Person speaking at the Best Friends Network Conference beside of a screen in front of an audience

Speaker submissions information

Here are some details regarding speaker submissions:

  • We will choose a wide variety of submissions featuring data-driven and innovative content from speakers with diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • We ask that speakers present an entire session directly related to their submitted proposal, lasting 45 minutes (without allowing time at the end for an audience question-and-answer period). We may request that speakers provide additional time for roundtable discussions and question-and-answer sessions for conference attendees.
  • We want to give conference attendees a well-rounded perspective on the types of programs that can help their communities achieve their lifesaving goals. It is essential that topics cover a wide range of animal shelter and community programs and innovative and proven strategies to help save more lives. We welcome presenters from various roles in animal welfare organizations (e.g., shelter directors, volunteers, animal control officers, fundraisers, shelter veterinarians, adoption and foster counselors, board members) and from a variety of different organization types related to animal welfare.

Here’s a list of potential topics:

  • Advocacy and community engagement (volunteers, advocacy, public engagement, events, community organizing, etc.)
  • Animal care (in shelters and foster homes, population flow, repurposing space, housing, stress reduction, disease management, enrichment, etc.)
  • Cat lifesaving (community cat programs, behavior and enrichment, neonatal kitten programs, working cats, friendly strays, etc.)
  • Community-supported sheltering (community engagement, community-supported lifesaving, collaboration with local animal control, rescue groups, other social services, etc.)
  • Communications (marketing, PR, crisis communications, social media, transparency, etc.)
  • Dog lifesaving (play groups, CLASS, enrichment, decreasing length of stay, etc.)
  • Executive and leadership skills (building culture, leading lifesaving programs, board development, change management, etc.)
  • Field services and animal control (return-to-owner in the field, field safety, community outreach, etc.)
  • Fundraising and development (email, direct mail, grants, planned giving, digital fundraising, etc.)
  • Innovation (technology, groundbreaking programming, new research, pilot programs, etc.)
  • Lifesaving programs (adoptions, foster care, transports, hospitality, customer service, live release rates, the role of data, etc.)
  • Operations/administration (human resources; culture; accounting and finance; legal issues; diversity, equity and inclusion; etc.)
  • Shelter medicine (intake procedures, cost savings, low-cost treatments, disease management, FeLV and FIV testing, etc.)

How to make your submission stand out

We consider submissions on topics that are thoughtfully planned out, and we ask that you explain precisely what you intend to share with conference attendees. Please write a clear and concise description of your proposed session, including what content and resources you have in mind, and what the key takeaways are for conference attendees.

Sessions should be informative and guide attendees on how to implement what you're teaching into their own organizations versus a showcase of things your organization has accomplished.

We don’t want sessions to be a sales pitch for a company’s products or services. So, while we welcome representatives from for-profit companies, we ask you to please refrain from submitting a session geared toward selling a product or service.

You may submit more than one session for consideration. You are also welcome to submit one session geared toward beginners and one geared toward experienced leaders. You’ll need to complete one submission form for each proposed session.

You should fill most of the 45 minutes of session time with content and not leave time for an audience question-and-answer period at the end. We will provide separate question-and-answer sessions and roundtable discussions on an as-needed basis.


Timeline for submissions

At this time, the deadline to submit a speaking proposal has passed. If you submitted a proposal, we hope to have decisions made and communicated via email by mid-December.

If you are selected to be a speaker, you’ll access a speaker portal to complete your speaker agreement, provide a biography and head shot, upload any materials or handouts for attendees, and more. We will assign clear deadlines for each task in the portal.


Speaker expectations

  • Adhere to all deadlines provided in the speaker portal.
  • Communicate with Best Friends staff via email as we review your session title, description and biography for editing purposes. We will also review your presentation content to make sure it adheres to Best Friends’ guiding principles.
  • Provide materials, handouts and copies of your presentation electronically that attendees may download.
  • Rehearse your presentation as needed, especially if you have co-presenters, to fully prepare for event day.
  • Be flexible in terms of pandemic-related policies that may require changes to event protocols or schedules.


Involvement at the conference

Best Friends will provide the official conference schedule in early 2022 so that you can plan your trip accordingly. At the conference, we’ll provide you with a time to report to a speakers-only room to prepare for your session beforehand.

Following your session, we may ask you to participate in a question-and-answer session or roundtable discussion to further engage with attendees. We ask that you spend as much of your session’s time as possible on the content and not leave too much time for questions and answers at the end.


Conference expenses

Each speaker will receive a complimentary conference registration providing full access to the event, including continental breakfasts, three lunches and one or two evening receptions.

Best Friends encourages speakers’ employers or sponsors to fund travel expenses. If that is not possible, some travel expenses can be reimbursed. Here are some details:

  • Best Friends will provide reimbursements to cover the costs of mileage, airfare, meals, parking or other travel expenses for the conference. We will also provide details to chosen speakers on how we can book your flight for you if necessary, so you do not have to cover that initial cost. If you live within 200 miles of the Raleigh Convention Center, you can be reimbursed up to $300. If you live 201 miles or more from the Raleigh Convention Center, you can be reimbursed up to $400.
  • Best Friends will arrange for four nights of lodging at the conference’s official hotels (July 6 check-in, July 10 check-out). Speakers may extend lodging at their own expense.
  • For panels, Best Friends will cover the costs listed above for the designated moderator, and will cover only the conference registration fee for up to three panelists. Panelists must provide their own travel and lodging expenses.

Additional benefits for conference speakers

Best Friends is grateful for all those who dedicate their time and effort to speak at our conference, and we want to make sure you have a worthwhile experience. Our goal is to provide additional benefits to all speakers, which may include:

  • We will provide coaching on speaking skills for those who are new to presenting.
  • We will dedicate on-site space to prepare for your presentation, have your last-minute questions answered and have a quiet place to practice.
  • You’ll receive an official certificate of participation that you can display and use when submitting proposals for other conference presentations.
  • We hope to offer other speaker-specific benefits, opportunities and discounts.