How to Apply for Conferences

By: Artemis Harris

As graduate students, we are often told we need to be a part of scholarly and academic conversation. It is often suggested that graduate students present their scholarly works at conferences in order to do this. Presenting at conferences not only allows you to be a part of the conversation, but it also allows you to help shape those conversations with your own work. You might currently be at a point where you think you’re ready to present at a conference, or at least want to prepare to. But how does one go about presenting at a conference? 

You need to find a conference that is within your interest to present at. This isn’t always as simple as just signing up and going to one. All conferences are different and will have different requirements and deadlines for application. This blog will break down that process to allow students to be in the best position to be accepted to a conference.  

Where do I find conferences?  

Before you can find a conference, you need to think about the topic you would like to present on. This will be most important to searching for conferences. Remember that you don’t have to have your work completed if you want to present it at a conference. Finding a conference that piques your interest will allow you an idea of what to write about to present in the future. Speaking with your advisors or a professor that specializes in a particular field or genre is also a great idea. It is very likely that they have presented at some of these conferences that will align with your interest and can point you in the right direction. At the very least they might have resources to help you find conferences, which is most important at this stage.  

A good resource to find conferences would be the Call for Papers website. This site will allow students to search for conferences and other calls for papers specifically in literature and the humanities by the topic or field.  

Now that you’ve found a conference and are ready to apply, it is important that you do a few things to make sure we have the best chance of being accepted.  

Make sure that the date of the conference aligns with the time frame you want to do it. 

  • Sometimes in our haste to find a conference, we might not notice that the date of the conference has already passed.  
  • Alternatively, you want to give yourself enough time to write or prepare, so be sure that the conference is not happening too soon that you won’t be ready. 

Check and recheck all the requirements for your submission.  

  • It is very important that you submit everything that is required and that what you are submitting is accurate. Not submitting the correct material or not including the appropriate information can have our application denied.  

Write an abstract for your work.  

  • Most applications will ask for a submission of an abstract instead of submitting the entire work others will require the full work, so check the requirements carefully. 
  • Abstracts are normally between 200 and 400 words, but the length required of the abstract could change depending on the conference. Be sure to check their requirements when writing and adjust accordingly.  
  • Speak with advisors or faculty in that field about the abstract before submitting it. They can give suggestions on making it clearer or more succinct before submission.  

During the submission process a requirement might be to also submit a short professional biography.  

  • Bios are often written in third person for conferences.  
  • When writing use your full first name and reference an accomplishment if possible so that you are more memorable in the reader’s mind.  
  • When writing your bio, keep the information relevant to the audience of the conference.  
  • Keep your bio short and interesting so people get the most information about you before they stop reading. Adding a personal detail or two will help readers make a connection with you.  
  • Remember that a lot of others are submitting too; you want yours to stand out as much as possible without being so long that they lose interest. Again, an advisor or faculty member can help with this.  
  • Be sure to keep in mind the requirements for the bio. Don’t go over the word limit as it could cause your application to be rejected. 

Lastly, be mindful of the deadlines for submission.  

  • Put them in your calendar and set reminders days beforehand so you have enough time to finish and submit it before the deadline. Missing the deadlines will ensure that the application is denied.  

It can take 1-3 weeks for proposals to be selected or denied. If the proposal is accepted, you’ll receive information about the conference, formatting of the sessions, information regarding additional deadlines, etc. Be sure to keep an eye out for this information, especially any new deadlines that might need to be met.  

If you’re rejected, that is okay. This was a learning experience; you can adjust your abstract and bio and submit it to other conferences.  

With this information in hand, you should have everything you need to submit a proposal application to a conference.  

Remember that your advisor and the faculty are always here to help and guide you through this process as well, if you are struggling or need guidance, reach out, you do not have to do this alone.