Darren Mothersele

Software Developer

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Session submission guidelines for conferences and camps

Jan 22, 2016


Earlier this week I found out that the date for my nephew’s christening has changed. This means I can now make it to the Drupal Camp in London. I decided to propose a session so that I can share my recent insights, research, and learning.

The Drupal Camp London team have kept the session submission process minimal. This makes it easy for people to submit proposals, but it makes it unclear what the expectations are. What are they looking for in proposed sessions? How long are the sessions expected to be? What is the review process?

As I only found out I could attend at the last minute, I had no time to enquire about the process. So I made some assumptions based on my experiences of programming at previous camps. I also did some research into other Drupal camp and conference session submission processes. The Amsterdam Drupalcon site had this to say:

“There’s a lot of elements to session selection. We need to make sure that sessions are of value to a wide audience. The presenters must be engaging speakers who can interest a large crowd of attendees. We try as hard as we can to bring in new (to DrupalCon) speakers, and speakers who bring something from outside of the Drupal sphere. We want to make sure that the diversity of the community is represented and encouraged. And we need to work across track teams to ensure that one speaker is not speaking in several tracks; both for the sake of their stress and sanity in preparing the talks and to ensure that everyone who applied has the best chance of speaking. Finally, we need to make sure that sessions fit both the theme of the track and of the conference.”

While the Barcelona Drupalcon offered the following 3 part session submission formula…

Part 1: Describe a compelling topic that affects the reader directly, maybe a pain point, or juicy new technology.
Part 2: Allude to your solution, sharing just enough that the reader has a moment of “I need that …how do I not know this already?”
Part 3: Explain how awesome the session will be because you are going to cover “XYZ” and make the reader’s life so much better.

My session selection criteria

I realised that I’ve done session selection myself many times. At every conference, camp, and symposium I attend I make my own selection of sessions to attend. The key to making the most out of attending a conference is to attend the right sessions.

At Resonate last year I set the intention of broadening my horizons, so intentionally selected session that I would not normally be exposed to. And sessions that offered something new. At DrupalCon in Amsterdam I set the intension of getting as deep into Drupal 8 as possible. So I attended every D8 session I could. Selecting the sessions I thought offered the most opportunity for learning. It helps if they are recognisable names, or people I’ve seen present before and know they do a good session.

When I think about my own criteria, I get it down to five things…


Is this definitely a session worth attending? Is the session topic cutting edge, or immediately relevant to my situation. Is it ground breaking or offer a significant contribution to the field?


Is this the right type of session? Is the purpose of the session clear? Does the description make it clear what the expected participant outcomes are? Does the description give enough specific information to make me want to know more?


Is the session motivated by theory, practice, and/or research? Is this presented in a detailed, thorough, and comprehensible way?


Are all claims (practices, conclusions, proposals) well substantiated. Is the speaker presenting something they know about? Is the speaker well positioned to be giving the session.


Is the session proposal clear? A well written session description indicates the presentation itself will be of professional quality.

I hope I managed to purvey these five points in my own session proposal. I’d love to hear from you if you have your own ideas about what makes a good Drupalcamp session. If you drop me a line or leave a comment I will take them into account while planning my own session.