InBIA's 34th International Conference on Business Incubation
March 28 - April 1, 2020
Boston, Massachusetts

Request for Panel, Discussion, Workshop, and Presentation Proposals
Deadline: November 25, 2019 

IMPORTANT NOTE: To begin, click on "login" above. You will need to create a username and password for this proposal system (look for the text "New User? Click Here" located just under the email box). This system is not linked to the InBIA database, so your InBIA login credentials will not work. Also, though this is the same platform as last year, if you submitted a proposal last year, you will still have to create credentials as a new user the first time you log in this year. Once you have created login credentials, click on the word "Submissions" that will then appear in the dark blue bar. If you save your submission, you can use your login credentials to come back to edit your proposal, or to submit additional proposals. 

Thank you for your interest in speaking to an audience of peers during one of the 75-minute concurrent sessions at InBIA's 34th International Conference on Business Incubation (ICBI34). A diverse committee of industry leaders will be reviewing all the proposals we receive and building the program with an effort to be 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


To ensure your proposal is complete and is considered for acceptance, please be sure to read through these instructions before you click on the "login" link above to start the submission process. 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 attends 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. EDT on Monday, November 25. 


Session Tracks

The conference features more than 30 sessions that fall into five topical tracks. In all tracks, we are seeking proposals that identify specific topics and describe how the speakers/panelists/discussion facilitators involved would address those topics and provide valuable resources, tools, and lessons for attendees. As stated above, we are looking for sessions with diverse and international perspectives. 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 idea/expertise. You will have to select one of these tracks as part of the proposal process. InBIA reserves the right to change the track if we decide another is more appropriate for the topic.


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. Other potential topics include (but are not limited to):

  • Securing federal resources
  • Innovative revenue models
  • Tracking and reporting metrics
  • 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 
  • Differentiating from competition in the entrepreneurial support space


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

Industry Trends and Innovations

Entrepreneurial support professionals from all over the globe gather at 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 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
  • Telling your center's story effectively 
  • 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 the key to 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):

  • Effective super hub models
  • Innovation districts
  • Creating partnerships
  • Entrepreneurial ecosystem mapping
  • Strategies for engaging community stakeholders
  • Policies that drive new business creation
  • Opportunity zones
  • Activating startup culture
  • 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 specific to entrepreneurial ecosystems 
  • 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
  • Maker spaces (particularly for robotics and medical device programs

Session Format

Our goal is to provide balanced information that is applicable to a broad range of programs. To that end, most sessions will include multiple presenters or panelists to provide a rounded perspective. There will also be space for discussion sessions, if you would like to volunteer to facilitate a topic rather than present on it. Be sure to choose the format that best fits your content and personal style. In the proposal form, you will select one of the following format options:

  • Panel (three panelists with a facilitator)
    Panel-style sessions should have a strong moderator and no more than three panelists, preferably from three different programs. Each panelist can give a brief presentation about his or her area of expertise, but the majority of the time should be spent addressing both predetermined questions from the moderator and spontaneous questions from the audience.

  • Presentation Series (two to three presenters)
    In presentation-style sessions, each speaker should prepare a 15- to 20-minute presentation (15 if three presenters, 20 if two) to deliver one after the other. Each presentation should limit the background information to only what is necessary and include relevant take-aways, useful resources, and proven tools. The last 30 minutes of the session should be spent answering audience questions and facilitating a robust discussion on the session topic.

  • Discussion (one or two facilitators)
    In discussion-style sessions, the facilitator sets the stage for the topic with brief remarks and then encourages attendees to share their own thoughts, experiences, resources, and ideas. The facilitator should come with prepared questions in case the conversation stalls.

  • Workshop (one or two speakers/facilitators)
    Workshop-style sessions should combine several different approaches, including presentation, group activities and discussion. All content should be developed to give attendees space to assess their own programs and brainstorm practical solutions for challenges or opportunities they are encountering.

Audience Profile

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 to 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 different 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 and helpful handouts. 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.

  • Speaker Remuneration
    Each year, we have more than 75 people speak during the concurrent session portion of the conference, so we are unable to offer remuneration beyond a modest speaker discount on the registration fees. All session presenters must register for the conference if they plan to participate in conference activities other than their specific sessions. They must also cover their own travel and accommodation expenses.

  • 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 and she will connect you with the appropriate person.

  • Materials Requirements and Deadline
    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 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 during the first week of December. All session-related PowerPoint and handout files are due by March 6, 2020. You will receive more details and instructions if your proposal is selected.

  • Speaker Availability
    The conference sessions will occur March 30-31 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., on-site in Boston, MA. If your proposal is accepted, it will be assigned to a slot within that timeframe, so please only apply if you are available to present in Boston on either day. We will provide exact dates and times for sessions as soon as possible after the selection process.

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 your audience

  • Clearly identify the intended audience, including background knowledge required to help attendees know whether or not it is appropriate for them.

  • When writing the 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.

  • Do not include speaker names or organizations in the session description as these are listed separately in the application process.

  • Be sure to spell out the first mention of any acronyms you choose to include.