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InBIA ICBI35 Call for Session Proposals

Information and Instructions

InBIA's 35th International Conference on Business Incubation
Call for Session Proposals
Due January 15, 2021

Thank you for your interest in speaking to an audience of peers during one of the virtual sessions during InBIA's 35th International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI35). From these proposals, InBIA will select topics, build panels and schedule facilitated discussions, creating a program that is as relevant and impactful as possible for the audience of entrepreneurial support professionals in the InBIA membership and beyond. 

Please note: part of this effort includes ensuring each session represents multiple points of view, and we will be paying special attention to having international and diverse perspectives included. This may mean that you will be asked to work with others on the topic you propose. If this is an issue, please communicate your concerns to Lindsay Schuenke at

In addition to the sessions, we will be organizing special interest groups to meet during the conference and beyond. If you are interested in either leading or participating in one of these groups, please fill out this form to help us identify the most relevant topics and gauge interest. 

To ensure your proposal is complete and is considered for acceptance, please be sure to read through these instructions before you continue on with your submission. In the instructions below, you will find the following important details: 
  • Session Tracks - descriptions of the five tracks into which all sessions will fall, along with current topics of interest in each one
  • Session Format - an explanation of the different formats sessions can have to help you assess which best fits your session idea
  • Audience Profile - an overview of who typically participates in ICBI and how we try to program for this audience
  • Selection Criteria - a list of proposal components the selection committee will consider while reviewing your proposal 
  • Speaker Information and Guidelines - information about eligibility, expectations, requirements, and deadlines
  • Proposal Tips - ideas for submitting an excellent proposal 
If you have any questions about this process or ICBI in general, please contact Lindsay Schuenke at Please also contact Lindsay if you would like to be considered as a panelist or speaker addition but do not have a specific topic idea. All proposals must be submitted by 5 p.m. EST on Friday, January 15, 2021.

Session Tracks
All session content is organized into five different tracks. We are looking for topic ideas in all tracks featuring diverse perspectives providing valuable resources, tools and lessons for attendees. If you would like help identifying additional perspectives, you will have the opportunity to let us know. And if your proposal does not have enough diversity of perspective, we reserve the right to ask you to work with other speakers/facilitators. 

Please read through the track descriptions below to determine which is most appropriate for your session ideas/expertise. You will have to select one of these tracks as part of the proposal process, though InBIA reserves the right to put sessions in whatever tracks the committee identifies as most appropriate. 

Sustainable Centers: Funding, Operations, Policies and More
This track will cover the nuts and bolts of running an entrepreneurship center, from securing program funding to managing a facility to working with stakeholders and more. We often hear from members that one of their most significant pain points is having sufficient funding, so special consideration will be given to proposals that suggest innovative ways to address that particular challenge. Potential topics include (but are not limited to): 
  • Securing federal resources
  • Innovative revenue models
  • Tracking and reporting 
  • Marketing (traditional and digital)
  • Effective technology solutions 
  • Pricing models
  • Board relations
  • Scaling an entrepreneurship support program
  • Securing grants and sponsorships
  • Pipeline development/client recruitment
  • Achieving financial sustainability 
  • Understanding government policy and how to advocate for innovation 
  • Differentiating your center from other entrepreneurial support organizations 
  • Creating a sense of community, especially in a virtual world
  • Navigating the impacts of crisis and economic downturn
  • Encouraging a diverse and inclusive culture
  • Serving traditionally excluded communities 
Helping Startups Succeed
The primary goal of an entrepreneurship center is to help entrepreneurs successfully start new companies, and this track will explore the most effective programs and services for achieving that purpose. Sessions should cover best practices for working with entrepreneurs to ensure their startups become viable businesses that contribute to local economies. We hear from many members who struggle to help entrepreneurs identify appropriate funding sources, so special focus will be given to that topic. Other potential topics include (but are not limited to): 
  • Specialized funding sources such as SBIR/STTR
  • Non-dilutive funding 
  • Creating mentor networks
  • Effective programs and services 
  • Entrepreneurial education programs
  • Alternative funding sources (i.e. crowdfunding)
  • Corporate partnerships
  • Creating an internal culture to foster innovation and connection 
  • Serving second stage companies
  • Pitch coaching and attracting angel funding 
  • Virtual programming 
  • Helping companies pivot/be resilient
Industry Trends and Innovations
Entrepreneurial support professionals from all over the globe come together for the InBIA conference to explore and discuss the latest ideas and trends in the industry. The sessions in this track will highlight these current trends in the industry. The sessions in this track will highlight these current trends and identify the latest tools and strategies people are using to create successful programs. Potential topics include (but are not limited to): 
  • Corporate investment in entrepreneurship centers
  • Opportunities in business services
  • Logistics and supply chain needs
  • Manufacturing inclusion 
  • Innovative solutions to common challenges
  • How to differentiate in a crowded ecosystem 
  • Cluster analysis 
  • Storytelling, both for a center and for the startups
  • Emerging presence of philanthropic stakeholders in entrepreneurial support
  • Creating diverse and inclusive programming
Entrepreneurial Ecosystems
Establishing and growing a thriving entrepreneurial ecosystem is widely recognized as an important aspect of creating regional prosperity through new job growth. These sessions will explore the elements and strategies for building successful entrepreneurial ecosystems in any community. Potential topics include (but are not limited to): 
  • Innovation districts
  • Creating partnerships between organizations 
  • Entrepreneurial ecosystem mapping
  • Strategies for engaging community stakeholders
  • Policies that drive new business creation 
  • Opportunity zones
  • Fostering a local culture that encourages entrepreneurship and innovation 
  • The role of events in ecosystems 
  • Communicating program value to local governments to engage support 
  • Organizing for collective action
  • Cultivating a culture of trust and collaboration 
  • Creating connected networks between ecosystem builders 
  • Developing metrics specifics 
  • Encouraging diversity and inclusion within the ecosystem 
Sector-Focused and Specialized Programming 
Many entrepreneurship centers focus on specific industries, and therefore have unique challenges and opportunities. At the InBIA conference, people from these sectors have the opportunity to learn more about working within their specific industries and to connect with others doing similar work. Potential topics include (but are not limited to): 
  • Food/kitchen programs
  • Rural opportunities
  • Biotech programs
  • Clean tech programs
  • Arts and fashion programs
  • University and student programs
  • Women and minority programs
  • Makerspaces
Bonus Track: Pandemic Adaptations and Economic Recovery Efforts
ICBI35 will be taking place during a critical time in local, national and global economies as the world emerges from the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic and works toward recovery. Some aspects of how  people do life and business will be forever changed, and the economic impacts of this crisis are likely to be long-lasting. Sessions in this track will explore strategies centers can use to adapt to the new normal, information about funding and other resources, discussion about what the future might hold, and more, based on the ideas we get from proposals on best practices that are emerging. Topics could include (but are not limited to): 
  • Converting programming to virtual formats
  • Identifying effective program models 
  • Creating community connections in a virtual world
  • Ensuring health and safety in your facility 
  • Securing and leveraging available funding and other resources
  • Pivoting center focus and offerings to better fit the needs of the community in the new normal
Session Format
ICBI35 will be fully virtual, so all sessions will be held through online platforms. Some sessions, especially interactive panels and discussions, will be live and others will be pre-recorded. Most session blocks will be 45 minutes and speakers/facilitators will be required to sign in 20-30 minutes early to make sure the technology is working. Different topics often lend themselves to different styles, so we have some options from which potential speakers/facilitators can choose. Be sure to select the format that best fits your content and personal style. In this proposal form, you will select one of the following options: 
  • Panel (moderator and two or three panelists)
    Panel-style sessions should have a strong moderator and no more than three panelists, preferably from three different programs/perspectives. The moderator should be prepared to shape the content through specific questions to the panelists, and live sessions should include plenty of opportunity for interaction from the audience. Recorded panels should have prepared questions to fill the time. 
  • Presentation Series (two, sometimes three presenters)
    In presentation-style sessions, each speaker will have a portion of the session to share tools, techniques and strategies based on his or her expertise. Each presentation should limit the background information to only what is necessary and include relevant takeaways, useful resources, and proven tools. The last 15 minutes of the session will be reserved for questions in live sessions, recorded sessions can use the full 45 minutes. 
  • Discussion (one or two facilitators) 
    Discussion-style sessions will only be live and will focus on engaging the audience around a specific topic. The facilitator should encourage sharing of thoughts, experiences, resources and ideas, and can make use of Zoom breakout groups as appropriate. 
Audience Profile
When held in person, ICBI annually attracts up to 600 attendees from across the globe. Attendees are actively engaged in their local entrepreneurial ecosystems, and many run successful entrepreneurship centers to help entrepreneurs build great businesses. Each year, attendees represent more than 30 different countries, and they also come from every type of community - from urban centers to rural regions and developing nations. This attendee diversity enables a unique, collaborative learning environment for exploring new approaches and global trends in entrepreneurial ecosystems. Attendees are looking for practical tools and techniques they can apply to their programs or regions, so we strongly encourage presenters and panelists to ensure the information they share can be replicated and easily applied to other programs, and we will judge proposals with this idea in mind. 

Selection Criteria
A selection committee will review the proposals and create a balanced program for the conference with the goal of fulfilling the educational needs of the diverse conference audience. The committee will be considering the following criteria: 
  • Relevance to Audience Need
    We look for sessions that address topics of interest to a large group of conference attendees. We also consider the diversity of the companies with which our attendees work and strive to offer a variety of sessions to meet those needs. 
  • Quality of the Proposal Content
    Because most of our audience members are industry practitioners (rather than academics), we select sessions that will provide tools and techniques people can implement in their own programs. Successful proposals will provide industry-specific examples and include - but not focus solely on - case studies of multiple programs with proven track records. 
  • Contribution to the Overall Conference Content
    The success of a proposal will depend on how the topic, format and specific content of a proposed session will fit into the proposed track and the overall scheme of the conference. 
  • Presenter Qualifications
    We seek presenters who communicate effectively through lively, organized and well-prepared presentations or panels. In reviewing a proposal, we consider the presenter's previous training/speaking experience and experience within the entrepreneurial support industry. 
  • International Perspectives
    Each year, nearly one-third of the conference attendees come from countries outside the United States, so we work to ensure much of our content is globally relevant. The committee will give special consideration to proposals that include international presenters and perspectives. 
Speaker Information and Guidelines
  • Speaker Eligibility
    You do not have to be an InBIA member to submit a session proposal. However, be sure to read the selection criteria and session track information to ensure your proposed session would be a good fit for the ICBI audience. 
  • Selling Products or Services 
    If you have a product or service to sell, please do not advertise during your session presentation. Conference sessions are meant to provide useful information for attendees, who will be dissatisfied if they sense a presenter is providing promotional material for his or her own benefit. There are many other opportunities at the conference for advertising products and services - if you would like to learn more, contact Lindsay Schuenke at 
  • Materials Requirements and Deadlines
    If your proposal is accepted, InBIA will require you to provide an electronic copy of your PowerPoint presentation and other handouts in advance of the conference so we can have them loaded in the online platform when the session begins. We will also make these materials available to attendees through our registrants-only app. The first set of speaker deliverables (biographies, session descriptions, speaker photos, etc.) will be due shortly after proposal acceptance. Presentation slides are not required, but if you choose to use them or any other handout materials, all are due by April 16, 2021. You will receive more details and instructions if your proposal is selected. 
  • Speaker Availability 
    The virtual conference is scheduled for April 26-30, so speakers in live sessions will need to be available at the times their sessions are scheduled. If you would prefer to do a recorded session with more flexible timing, there will be a place to indicate that preference in the proposal form. If you are selected for a live session, we will let you know the exact time within that week once the program is confirmed. 
Proposal Tips
Consider these suggestions for improving the chances your proposal will be selected: 
  • Try to keep your session title as concise and explanatory as possible. A good title will make the topic obvious to the committee. InBIA reserves the right to change titles. 
  • Clearly identify the intended audience, including background knowledge required to help attendees know whether or not it is appropriate for them. 
  • When writing a session description, accurately define the comprehensive focus of your idea in a compelling manner. Make the lessons to be learned from the content abundantly clear. 
  • Clearly identify any specific tools or techniques audience members will be able to immediately implement. 
  • Given the word limit, the description does not need to reference broad statements and statistics about our industry. Focus on the specific content of your session. 
  • Be sure to spell out the first mention of any acronyms you use.