It’s conference proposal time! Have you thought about how you may be able to turn your assessment results or best practices into a conference session? It is a great way to share what you have learned about assessment with others as well as a great professional development opportunity for you and your colleagues.
Why should you present at a conference?
- It will help you focus your time and energy on issues, questions or outcomes that will not only contribute to your presentation but also will help in your practice. Can’t think of a great topic? Think about the challenges and issues you are facing; chances are these are similar for your colleagues at other institutions making it a great presentation topic.
- Helpful presentations identify models of best practice and share the challenges and successes you’ve experienced, so don’t worry about being an “expert” on the topic you are presenting.
- Submitting a program helps you develop writing and presentation skills. You also develop your expertise as you research models of good practice.
- Presenting a program expands your network while providing recognition for you and your institution as well as meeting others with similar concerns. Additionally, your institution will be seen as a “place” that is addressing an area of concern.
- You become a part of the student affairs learning community. Sharing ideas is how all of us improve our practice and enhance our students’ experience; we all need to help keep the conversation going.
If you are interested in submitting a program proposal this year, start with a conference you normally attend. If you’re new to the conference proposal process, starting where you are most comfortable will help. Also, remember there is safety in numbers; if you’re unsure of presenting on your own, ask a colleague or mentor to present with you. If you’re interested in presenting about assessment, you could also invite your StudentVoice Assessment Consultant to present with you.
Wherever you would like to present, pay most attention to the submission date and guidelines. Two conferences with deadlines coming up are the NASPA and ACPA National Conferences. Both the ACPA (deadline Sept. 7) and NASPA (deadline Sept. 3) websites provide detailed information about their process, and how to submit a successful program.
To help in the proposal writing process, here are some quick tips provided by experienced program reviewers in the ACPA Commission on Assessment and Evaluation and head to their wiki for more details about each of these tips.
- Pick a good topic. A good proposal starts with a compelling topic.
- Connect your proposal to the theme, professional competencies or pressing issues designated by the conference planning team.
- Make sure that you provide clear, concise learning outcomes, and support them in your proposal.
- Review the proposal review criteria/rubric so you know how your proposal will be evaluated.
- Assume your reviewers know nothing about your topic.
- Pick a good title. A title should be informative and interesting to the lay audience.
- Develop an effective abstract. Can you get my interest and make me concerned if I miss the program?
- Write your abstract last rather than first, to ensure that it truly reflects the content of your presentation.
- Use specific examples and best practices in the proposal and subsequent presentation.
- Make sure to note the intended audience.
- Make sure to *specifically* indicate why your proposal is unique.
- Start with the outcomes for the session and build the session around those.
- Be clear about what participants will be able to do, know, or value after the session. (And be realistic given the time allotted for a session.)
- Include an outline so reviewers know what you are doing.
- Be clear and concise.
- Proof read and make sure your proposal is free of typos and grammatical errors.
- Take word counts seriously; organizers will make you stick to them.
- Use headers/sections to help guide the reader so it is very clear that you are speaking to EVERY point outlined in the call for proposals.
Tips contributed by:
Gavin Henning, Dartmouth College
Scott Brown, Colgate College
Peter Swerdzewski, Higher Education Consultant
Kristen McKinney, University of California Los Angeles