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A non-academic group to which I belong holds military history conferences a few times a year. We've discussed seeking presentations from graduate students, but we're unsure of the process. So, I have a few questions that might be answerable here.

Where would one publish a "call for papers" on specific areas of military history? (Our conferences are on Operation Dragoon and the Battle of the Colmar Pocket in WWII.)

What would be expected to be provided for presenters who are accepted? We're a non-profit, funded only by fees for the conferences, so have never budgeted for honorariums, lodging for speakers or their expenses. Would that be so uncouth as to inhibit anyone from responding?

Would sample presentation videos be excessive? We've had some presenters in the past whose style has been so dry and non-interactive that the audience became disengaged. So, before we would accept a speaker, we'd want to see video or a live presentation to ensure that they will meet our needs. Is this excessive?

How long a presentation would be acceptable from the speaker's perspective? I expect we'd be interested in presentations of 15-20 minutes, as the topic would be rather specific (such as a presentation on the actions of a single military unit rather than on the campaign in general).

Basically, I want to know if our expectations don't meet academic expectations, so we can decide whether to modify our expectations or decide not to issue a call for papers.

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Some of your expectations fall within the norms and some may not. There may be some variation by field.

Having never organized a conference, but having attended and presented as several, these seem to be the norms I have encountered:

Where would one publish a "call for papers" on specific areas of military history?

Anywhere and everywhere. Send emails (or snailmail) to the history departments at nearby colleges and universities. Pass the word along to other organizations with similar interests. Are you close to a military academy? Is there a military museum nearby? Those are other good places to find speakers.Make sure that all correspondence includes the soft deadline (i.e. about a week before your real cutoff) for submission, and the process by which an individual signs up to speak. Also, you need to make clear the type of talk you are expecting based on the audience. Should this be a talk for experts, for enthusiasts, or for the general public? These announcements also serve as advertising for your event.

What would be expected to be provided for presenters who are accepted?

Generally, at large conferences with hundreds of talks, the travel costs are paid by the speakers. For a small conference, you may want to offer to reimburse some costs on a first-come-first-served basis, however, very few folks should be put out by lack of financial support. I would save honoraria for their true purpose: providing an award for someone and/or attracting a really big name.

Would sample presentation videos be excessive?

Yes. The situation you describe is a known danger, but it is not normal to ask for videos. Your better bet is to send people to attend other talks by your speakers and evaluate them unofficially, but you should still let them speak. If you secure a big name in the field, you will attract an audience, even if said person is a horrible speaker. If you are attracting academic speakers and you have a nearby university, asks folks in the relevant departments if they know of good speakers and try to target those individuals.

You might get away with suggesting that individuals who wish to be considered for the keynote spot send in a short clip of them presenting elsewhere, but that would still be pushing it.

How long a presentation would be acceptable from the speaker's perspective?

Depending on the number of speakers you hope to attract and the length of the conference, block off 30 minute or 60 minute blocks. 15 minutes is a little short, and you should only exceed one hour for keynotes/plenaries. Most academics would interpret a 30 minute block of time as 20 minutes of presentation and 10 minutes of questions and answers, which sounds like what you want.

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A couple additions to Ben Norris's answer:

  1. Understand that, unfortunately, lots of people will regard your invitation as spam and ignore it. You can't help this, try not to worry about this too much.

  2. If you can't fund the speakers' travel, say so. In my field, it is customary to pay the travel expenses of invited speakers, but if you can't then it is fine to simply say "Unfortunately, we will not be able to provide funding for your travel expenses" in your message.

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