In this blog, Simon Cramp, who spoke at the recent Learning Disability Today London conference and also chaired a session, talks about some of the preparation involved in doing this.

For 14 years now I have spoken at or chaired a session (or both) at Learning Disability Today London, and it certainly isn’t a case of just turning up on the day: there is a lot of planning that goes into it. 

This year, I chaired a session on accessing housing and transport, as well as taking part in a breakout session discussing my life and experiences with services. I also stepped in to take part in the opening keynote session after one of the other speakers dropped out unexpectedly a couple of days before the event.

First, as speaker you are like given a brief by the organisers of what topics they want you to focus on in your speech – and how long you can talk for. Usually in a session there are least three speakers and a chair. This could be a mixture of people with a learning disability, a professional, a service provider, a CEO or an academic or all three, so there is a good range of views from across the sector. 

At least a month to six weeks before the event you have to ask who saying what: I like to see what others are talking about so I can make sure I’m not repeating what others say. 

Of course, sometimes people change their talks or you get asked to step in at the last minute – as I did at this year’s event. This can be stressful, but if you know your topic thoroughly you should be fine and able to talk about another aspect of your knowledge.

I have a winning formula of 3 simple rules to remember:

1. Talk to your event organiser and the chair of your session and get them to give you a good brief 

2. Plan for everything that could and couldn’t work and make sure you are prepared for all eventualities

3. Ensure that your talk covers something for everyone – from people with learning disabilities to professionals. 

If you stick to those simple rules, you will go far. But for more tips, you will have to read my forthcoming book Don’t Cramp My Style

About the author

Simon Cramp is a fellow of the Centre for Welfare Reform and a lifetime member of Learning Disability England.