Helpful Speaker Decline Letter

Every year I apply to speak at a tech conference, and for the last 2 years, I’ve been on the organizing team for my local WordPress conference.

Every year, some speaker applicants are chosen and some are declined. And every year, some who were declined will want to know why — especially if they are first-time applicants.

But many times, the responses to the “why wasn’t I chosen” question is along the lines of “don’t ask, we can’t tell you” .

In the case of WordCamps, everyone is a volunteer and time is tight, but I believe we can balance being helpful to those who were declined and the lack of manpower at this time to give individualized responses. You never know who may be able to take a good constructive response, improve & come back next year, and give a great talk.

Here’s an example:

Thank you for your submission. While you weren’t selected, don’t be discouraged.

First, we acknowledge the selection process is highly subjective, but we do try as best as we can to be fair.

Second, we had 155 submissions for only 48 slots, so unfortunately that means some good talks had to get cut. This isn’t a reflection on you or your talk, just what we believed would offer our attendees a well-rounded experience within our theme this year.

Third, as WordCamps reflect local celebrations of WordPress, we try to celebrate local speakers first, and then look to others.

Finally, here are some suggestions based on the common issues that make it difficult for us to accept talks:

* Make sure your description is _detailed but succinct_. Both too short & too long make it difficult

* Make it clear _what people will learn & why it’s important_

* Make it _engaging_. Why will someone want to listen to you talk about X for 45 minutes?

* Make sure you are _prepared_. If you’ve had a problem in the past with showing up for a talk unprepared, acknowledge it & show us you’ve improved (ideas: send a clear outline or {gasp} your slides)

* Include _why you are qualified_ to speak on a topic. If we receive 3 submissions for the same topic (e.g. Google AMP), it helps to see what you can offer or bring to the topic.

* If you are submitting something that is directly related to your business, _acknowledge_ the potential for a conflict of interest or for it to turn into a sales pitch, and show us why it won’t

* If you are local, _join & regularly attend a meetup_ so we can get to know you. If you are a first-time WordCamp speaker, ask to speak at your meetup for practice.

* Finally, don’t just submit multiple unrelated topics, like throwing things against the wall to see what will stick.
_What are you uniquely qualified to speak about?_ Submit multiple times based on that, but from different angles.

We know how it feels be denied and have no idea why or how you can improve, so hopefully that helps and you are encouraged to submit again! We’d love for you to still join us [insert date] — tickets go on sale [insert date].

–Conference Organizers

That’s a decline email I would like to receive.