Crafting Better Conference Materials: Writing Session Descriptions For Dummies

This is the third in a series of posts on writing better conference session descriptions. Read the first post Conference Descriptions That Whet The Appetite, an overview of the four elements of a successful conference description, or second post How To Write Killer Conference Session Titles That Attract Attendees.

Begin With The End In Mind

When writing conference session descriptions and learner objectives, it’s best to begin with the end in mind.

Identify the three to five main points that you want the attendees to remember. Then craft the description around these points.

The session description uses brief, succinct sentences about what the presentation will cover. The Learner Objectives (LOs) are statements which describe what the participant is expected to achieve as result of attending the session. Each of these plays a vital role in getting the attendee to read the session marketing material and ultimately attend the session.

The Session Description

Let’s face it. Most conference session descriptions are boring and thus attendees think the session is boring as well.

The art and science of writing good workshop descriptions involves strategically writing words that promote a person, presentation, opinion or idea, with the ultimate intention of having the reader attend the session. So the purpose of the first sentence in the workshop description is to get the reader to read the next sentence, and to think, “Hmm, I want more.” After reading the second or third sentence, the goal is to get the reader to say, “I think I may want to attend this session, let’s look at the learner objectives.”

The word limits imposed on most session descriptions is not the challenge. It’s choosing the right words to accurately describe the session, pull the reader in and get the reader to commit to attending the session. If you can’t accurately describe your presentation within the word limit, you may need to start over and think of the three ideas that you want attendees to remember from your presentation.

  • First, focus on the reader and potential attendee. Well-crafted session descriptions make a promise and focus immediately on the benefit to the potential attendee.
  • Second, address WIIFM “What’s in it for me” quickly.

Four Step Benefit Writing

Top copywriter Clayton Makepiece has a four step benefits writing process for persuading the reader to action. Here’s how to use his process for writing conference session descriptions:

  1. Make a list of every feature of attending the session.
  2. Ask why each feature is included in the first place.
  3. Take the why and ask how this connects with the prospective attendee’s desires.
  4. Get to the absolute root of what’s in it for the attendee at an emotional level.

Example
Session Title
What Everyone Ought To Know About The Macro Trends Affecting Meetings And Travel Industry

Feature:
The 2010 macro trends affecting meetings and travel.

Why it’s there:
“Helps attendees understand the challenges and current state of the industry.”

What’s in it for them?
“Helps you stay at the forefront on the industry and competition.”

Emotional Root:
“Prepare for the challenges facing the industry today that are redefining business without getting stressed from experiencing unknown and unexpected changes.”

Final Session Title And Description In Less Than 75 Words

What Everyone Ought To Know About The Macro Trends Affecting Meetings And Travel Industry
Stressed about 2010 industry and economic unknowns? Discover the industry’s 2010 macro trends and prepare now for the challenges facing the meetings and travel industry today. A distinguished group of panelists will help you stay at the forefront of the industry’s changing business landscape and one step ahead of your competition. Prepare for the challenges facing the industry today that are redefining business without getting stressed from experiencing unknown and unexpected changes.

When writing the session description, first help the attendee’s right brain create desire, then satisfy the left brain with features and promises of information so that their body actually walks into that session.

Keep it simple. Good copy is written in clear, concise, simple words that get your point across. It’s conversational. Don’t allow the reader to question why they are reading it or why they want to attend. Save the creditability and expert references for the speaker’s bio.

What’s your experience with conference sessions descriptions? What do you wish speakers included in the conference session descriptions? What advice would you give conference organizers about the conference marketing materials?

Comments

  1. says

    I like the concept that the agenda is conversational. This is so accurate, and I know myself I respond with enthusiasm when the content is clear and to the point, however, it is always open for suggestion; it creates the expectation of engagement and robust involvement.

  2. says

    Nice article Jeff. I especially like how you focused on limiting descriptions of sessions to only what is a necessity. As a frequent conference attendee there is nothing that cools me to the idea of attending a session quicker than a rambling, run-on sentence that’s the size of a paragraph. Particularly those unfocused, half-formed ideas that are closer to personal mission statements than descriptions. You are right on the money with your advice.

    • Jeff Hurt says

      @Mike
      Thanks for reading and commenting. Rambling session descriptions that don’t match the actual presentation are a buzz kill for sure!

  3. says

    Thanks for the help. I’m a national public speaker and submit a lot of proposals to conferences. The latest is specialized in that it’s a Suicide Prevention Conference for The Department of Defense. I’m the author of How I Stayed Alive When My Brain Was Trying to Kill Me: One Person’s Guide to Suicide Prevention. Suicide prevention coordinators in the VA use my book with support groups, and it’s endorsed by the National Council for Suicide Prevention. It’s tricky to be accepted into a military conference without a PhD, so I’m looking for a very catchy title and description. I just realized that I should use military-ish words in the title to catch their eyes.

    Thanks for the great info.

    Sue Blauner

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  2. [...] This is the last in a series of posts on writing better conference session descriptions. Read the previous posts Conference Descriptions That Whet The Appetite, an overview of the four elements of a successful conference description, How To Write Killer Conference Session Titles That Attract Attendees and Crafting Better Conference Materials: Writing Session Descriptions For Dummies. [...]

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