your session content will engage the participants for the duration.
  • The time table or schedule breakdown shows the organizers that you can deliver all the value within the allotted time (e.g. don’t have 30 minutes of Q&A at the end).

In other words, if the title is your first impression, the description your first date, then the process and time table is what makes that other person fall in love with you!