Each year at this time, we send out the call to our community to start thinking about proposals for workshops, support groups, and activities for the next year’s Conference. Without fail, you all go above and beyond to answer our call. It gets more and more difficult to choose the Conference program each year due in large part to the enormous number of excellent submissions we receive. A very good problem to have!
The 24th Annual OCD Conference will take place this July in San Francisco, CA, and we will be soon begin accepting submissions through our proposal system, which opens on Tuesday, January 3, 2017. Given how competitive it has become to speak at the OCD Conference, we compiled a list of things you can do (and not do) to increase your chances of being accepted. These suggestions come directly from feedback we receive from Conference attendees and planning committee members each year. Read on to learn more — we can’t wait to see what you come up with this year!
DO consider our topics of special interest.
As you consider the content of your presentation, think about topics that may be of special interest to the OCD community. Every year we receive many proposals for some areas, but not enough for others. Below are topics that have been frequently requested by attendees and represent areas that may have been underrepresented in previous years:
- Advanced-level sessions for all audiences
- Multicultural and diversity issues
- Co-occurring issues with OCD – substance abuse/addiction, intellectual disabilities, eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, other mental health conditions, etc.
- OCD and intimacy (dating, marriage, sex)
- OCD and aging
- Navigating insurance, disability, and legal rights for those with OCD
- Employment issues
- The dark side of OCD and related disorders (becoming homebound, suicide, depression, self harm, angry outbursts, etc.)
- “Coming out” about your OCD
- Being an OCD advocate at the local, state, and/or national level
- Adjunctive treatments for OCD including group therapy, compassion focused therapy, and family therapy
DON’T feel limited to the traditional lecture-style talk.
The workshops that often receive the highest ratings from attendees are those that are interactive and/or experiential. This can take many forms, from performing a live demonstration of a technique to having the attendees break out into groups for an activity. When preparing your proposal, think outside of the box about creative ways to actively engage your audience. Will you take them through a group exercise? Will you demonstrate a technique with an audience member? Will you break out into small groups for role plays or discussion? Will you show a related video clip? Think about what makes you more interested and attentive in a presentation, and apply that back into your own proposal.
DO team up with others to create a diverse panel.
Panels are great opportunities to present multiple points of view in a single talk. Are you an individual with OCD or a related disorder? Team up with a fellow individual, family member, and/or professional to provide a well-rounded talk about your different experiences and perspectives. Are you a clinician? See if one or more of your patients or colleagues would like to join you on a panel to discuss an issue from several sides. Are you a researcher? Work with other researchers to discuss your various studies and findings around a single theme. Note that the ideal panel size is between 3-4 presenters — any more than that, and you may have trouble fitting everything in. We are also much less likely to accept proposals with 5 or more presenters. For proposals with 5+ presenters, be sure to make a strong case for why each person has a unique and specific contribution to make to the presentation.
DON’T over- or underestimate the difficulty of your talk.
Every presentation at the Conference is classified according to difficulty level — introductory, intermediate, or advanced — and these difficulty levels are chosen by you when submitting your proposal. A surefire way to get negative attendee feedback is by having the content of your talk not match the difficulty level you chose. Advanced-level sessions should not cover the basics, and introductory-level sessions should not get too complicated. We aim for the full spectrum of difficulty levels when setting the Conference program, so please help us out by being thoughtful about the difficulty level your proposal.
DO mix it up from previous years.
While we do get new attendees every year, we also see an increasing number of Conference-goers coming back time and time again. It is thus our goal to provide fresh offerings each year that will appeal to both newcomers and Conference veterans. This means we are unlikely to accept the same presentation year after year, even if ratings and attendance were high. Simply changing your title is not enough — use this as an opportunity to mix it up and explore fresh content.
DO submit to our NEW “Research to Clinical” track.
Feedback from attendees indicated that talks give in our “research track” were much more valuable when the presenters both described research findings and discussed how these findings could be practically implemented. We offered a small “Research to Clinical” series at the 2016 Conference in Chicago, and the feedback was very positive and attendees asked for more programming like this. In response, we are moving away from traditional “by Researchers, for Researchers” talks during the conference, in favor of talks that show how Research findings can be incorporated into clinical practice. More advanced Research talks are now the focus of the Pre-Conference IOCDF Research Symposium held on Thursday, July 6.
DON’T forget about the evening programming.
While most of you will likely be submitting proposals for talks taking place during the day, we urge you to also consider submitting an evening activity or support group. These events are just as vital to the Conference and OCD community as the educational workshops, and provide the opportunity for attendees to have fun, socialize, network, and bond after a great day of learning. Support groups can be led by professionals and peers alike, and we welcome submissions for groups of all ages, types, and compositions. Evening activities have ranged from group exposures to artistic expression activities, from film screenings to story hours. Use your imagination and let your creativity run wild.
If you have a question that is not answered by this article, the Conference website, or the instructions in the proposal system, please feel free to reach out to us. We can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at (617) 973-5801. Happy proposal writing, and we hope to see you in San Francisco!