George Doyle/Stockbyte/Getty Images
Writing a session description for a conference is an exercise in marketing. The aim is not merely to give an overview of your session, but also to create interest and generate excitement about your presentation. As David Packard, co-founder of Hewlett-Packard once noted, “Marketing is too important to be left to the marketing department.” It is your responsibility to craft a session description that piques the reader’s interest by being informative, stimulating and relevant.
Utilize the Laws of Attraction
As a general rule, people don’t make decisions based on logic or reason, but according to their five physical senses. In most scenarios, they will choose the option that looks good, sounds good, or feels good. Knowing this, you need to ensure that your course description is appealing. Your goal is to make the reader think, “this looks like something I should attend,” or “this sounds like a session I should choose.” Your description should generate enthusiasm and anticipation for your session. This begins with creating a captivating title. Instead of a ho-hum heading like, “Workplace Privacy,” select a more mesmerizing title like, “Is Your Boss Spying On You—and is it Legal?”
Your conference session description will only consist of a few sentences so make each one count. According to Conference Sessions Descriptions That Whet the Appetite, you need to “address the WIIFM (What’s In It For Me?) benefits.” This is your chance to list the invaluable information that will be shared during your session. If you were using the example above on workplace privacy, your session description might include the following, “Your employer may be eavesdropping on your telephone calls, using software to monitor your computer, and listening to your voice mail messages. And, there’s very little that you can do about it. This session will help you recognize the different types of workplace surveillance used by employers and determine if your workplace privacy rights are being violated.”
Will attendees need a certain level of experience to appreciate your session? For example, a seminar on creating alpha channels in Final Cut Pro is too in-depth for someone who has no point of reference with editing software, so applicable session prerequisites should be listed in the course description. The Minnesota Council of Nonprofits states that you should clarify if the session is for beginners, intermediates, or experts, and suggests that you include whether the class will be a lecture, group discussion, or panel discussion.
Your description should also include measurable benefits of taking your session. How can attendees implement the information to their advantage? The Professional Convention Management Association offers this advice, “At the end of this session, attendees will be able to analyze, explain, identify, organize” or take some type of actionable step. In other words, at the conclusion of your session, the attendees should have an executable course of action.
Terri Williams began writing professionally in 1997, serving as media manager for a large nonprofit organization where she also edited books and created promotional content. She has written extensively on business communication, ethics, leadership, management, education and health. Williams has a Bachelor of Arts in English from the University of Alabama at Birmingham.