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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 conference@iocdf.org or by phone at (617) 973-5801. Happy proposal writing, and we hope to see you in San Francisco!


  • Lisa Chism

    Do you ever accept ideas from younger participants such as high school students. My daughter started a mental health support group at her highschool. Would you be interested in hearing her story? She was diagnosed with OCD and anxiety 2 years ago. Thanks. Lisa.

  • Dennis Walter Stern

    I don’t really know if I’m qualified as a speaker. I did attend the annual OCD Conference when it was in Minneapolis a few years ago where I purchased “Coping With OCD” by Bruce Hyman and Troy Dufrene which I found very helpful. I have had “Pure O” OCD since the eighth grade and I am now 70 years old, but very active in six volunteer organizations here in the Twin Cities. Before coming to your site here, I was wondering if I could do some good “in coming out” to at least one of those organizations here. I was just awarded the Advocate/Volunteer of the year for LifeWorks in our metro area–out of over 550 volunteers. I have presented those with various disabilities weekly programs and videos–half on world geography and half fun, music, amazing animals etc.
    This spring I was one of three award winners for the Twin Cities Keystone corporation for five years in their after school and summer programs for minority kids helping with homework, reading and math. I have been in the International Lions Club for 20 years, and just won the Progressive Helen Keller Sight Award for the 4th time, my 8th club award along with being President 2005-6. I have also been the head coach for Recreational Blind Baseball here in Minnesota–this coming up our 14th season. I have been on nine international trips, and have enjoyed them greatly.
    I still have occasional problems with “Pure O” but I need to remind myself it is not who I am, but it is something I have. I don’t have a website as I’m just a private individual. Thank you for reading my story!

  • Jessica M.

    I see that January 3rd is the day the proposal submissions open. What date does that window close? What is the deadline for submitting a speech proposal for the general audience (not a professional research presentation)? Thank you!

    • Alex Bahrawy

      Hello Jessica,

      The proposal system for presentations, support groups, evening activities, and Research Symposium presentations will be open from January 3rd, 2017 until January 30th, 2017. For more information please visit here: https://www.ocd2017.org/index.cfm?do=cnt.page&pg=3037

  • Lauren Gisvold

    My name is Lauren Gisvold and I was wondering if you were accepting volunteers yet to help at the conference?
    Also which hotels are going to be near the venue? And how much are tickets?
    Sorry for so many questions I am just excited and I wanted to find out early so if there is volunteer opportunities I would love to help!

  • Gabrielle

    Hi, I am interested to apply to be a speaker and doing a sort of panel. I don’t know anyone that I could do the panel with and was wondering if there was a way to get in contact with people who with the same subject as me?
    Thank you!

    • I have the same question. I’m interested in being on a panel with the general topic Coming Out to Your Community About OCD”. My perspective is as a parent of a child with OCD. I wrote a book about this. Does anyone want to form a panel on the benefits of coming out to your community about OCD? I would like to be part of it.

      • Lisa Riggs

        I, too am a parent of a child with OCD. My “child” is 33 years old now. IT CONTINUES TO BE AN INCREDIBLY DIFICULT JOURNEY. I would love to connect at the conference. We have learned a great deal and I believe I have something to offer and to learn through shared dialogue with other parents and therapists.

        Lisa Riggs

        • Aminah Sheikh

          Hi Lisa,

          I am 32 years old. I will be at the conference at some point. I do struggle with OCD, and I was diagnosed at 15.
          The best thing I did for myself was move out of my family home and learn to expose myself to my fears.

          We can talk more in person.

          I am coming from Canada.

          See everyone soon.

    • Alex Bahrawy

      Hello Gabrielle,

      You can connect with others planning to attend or present at the Conference by using the Conference discussion board here: https://groups.yahoo.com/neo/groups/CC-OCF/info

      Please note that IOCDF does not directly moderate this group.

      Another option would be to connect with local OCD support groups in the area to see if anyone near you would be interested in submitting a panel discussion. You can search for support groups by using our Resource Directory. For a list of online and phone support groups please click here: https://iocdf.org/supportgroups/online-and-phone-ocd-support-groups/

      • Becca Massie

        Hi Laurie Gough and Alex Bahrawy,

        For some odd reason I can’t sign up for the yahoo group to connect with other people planning on attending and wanting to present. I’d be very interested in being on a panel about coming out about my OCD. I’m a trained public speaker for anti-stigma/mental health work and regularly tell my story. I also run an OCD peer support group in San Francisco. Since I can’t figure out how to sign up for the yahoo group, feel free to email me at rebeccamsssie@gmail.com. I’m very interested in becoming involved in the conference. Feel free to reach out to me, really anybody who might want to help organize a panel about coming out to the world or other things. I’m very reachable by email. Looking forward to the conference.

  • Dear advocates,

    My name is Manel Atserias Luque. I am from Barcelona (Spain), and I am a lawyer. I have OCD and, I am currently a legal advisor of Association TOC 2.0 of Barcelona.

    I would like to go to attend the next Annual Conference in San Francisco, but I do not know if I can participate in some activities, such as explaining my experience with my OCD.

    Best regards and God Bless America.

  • Gwendolyn W.

    Hello. I am unsure of where exactly to submit my proposal. I have emailed and received no response. I was just curious as to where the proposal form was. Thanks in advance!

  • Gabrielle

    Hi, if doing a panel does every person have to write a proposal?
    Thank you!

  • Marcia Black

    When will you notify people about whether their proposal has been accepted?

  • Aminah Sheikh

    I will try to attend from Canada. I hope there will be discussion on diversity, religion and culture.


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