Writing the Proposal - From Attending to Presenting at Conferences - Conference Proposals and Article Types

Writing for Publication: Transitions and Tools that Support Scholars’ Success - Mary Renck Jalongo, Olivia N. Saracho 2016

Writing the Proposal
From Attending to Presenting at Conferences
Conference Proposals and Article Types

The great majority of major professional conferences require a proposal of some type. These proposals can range from an outline to a complete, 20-page paper, so you will need to determine what type of presentation would best suit your skill level and match the material you intend to share. After you have made those decisions, you will be ready to write your conference proposal.

Table 4.2 highlights some categories of conference sessions and what is typically required. Different types of sessions make different writing demands on the proposers, so choose a format that is matched to your interests and level of skill.

Table 4.2

Writing demands of different types of conference presentations

Type of session


Writing Tasks for presenters


Keynote address

A speech delivered by an outstanding speaker to the general group of participants in a conference; usually these are 1—1.5 h in length. Keynoters often are selected on the basis of instant name recognition, reputation for engaging large audiences and ability to set the tone for the event

Although a written manuscript is not required, most keynoters do prepare a script for the speech. Many professional speakers also create a “mind map” that is a diagram of the speech so that they do not need to read or memorize the speech

For the basics: http://www.ehow.com/how_4966252_write-keynote-speech.html

Tips on keynote speeches at: http://www.speaking-tips.com/Articles/Making-Your-First-Keynote-Speech.aspx

Garmston (2005)

Paper presentations

A written paper—either brief or full length—that is presented by the author. These may be clustered together thematically with each author allocated a short time (e.g., 10—20 min) to present key points. A moderator may coordinate the session and a respondent may recap/highlight future trends

Papers must be submitted in advance so that others have time to read them prior to the meeting. Some conferences will publish abbreviated papers, selected papers, or all of the papers delivered at the conference as a book of conference proceedings. Authors need to follow the specific format for publishing proceedings as well as the style guide exactly (e.g., APA, MLA). Typically, papers are not copyrighted, so authors are free to pursue publication in a peer-reviewed outlet

For a template to write microarticle. see: http://fr.slideshare.net/lichtfouse/micro-arten

Panel discussion

A small group of professionals design a collaborative presentation that would be of interest to the conference participants. They may discuss different aspects of a timely topic, debate different perspectives on the subject, or explore an emerging or persistent issue. Each presenter has a clear role and time limitation

Each conference’s call for papers specifies what is required in the proposal and for particular session formats. Although it may not be required, a minute-by-minute schedule and group rehearsal are essential to the smooth functioning of the session

Galer-Unti and Tappe (2009)

For the basics, see http://www.wikihow.com/Conduct-a-Panel-Discussion; for more subtle considerations, see: http://www.scottkirsner.com/panels.htm


A session with a professional development emphasis that builds new skills through active participation and enhances the effectiveness of practitioners. Most commonly, the workshop is 60 min; however, there may be other, longer formats ranging from 3 h to a full day (e.g., a preconference institute). Usually, there are many of these sessions running concurrently at a large conference

Conference selection committees have guidelines for the proposal. Often, participant-centered outcomes and an overview of the interactive activities are required. Presenters of workshops usually prepare a packet of materials to distribute to participants that includes objectives, a schedule, activities, examples, online resources and references

Jalongo (2013a, b), Happell (2009), and Rogochewski (2001)


A collection of individual presenters is seated, literally, at round tables. The goal is to facilitate informal interaction with others interested in their projects or research. Presenters of roundtables are required to be stationed at their post throughout the time period specified in the conference program

Usually, presenters are required to submit a one-page overview of their project or research suitable for distribution to interested participants. The evaluative questions for each type of research in the chapters of this book can be used to prepare this manuscript

American Evaluation Association http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=171

Poster presentations

Literally, these are posters that highlight the key components of a study. Usually, they are displayed in a large conference hall. Presenters remain positioned next to their posters throughout the designated time to respond to questions and discuss their with conference participants who stop by

Typically, presenters use a tri-fold display and are required to produce a professional-quality visual depiction of their research in a poster format that conforms to the specific guidelines of the sponsoring organization. Some conferences also require a one-page handout so that interested participants can take away a copy of the findings

Miller and Bloustein (2007)

University of Wisconsin http://www.uwex.edu/ces/tobaccoeval/pdf/postertips.pdf

Virtual presentation or Webinar

A presentation that uses technology so that the presenter can participate from a remote site. It may be prerecorded or broadcast in real time. The major advantage is that the time and expense of travel is overcome. This may be particularly important for an international conference

Presenters rely on many of the same tools that they would use in person, such as PowerPoint slides, video clips, and so forth. At the conference site, registered participants can view the presentation on screen or register for the session and view it on screen at a different time

Tips on structuring a Webinar at http://www.speakingaboutpresenting.com/content/webinar-questions-answered/

See also: http://elearningindustry.com/14-tips-to-create-and-present-a-highly-effective-webinar

For examples of book authors’ PowerPoints, visit www.edweb.net

Workshops are a way to contribute to the professional development of practitioners. Before you can write an excellent conference proposal for a workshop, you need to plan the entire session and all of the activities in it. It will be important to apportion your time—usually not more than 1 h—in the most effective way. Carter and Carter (2000) offer the following sample structure for a 1-h workshop.

· Welcome, introductions, overview (5—10 min.)

· Opening activity to reflect on topic (10 min.)

· Presentation of core ideas (10—15 min.)

· Practice applying ideas (15—20 min.)

· Next steps and follow-up (5—10 min).

· Summary and evaluation (5 min.)

· If co-presenting, make a schedule that indicates who is responsible for each part.

Activity 4.4: Planning a Workshop

Using the time allocations outlined above, make a plan for a 1-h workshop session. It should include: a minute-by-minute schedule of activities, a way to immediately capture audience interest, a list of outcomes for participants (each should begin with an action verb), various activities (e.g., individual, small group, total group), and a description of the teaching materials and handouts for the participants. For more detailed information, see Jalongo (2013a, b).

Online Tool

The Writing Studio of Colorado State University explains the basics of preparing poster sessions. http://writing.colostate.edu/guides/pdfs/guide78.pdf

Guidelines for writing proposals for other types of sessions are in Table 4.3.

Table 4.3

Guidelines for writing conference proposals

If the session is primarily for practitioners, it should focus on what they will gain from participating. If the abstract is for research, it should describe original findings that are worth sharing and were not presented previously

If you are not the sole presenter, you must contact everyone and get their permission before submitting a conference proposal. Check and double check how others want their names, titles, and institutional affiliations to appear in the program if the session is accepted. Errors with any of this are very troublesome

When composing the proposal, consider such things as: the organization’s mission, the conference theme (if applicable), the goals of the prospective participants, and the expectations of the reviewers. If there is a scoring rubric or a set of criteria for evaluation, study it carefully while developing the proposal and refer to it again after the proposal is written

Check the submission deadlines, format requirements, and word count restrictions before you begin writing. Brief descriptions and abstracts that do not conform to the group’s requirements are routinely rejected

Make the purpose of the session clear and generate interest in the session. If submitting a very brief research abstract, consider this “formula”: allocate about one sentence to background and use the remaining words to establish the purpose of the study, its methods, results, and conclusions/contributions/implications. For longer research abstracts, apportion the sections accordingly

Do not “overpromise”—for instance, it is implausible that participants will master technology in an hour or that the results of a single study will dramatically change the field

Ask a respected, experienced colleague to read and critique the proposal well before the deadline and revise accordingly. If you are inexperienced with proposal writing, seek the opinion of two or three colleagues

Follow the organization’s directions very carefully; failure to do this undermines credibility of the presenter. To avoid technology glitches, plan to submit your proposal electronically at least 24 h prior to the deadline. These sites can become overloaded shortly before the submission deadline and may malfunction

Do not make the mistake of thinking that you can quickly compose your proposal in the online boxes for proposal submissions. It is better to create a Word document apart from the conference site to avoid losing your work. After it is thoroughly refined, cut and paste it into the form

Proofread carefully—not only for errors and content but also for flow (Andrade, 2011; Daniels, 2013; Jalongo & Machado, 2015; Rowley, 2012; Russell & Ponferrada, 2012; Tappe & Galer-Unti, 2009)

Online Tool

For advice on making various types of conference presentations, refer to Nancy Karlin’s page at http://www.kon.org/karlin.html