The conference play can be broken down into three steps: scan the field before selecting a topic and format, submit a winning proposal, and organize for success.
See tips on each step below:
Step 1. Scan the field before you select a topic and format.
- Consider the audience and conference purpose. Sessions have the best likelihood of being accepted when they align with the overall conference theme and are on-trend with timely topics and issues in higher education. Look at the conference theme and think about how you could angle your presentation to fit.
- Consider the session types and pick a topic. Think about what other institutions would be interested to hear about, whether it’s sharing research results or doing a “show-and-tell” of something you’ve created. What’s unique about your experience and the things you’ve learned, that you think others want to know about? Who would be the best presenter(s) to address this topic?
- Consider the right format. Common formats include the following:
- Panels. Panels provide a nice opportunity to share multiple perspectives on a single topic or project. Consider adding a student to your panel!
- Single presenter. Single (or even dual) presenters work well if there is just one primary project lead interested in presenting, or if there isn’t funding to send multiple people.
- Sharing research. Consider incorporating multiple voices to show the effects of research. Faculty, administrators, and students provide a well-rounded perspective.
- Workshop. Great for sharing tools you’ve developed and helping others dig deeper into an issue.
Step 2. Submit a winning proposal.
- Plan ahead! The deadline for submitting conference session proposals is always well ahead of the conference itself, and may be 4-8 months ahead of the actual conference (sometimes even more for large national conferences). Check well in advance to make sure you know the proposal deadline.
- Follow the rules. Your proposal should fit the Call-for-Proposals (CFP) guidelines for a specific conference.
- Pick a catchy title. The title is the first thing attendees see, and sessions with catchy titles are more likely to have attendees. It can be helpful to brainstorm a couple of different titles and then have others provide feedback before selecting one.
- Get feedback before submitting. Often it’s helpful to cut and paste the form into a Google Doc so it’s easy to collaborate with customers on the proposal.
- Keep it concise, and make it meaty. If there are particularly compelling data or learning results, definitely mention them in the abstract. Use action verbs.
Step 3. Organize for Success.
- Outline your session, and include timestamps! Nothing is worse than going over your presentation time and/or not allowing time for questions and discussion. Make sure to outline and allocate time for each section of your session. See the sample outline below for a basic 50-minute session:
7 Min. Intro – Elizabeth
Welcome & Introductions
Outline the Order of Events
Context – OER is hot with 70+ legislative bills last year, but VCCS has been far ahead of the game. (brief history Lumen/VCCS).
Waymaker 3-slide, 20,000 foot overview
20 Min. Show Waymaker Course & Discuss Results – Neil
Background (from business to the classroom, affordable tool that addresses engagement and improves learning outcomes)
Course Experience (setup, customization)
Show Contents within Blackboard (day one access, single-sign on)
Student feedback (email response, faculty evaluations)
10 Min. 3 Evidence-based Practices & More Info – Elizabeth
Use the messaging tools. Set-up the automated messages; monitor and send the recommended messages
Stress the importance of self-checks and interactives. Encourage students to use activities that provide immediate feedback
Remind students to study between quiz attempts. Suggest students plan time between quiz attempts to study and improve
12 Q&A – Neil & Elizabeth
- Practice makes perfect. Plan to walk through your presentation at least two times. A dry run on the day or week before the conference will help secure timing and make any final adjustments to the session flow.
Other tips for a successful conference play:
- Think Broadly. Don’t just submit to OER-centric events. Look for ways to share at teaching-and-learning centered events to give your work more exposure within the broader HE community.)
- Revise, Remix, and Recycle! Repurpose your proposals for multiple events by altering the title and abstract. While it’s fine to use past proposals for different conferences, it’s probably not a good idea to resubmit the same proposal for the same conference in successive years.