What goes into a writing good conference proposal?
Have you had a conference proposal rejected? Do you have something cool you would like to share at a conference, but are intimidated by the process of submitting a conference proposal? Do you wait till a couple of hours before midnight on the deadline date and end up copying a pasting things from other reports, presentations, proposals?
In anticipation of the upcoming conference season, here are a few recommendations and suggestions* to consider from a seasoned conference proposal reviewer to help you improve your chances of getting your proposal accepted for presentation.
What goes into a writing good conference proposal?
- Connection: Write the proposal specifically connected to the conference topics and type of session in which your proposal fits best. Make it very clear how your proposal connects into the specific conference topic – tie it well to the description and requirements of the topic and articulate specifically how it responds to, or is relevant to the topic and format. I like to see citations, links, videos, illustrations, etc., that enhance and supplement proposals.
Reviewers are usually volunteers. You don’t want reviewers to have to work, or stretch too far to see the connection between your proposal and the conference theme, topics, format, and any specific criteria they define and require. Use their criteria and their specific language in the heads and sub-heads of your narrative to match their framework. Most conferences have specific rubrics and use them to rate and eliminate proposals. Make it easy for reviewers to check things off their rubric as they review your proposal.
- Effort: Don’t just submit a short abstract.
Give your proposal a good title. Use it to communicate what the session will be about and to entice interest in it. Not too long, not to short.
Often you will have to submit a short abstract for your presentation, and then will have the opportunity to provide a lengthier more detailed presentation proposal. If they give you 100 words for the short abstract and 1000 words for the full description – use them! Don’t just copy and paste the short abstract into the full description.
The short abstract is often used in the conference program in paper and online to promote the session, so it should capture attention and provide a good overview for potential participants including anything unique or special about the session, e.g., ‘Participants will have the unique opportunity to …. and walk away with their own copy of ….”
Put careful thought and effort into the full proposal narrative by thinking about the specifics of the conference topic and any specific criteria provided for the type of session Also, DO NOT just copy and paste from something else [Reviewers can inevitably tell when you do that – e.g., the syntax is wrong, text is cut off, or flotsam gets unintentionally copied, etc]. And, don’t submit the same proposal under every topic hoping that it will get accepted in at least one of them [Reviewers can see that you have done that in their conference proposal review systems.]
- Interactivity: Be specific about how the session will be engaging and relevant to attendees.
Think about who the likely attendees of your session will be and how you might actively engage them during in the session.
If there are specific guidelines on interaction provided, your proposal should specifically address how you meet them.
Ask the participants questions. Incorporate think/pair/share opportunities. Have participants introduce themselves to the person in front or behind them (someone they don’t know). Share a google doc to collect small group report outs, or to co-create collaborative responses. Use slido, or another polling app, to collect responses or questions from the participants during your presentation. Create and promote a specific #hashtag for your session, so your session tweets can be found and reviewed later.
- Resources: Give details about how your session can apply to, or be replicated by others.
Be specific. What will you share with attendees that might make it easy for them to apply, or replicate your model, approach, solution, process, etc.
Sharing materials, resources, templates, tips, guidelines, etc., add significant value to your presentation and proposal.
Provide links to as much as you have in your proposal, so that reviewers can have additional information when evaluating it. I like to provide a
If possible, openly license whatever you can, so that it can be shared freely, and adapted and adopted easily. I like to provide an easy to remember short bit.ly of a google folder that contains all the documents, resources, links, slides, handouts, etc. That way i don’t have to carry paper to the conference, run out of handouts, etc. I just give them the link at the start of the presentation. Proposals that include something like this in their proposal, or that say they will provide it to participants, are stronger proposals.
- Continued Engagement beyond the session: Be specific about how participants can continue to engage with you and with each other.
Devise a way to continue the conversation beyond the end of the session and beyond the end of the conference. Create a #hashtag, or a social media affinity group in FB, or LinkedIn, for example.
Use the session to collect feedback from the participants, to enlist collaboration, to test out ideas or tools, to solicit input or participation in something, to pilot something – results can be shared back with session attendees after the event, and follow-up presentations at next year’s conference can be planned to provide an update and/or report on results.
Be sure to incorporate how you will promote continued engagement in your proposal.
And of course don’t forget to spell and grammar check before you hit submit.
* These suggestions also apply to submissions for awards.