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[NEW] Announcing Our Call for Speakers Process for INBOUND 2016

Posted by Laura @Pistachio Fitton on 3/22/16 1:00 PM



UPDATE: The Call for Speakers CLOSED May 8.

Speakers interested in presenting at INBOUND 2017 should register their interest here.

Today we're announcing that our Call for Speakers will open in mid-April. Register here to be notified when it's live.

We want to give you lots of time and detail to prepare something great so that you have the best possible chance of getting onstage. This post explains how we program for INBOUND, provides details and timing for this year's Call for Speakers, and takes a deep dive on making your best possible proposal.

TL;DR Want to be a part of the magic this year?

  1. Set aside time this week to read this post carefully (take notes!). For even better results, read How to Land a Speaking Gig at the Event of Your Dreams too, and take action in the next few weeks to get closer to your goal.  
  2. In your notes, start outlining the session you want to bring to INBOUND, who should not miss it, and what they'll get out of it 
  3. Take a good look at past INBOUND agendas, track descriptions, and watch some speaker videos if they're available for the stage you're targeting. If you haven't already registered your speaker interest, do that right now.
  4. Draft your session description, title, and a Tweet length one liner pitching it, and share these drafts with colleagues you trust. Ask if it's something they'd go out of their way to promote or attend. Practice and experiment until it really zings
  6. Have everything ready to go ahead of time and you can focus on polishing and refining by mid April when the Call for Speakers opens.

What Makes Great INBOUND Content?

For best results, start with our audience (we like to say "guests"). Everything we plan for the event considers the goals, needs, and interests of our INBOUND guests up front.

An Industry Event, Not a HubSpot one

Making INBOUND remarkable starts with its underlying philosophy. INBOUND exists to empower the entire global community of inbound professionals by bringing thousands of us together to learn, be inspired, and find delight in memorable moments. 

We Care Deeply About the Content

We don't simply program INBOUND with HubSpot's software, methodologies, and customer case studies. You'll only find a few sessions like that and they'll be on tracks clearly dedicated to those topics. We look for a mix of speakers and content that’s equal parts inspiring and educational.

INBOUND 2016 guests want to leave the event feeling pumped. They want to go back to their home, office, desk, treehouse, etc. with the fire to do something remarkable, AND they want to have the step-by-step actionable tips on how to go ahead and get it done.

We're Growing!

There were 14,000+ registrations in 2015 and we expect way more this year. Since crowding was a problem at INBOUND 2015, we've taken steps (new spaces, a new session reservation process, and more) to ensure that the event can scale up without causing guests to have to deal with lines and getting shut out of sessions. It's critically important that we program the entire event with sessions that will fill all available space with really compelling and refreshing content from the best possible speakers. 

How-to: Give Speaking at INBOUND 2016 Your Best Shot

The call for speakers process and timeline is outlined below, followed by info on making your proposal great. We include info on the agenda, our event tracks, and even tips on choosing a topic.

1. Know the Call for Speakers Timeline

Please review the following important dates and check your calendar to make sure they'll work for you before submitting a proposal.

 Speaker Timeline

2. Do Your Homework

INBOUND 2016 is still many months away, but the team behind it has been working hard for months already because we want our guests to be blown away in November. To shine in the Call for Speakers process? Put some serious work into your proposal so that everyone reviewing it can tell that you are the kind of speaker who will work hard to give our guests a fantastic experience at your session.

Study this post How-to: Land a Speaking Gig at the Event of Your Dreams post on the INBOUND blog for even more helpful tips on being a great speaker and making a great proposal.

In 20+ years speaking, coaching speakers, and curating speakers, I can personally confirm that a VERY well prepared novice speaker can speak circles around even the best pro if the pro is phoning it in.

How much effort you put into making your proposal GREAT is our BEST indication that you will work hard to shine onstage and delight our guests.  

3. Be Clear that Videos Are Mandatory

No SPEAKER video, no INBOUND talk. Not kidding, here - if you don’t have footage of a presentation you’ve given, record yourself giving one now. You can be presenting at an outside event, during a meeting, to your team, at Toastmasters, or frankly, to your cat, but you must be presenting (not talking to the camera, being interviewed, or being on a panel). The team processing your application MUST be able to see a video of you giving an actual talk in order to make fair, accountable decisions for all applicants, and in order to guarantee our guests a great experience in every session. Seeing you in action will also help us match you with the right sized audience. 

Give your video your very best whether it was recorded professionally in front of a huge crowd, or captured on your smartphone addressing your pets/family. We'll be reviewing hundreds and hundreds of applicants, and we need to see you shine as a speaker. Invest serious prep time in this.  

4. Decide - and Describe - Who Your Talk is For 

You’re an inbound wizard, so you know all about personas and how important they are. Do not skip this step as you prepare the proposal for your talk. Really dig in and picture the ideal audience for the talk.

Who are they? What are their concerns and pressures? How are they measured at work and what do they worry about? What is their biggest challenge and uncertainty related to your talk topic. Where are they going to already agree with you and where are they going to demand proof? Make sure your title, description, Tweet and all other planning address the needs and concerns of this ideal audience.

We'll create curated agendas for guests to be able to discover and attend great sessions across multiple tracks. For example, a sales rep would select 'sales professional' on the curated agendas site, and we'd suggest an agenda that mixes sessions across multiple tracks for them. To make it easy for people to figure out which sessions are best for them be sure you're clear on who your content is for, and write that into your proposal.

5. Tell Us What Your Talk's Really About

No, not just the general topic, but your special twist. What is your unique point of view, the inspiring special sauce, or practical remarkable skill that you can impart with your definitive talk on this topic? What do you do or know that is a little bit different than how others usually think about your topic? What compelling examples, data, stories, and case studies can you point to?

To truly nail your topic development, you want to also think hard at this stage about which track your talk is right for. There are huge differences across the various tracks, and when we see submissions that aren’t right for the track, we know right away you didn’t do your homework. We're looking for speakers that will give our guests everything they've got. Taking shortcuts with the proposal is the biggest mistake you can make.

6. Show What’s in it for INBOUND 2016’s Customers 

When you write your title, your Tweet-length pitch, and especially your description, speak right to our thousands and thousands of guests. Let them know why your session is an absolute DO NOT MISS. Include notes on who should come to the session and what they will gain from it. This is marketing copy, so you want it to shine. Catch the eye of the application reviewers by making your copy ALL ABOUT the INBOUND 2016 audience.

7. Name Your Talk Well

Yeah yeah yeah, a rose by any other name would still smell as sweet. But would you interrupt a hike to clamber way off the trail to smell a stinkpot? Nope, didn’t think so.

The Boston Convention and Exhibition Center is enormous. People make big bets on walking to any given session room, so your talk title is really really important. You want it to get folks’ attention. (And not just any folks, but the right, well targeted folks for your topic). Say enough about your topic and point of view to grab our guests' attention. Picture someone skimming a list of over 250 sessions trying to quickly and easily decide what's right for them. It’s good to be a little clever and original, but don’t be so cutesy that we can't guess what you'll cover. Bonus points if the value prop of your talk shines through in the title. 

8. Tweet it to Me! 

What’s the most concise, tweetable “Take” on what your talk has to offer the world? Maybe this is a shorter version of your description. Maybe it’s the Tweet attendees are *most* likely to post as they watch you in action on the stage.  

9. Show Everyone Who You are and How You Shine  

Your bio should be short, confident, and accentuate your strongest points. Don’t pack it full of a million credentials (whether legitimate or a stretch). That makes you look insecure. Let the brightest sparks of your personality shine through. People want to invest their event time in someone they feel a connection with, who might have something to offer them. As with your description, be a little specific here in order to connect with the right people. If you are (for one example) a techie and giving a technical talk - jargon is fine. If you are crossing over to talk about your field for an audience from another field, dial back the TLAs (three letter acronyms) and insider talk and describe yourself using language that audience can relate to. 

INBOUND 2016's Agenda, Tracks, and Topics


You can find the INBOUND 2016 Agenda Outline here on INBOUND.com. You can also take a look at last year's sessions for a flavor of what makes a great INBOUND topic. The event runs from the evening of Tuesday, November 8th (Election Day in the US) until the afternoon of Friday, November 11th. Sessions begin on Wednesday, November 9th.


When you submit a speaker proposal for INBOUND, it's VERY important that you submit it for consideration on the correct track. We have different groups of people in charge of the different tracks who are considering speakers for each. If you submit your talk to a track where it's not a fit - for example a 45 minute talk on marketing practices to the Bold Talks stage - we might miss it entirely.

There are 9 tracks at INBOUND, and 7 of them are covered by this open call for speakers. If you can't take the time to get to know the differences between the tracks, the people reviewing your proposal are going to notice that, and it's going to make them wonder whether or not you will take the time to make your INBOUND presentation great. More information on the track names and descriptions can be found here on INBOUND.com.  

For example, only one of these tracks will have content that talks about HubSpot products and services. It is named "Grow With HubSpot," so that guests know what to expect if they choose sessions on that track.

Here is a brief summary of the 7 tracks:

INBOUND 2016 Tracks

General Topics

For the most part, INBOUND 2016 is about inbound sales, marketing and services. Within those three headings there are dozens of important topics, trends, and issues we absolutely want to cover, from A's like A/B testing, Advertising, Agencies and Analytics, to Zs that, well, at least make an appearance in personaliZation, optimiZation, and decentraliZed content. Seriously, our guests want to kick butt at their careers, so they need chances to learn it all, and at different levels of expertise and experience. Our Hacks, Tips and Tricks, Ideas & Experiences, and Executive tracks look to cover all of the most essential of these topics, while our Agency, Sales, and Grow With HubSpot tracks narrow it down a little bit based on their theme. 

Our Keynotes and Spotlights tend to step outside these boundaries quite a bit by inspiring or informing guests with the stories of incredibly talented, successful, hardworking people with a lesson to learn. Unless someone exceptional applies, we're not relying on the Call for Speakers to find those folks, but since we get asked we wanted to let you know what we look for there.

On Bold Talks, topics are (almost) anything goes. We're looking for amazing stories, perspectives, and experiences that can take our guests way outside their everyday normal and drive them to become more compelling, engaged, connected people. This is a radically different format from our other stages, and the topics follow suit.

Still Have Questions?

We'll answer a few of them here. Still don't see your answer? Post it in the comments and we'll try to answer it there or in future blog posts about the Call for Speakers.

I Spoke Last Year, Do I Have to Apply Again?

This year even past or invited speakers are required to use the Call for Speakers to propose sessions. We want to ensure content quality is very high, topics collectively cover everything of importance to our guests, and sessions are scheduled in ways that make it easy to get the most out of the event. We designed the Call for Speakers process to do all that, and to even out the playing field for speakers we know as well as great new voices.

Please submit your proposal via the Call for Speakers form. Having all of the info organized via this process is essential towards the agenda building and promotion process we are using this year. That process is, in turn, designed to make the INBOUND 2016 guest experience more productive and enjoyable. Your excellent proposal will help us keep content quality high, and keep all sessions organized and aligned with our overall content goals for INBOUND.

I'm Not Associated with HubSpot, can I still apply to speak at INBOUND?

Absolutely! Many of our very best and most popular INBOUND speakers come from many different companies, countries, industries, and backgrounds.

When the Call for Speakers launches, just indicate that you don't have any affiliation with HubSpot on the form. This won't impact your chances one way or another, we just keep track to be more accountable to teams who might know - and have questions about - affiliated applicants.

I'm a HubSpot Customer/Partner/Employee/Fan, Will That Help?


We do want to know if you are affiliated with HubSpot as a customer, blog reader, partner, etc. mainly so folks you work with at the company can understand which groups of people are submitting to speak.

On the Call for Speakers application, answer yes that you are affiliated with HubSpot, and then select the best fit description of how. If you use our software and have a portal number on one of HubSpot's software products, select 'Customer.' If you are an agency that resells HubSpot software as part of the partner program, you will select 'Agency Partner.' If your company is part of our Connect program of software integrations, you will indicate that you are a Connect Partner. If you are an employee, you will select "Employee' from the drop down when the Call for Speakers is launched. 

There is no special treatment in this process for affiliated groups such as customers and partners, except where a track specifically requires customer or partner related content.

How is the Call for Speakers Being Communicated?  

This blog post is an important part of telling the world about our INBOUND 2016 Call for Speakers process. Details will also be shared on our Speaker Interest page, and via emails sent to everyone who has registered their interest via that page. We will send those emails today, again when the Call for Speakers opens, and towards the end when it is about to close. You won't hear from us otherwise, those emails are only to keep you alert to the process.

Of course we will also be reminding folks about the open call via our social media accounts, and we'd certainly appreciate your support on getting the word out. Copy and paste the Tweet below, or click to Tweet here and share it on your account.

Is speaking at #INBOUND16 on your bucket list? Sign up to get notified about the Call for Speakers: http://hubs.ly/H02d4-30  

Anything Else?

Yes. We're really excited to see all the amazing stuff this community comes up with during the Call for Speakers, and we hope you'll put your hat in the ring. Whether or not your proposal gets selected, we also hope you'll put all that work to good use elsewhere in your speaking career. For the determined and professional aspiring speaker there are always opportunities to hone your craft. We hope you'll absolutely go for them wherever and whenever they arise.



Topics: Event Updates

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