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Accepting proposals starting January 6th, 2020!

As we gear up for the new year, the IOCDF is already beginning to plan for our 27th Annual OCD Conference in Seattle, WA! The Conference is our largest event of the year, one which invites the entire OCD and related disorders community to come together to learn, train, network, and socialize. We are excited to begin planning for the Conference, and the first step in this process is to open a call for proposals from you all so we can build the program!

We thus charge you, our community, to start thinking about proposals for workshops, support groups, and activities for the Conference. Whether this will be your first time submitting or you are a veteran presenter, we look forward to seeing what ideas you come up with. This is your chance to shape your own Conference experience! Ask yourself — what have you always wanted to see? What do you think we have been missing? What have you been requesting over the years, but still not received?

The 27th Annual OCD Conference will take place Friday through Sunday, July 31–August 2, 2020 at the brand new Hyatt Regency Seattle in Seattle, WA. We will be accepting submissions through our online proposal system, which opens just after the New Year on Monday, January 6, 2020. The proposal system remains open through Monday, February 3, 2020 at 5pm ET.

Every year your amazing proposals make the job of creating the program that much more difficult (but also that much more enjoyable!). In order to increase the chances of your proposal being accepted, we’ve created a list of do’s and don’ts for you to consider. These suggestions come directly from feedback we receive from Conference attendees and planning committee members each year, so be sure to keep them in mind as you begin creating your proposals!

Tips for submitting a proposal

DO try to create a proposal for an underrepresented topic.

As you consider the content of your proposal, 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 (or any!) for others. Below are topics that have been frequently requested by attendees and represent areas that may have been underrepresented in previous years:

  • Multicultural and diversity issues
  • Co-occurring issues with OCD (including, but not limited to, substance use disorder, developmental/intellectual disabilities, eating disorders, autism spectrum disorders, PTSD, depression, etc.)
  • Perinatal OCD, including prenatal and postpartum
  • OCD-related disorders — BDD, hoarding disorder, trichotillomania (hair pulling), excoriation (skin picking)
  • Relationship issues, including relationship OCD and intimacy in general (dating/sex/marriage when OCD is involved)
  • OCD and aging
  • OCD and lifestyle factors, such as exercise, nutrition, and sleep
  • Employment/workplace issues
  • Navigating insurance, disability, and legal rights for those with OCD
  • Policy advocacy at the local, state, and/or national level
  • Family issues, especially those around couples/partners and siblings
  • Translational talks about turning research findings into clinical practice
  • Topics related to “Life After Treatment”

And remember that this is not an exhaustive list! There could very well be another underrepresented topic not on this list. Try to think outside the box and go beyond the basics.

DO NOT 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 then apply it back into your own proposal.

DO create a diverse panel of speakers.

While it can be tempting to submit a solo presentation, attendee feedback shows that it’s much more impactful and helpful to hear from different viewpoints and perspectives. The goal is to have every attendee of the Conference walk away satisfied and feeling as though they are not alone. By teaming up with a diverse panel of speakers, this highly increases the chance that your presentation will have more of an impact on the community. Consider some of the following examples:

  • 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 on a topic.
  • Are you a clinician? See if one or more of your patients and/or colleagues would like to join you on a panel to discuss an issue from several sides.
  • Are you a researcher? Work with researchers in similar or different fields to discuss your various findings around a theme and how they might change our current understanding/practice.

Typically, the ideal panel size is between 3–4 presenters — any more than that, and you may find it difficult to cover your topic within your timeslot. Attendees also report that they get less out of large panels, as the presenters often have to rush through their content.  We cap the total number of presenters on a session at five, so bear that in mind when assembling your team. Please also be prepared to explain the role of each person on the panel as justification for their inclusion.

DO NOT over- or underestimate the difficulty of your talk.

Every presentation at the Conference is classified according to difficulty level (introductory 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 be thoughtful in deciding which difficulty level best suits your talk.

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 and/or add additional perspectives.

DO NOT forget about evening activities and support groups.

While daytime presentations are the most popular choice when submitting a proposal, evening activities and support groups are just as vital to the community and to the Conference program. They 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. Note that we limit proposals to two group facilitators per support group.
  • Evening activities have ranged from group exposures to artistic expression activities, from film screenings to story hours.

Evening activities and support groups are also great ways to engage certain populations, such as first-time or solo attendees. Use your imagination and let your creativity run wild!

DO submit to our new and improved youth program!

Beginning in 2017, we switched up the way we provide programming for youth at the Conference. Instead of a Kids & Teens Track and separate art therapy rooms, we combined them to create integrated programming for three distinct age groups: elementary-aged kids, middle schoolers, and high school-aged teens. Each program spans all three days of the Conference and youth are treated daily to a wide variety of activities in a camp-like structure. This year, we challenge you to come up with engaging activities for kids, middle schoolers, and/or teens — will you do an art project? Teach them a new skill? Host a dance party? Put yourself in the shoes of a child with OCD or the young relative of a person with OCD, and think of what might be a fun and helpful activity to do. Remember to be age and developmentally appropriate — lecture-style talks for youth are strongly not recommended, and we will prioritize experiential and/or activity-based sessions.

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 Seattle, WA!


  • Maria Barrios

    Hello!! I am highly interested in submitting a proposal for a presentation but am a little worried because i do not think I will have a panel with me because of finances. The people I have in mind do not have the time due to work or the money to travel with me. If I do end up being a solo presenter, will that make me less likely to be chosen?

    Thank you kindly for your time in reading this! 🙂


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