How to Write Great Abstracts for SAP BusinessObjects User Conferences

Tips on how to write a great abstracts that get accepted.

Dallas Marks head shot

As a frequent speaker at ASUG and SAP Insider conferences, I’m often asked for tips on how to write a great abstracts that get accepted. Obviously, your number one objective is to convince the selection committee that you have a great presentation. Ideally, you’ll already have a presentation in your back pocket that you’ve developed for customers or your local user group. However, that isn’t necessary – all you need at this stage is a clever title and abstract. The abstract is typically around 100 words, which requires focus. Don’t bother counting words until you’ve written an abstract that you’re satisfied with – then figure out later how to edit it down to the conference host’s word limit.

Your number two objective is two-fold – you’ll want conference attendees to be enticed enough to register for your breakout session. But- and this is important- you also want to be clear about what you are talking about so your attendees aren’t disappointed. I’m always nervous about the first 10 minutes of my breakout because that’s when many folks decide to bolt out of the room and head to their “plan B” session. For example, my 2008 presentation was entitled “CMC Essentials”. And although my session description was fairly clear, I could tell from my feedback that “CMC Security Essentials” would have been a better name. I dealt mainly with security topics, not a general overview of the Central Management Console.

Here’s a third objective – be specific, if not downright narrow. I’m sure that the committee will receive many presentations called “Crystal Reports Tips and Tricks”, “Web Intelligence Tips and Tricks”, or “Xcelsius Tips and Tricks”. These abstracts are difficult for the selection committee to evaluate and may jeopardize your selection because yours doesn’t stand out from the crowd. During your breakout, you only have about 40 minutes to talk and 5 or 10 for questions. It’s not really as much time as you think. Which is a gift. Pick something specific and cover it thoroughly.


Here’s my own story about becoming a conference speaker. After attending my first conference, Insight 2005 in Orlando, Florida, I was totally blown away by all of the great speakers from organizations from Integra Solutions (now integrated into Quorum Business Solutions) so I decided to submit a single abstract for Insight 2006. I was surprised as anyone when I received notice that I was selected to go to San Francisco, California. But I picked something that I thought was fairly unique and that the selection committee would either love or hate. After being selected, the conference organizers revised my title into something catchy and made some minor edits to the abstract. This was the final result:

Getting Personal with Publications and Profiles
If you’re considering effective ways to process and distribute personalized reports to a large audience, this session is for you. Learn how to use BusinessObjects XI Release 2 publications to minimize database resources through single-pass report bursting, and how to personalize reports according to individual user or group profiles. See live examples of both methods of traversing profiles (Tree Walk and Walk-and-Merge), and investigate several Desktop Intelligence features that will take your personalized report distribution to the next level.

And here’s another example, my abstract for Insight 2007 in Orlando, Florida:

Secure Universes Using Restriction Sets
Do you need to tailor universe security to specific users or groups within your organization? Attend this session to learn about restriction sets and how they can apply security to selected groups or user accounts for the universe. Hear how applied restrictions can control objects, rows, query types, and connections. See live demonstrations on how to use each type of restriction and the effect they have on user Web Intelligence documents.

For those of you who are IT professionals, notice that both of these are a bit “sales-y”, not just a dull technological rant. Try to make your topic as sexy as possible. But not too sexy. Yeah, I know – universe restriction sets aren’t exactly sexy. But they are useful and my presentation was able to help lots of people with real project requirements.

One last thought – I have been a consultant for most of my professional career. Consultants probably have some extra incentive to practice becoming good speakers. But non-consulting IT professionals shouldn’t feel slighted. Despite how jacked up you may think your employer is, there are always things that your team does well that other organizations struggle with. If you don’t believe me, hang out at your local user group – you really do have something to contribute. Feel free to bring your practical experiences as well as your business domain (CPG, manufacturing, retail, etc.) in to your presentation.

What do you have to lose by writing an abstract? Nothing! What do you have to gain? Some valuable experience and a free conference pass. Good luck!

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Author: Dallas Marks

I am a business intelligence architect, author, and trainer. I help organizations harness the power of analytics, primarily with SAP BusinessObjects products. An active blogger, SAP Mentor and co-author of the SAP Press book SAP BusinessObjects Web Intelligence: The Comprehensive Guide, I prefer piano keyboards over computer keyboards when not blogging or tweeting about business intelligence.

7 thoughts on “How to Write Great Abstracts for SAP BusinessObjects User Conferences”

  1. Another good tip for potential speakers: submit more than one abstract. That way even if you do a great job on one specific topic and the committee is overwhelmed with great ideas in that area you still have a chance to get selected. 🙂

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