6 Steps for Polishing Your Proposal for ATLIS 2018

Lots of people have trouble turning their grand ideas or best practices into a presentation, even if they know their content backwards, forwards, and sideways. They freeze up despite the huge need the audience may have for what the proposal writer hopes to share. You may feel daunted by the writing, or you may not feel that you have put all the pieces of your idea together yet. This post can help you get started with the proposal writing process for ATLIS 2018. Remember, the proposals are due on September 30! -- Susan Davis, Professional Development, ATLIS

You can find a video of the webinar I made on proposal writing here. See a preview of what's on the submission form here.

You may be wondering if you can do this. Even if you are an old pro at proposal writing, you may feel that you don't have time to really think about writing a proposal right now. Yet, let me reassure you that if you can identify a clear focus, connect with your audience in an authentic way, provide context for their understanding, and state what needs to be done, you can succeed with your proposal for the ATLIS 2018 Annual Conference (April 15-18, 2018, in Crystal City, Virginia).

1.Tips to begin:

  • Read the instructions for the proposals all the way through. Make a mental note of the different kinds of presentations (sessions, panel discussions, deep dives, bootcamps). The deep dive is an ATLIS signature, so don't overlook it. Now is a good time to consider how you will make your presentation interactive as well.
  • Gather together any resources or information you will need (such as co-presenters’ information) -- to save time and frustration when you are up against a deadline. Sponsors: Connect with an independent school partner.
  • Pay attention to the conference theme: “Lead with Why.” Think about it.
  • If you are stuck, write something, anything, down on the page.

2. Know your audience:

  • Who will attend your session? Technology Directors, CTOs, IT directors, EDTech designers and leaders, some librarians and makerspace educators, possibly a smattering of administrators or even some classroom teachers.
  • Who will read your proposal, both before and after it is reviewed? 

3. Write your presentation summary (500 characters):

  • Identify the idea you want to share or problem you will solve.
  • What do you want people to think about or do about the problem?
  • How will .you explain the problem and demonstrate your solution?
  • What gives you authority on this topic? Why are you passionate about it? What is the story you have to tell?

4. Write a succinct, precise title (only 60 characters):

  • Be original;
  • Be accurate and use concrete language;
  • Refer specifically to your idea or problem;
  • Consider using an active verb.

5. Choose the right format for what you want to do, not the other way around.

  • Sessions or Panel Discussions (60 mins.)
  • Deep Dives (1 3/4 hours)
  • BootCamps (3 hours)

6. Attend to other details from the proposal form:

  • Choose a strand? Who is most likely to benefit from your presentation? Are those people mostly involved with teaching and learning, networking and systems, leadership and career development, strategy and trends, or tools and devices?
  • Select two session topics? Which two topics come closest to describing your big idea? Choose from these: audio visual, change management, classroom technologies, coding, digital and media literacy, diversity and equity, help desk, information systems and databases, leadership, makerspaces, managing the technology department, network management, networking hardware, professional development, security and data privacy, teaching and learning devices, technology evaluation and auditing, user device management, user support. Don't be shy about selecting "other" -- go out on a limb and come up with something not mentioned here, as long as it brings value to the ATLIS conference.
  • Consider how you will make your session interactive? This is really important -- something our attendees tells they really want, and we agree. Choose from these examples: audience response or polling, a case study, a hands-on activity, a large group discussion, small group discussions, maker activities, role playing. Or other? (Again, we welcome your original ideas in 200 characters or fewer.)

6. Final Steps

Have someone else read your proposal draft and offer comments, large and small.
Count your characters. (For example, use the  CC Chrome Extension.)
Proofread and proofread at least one more time!

We look forward to seeing what you have to share!

Resources: The content of this blog post draws heavily on the following sources, especially those by Tamsen Webster, which I’m sure you will find enormously helpful when you read or view them in full. It is also based on my many years as a teacher of writing and coach for TEDxYouthDay and other student talks.

Russ Unger, “Conference Proposals that Don’t Suck,” A List Apart, 16 December 2014.

Tamsen Webster, “From Keynote to Keyboard: What TED Can Teach Us about Content Creation,” #iSquared 2015 Keynote, Vimeo, posted by Sovrn Holdings, Inc.,  24 September 2015.

Tamsen Webster, “How to Write a Conference Speaking or Session Proposal that Gets Chosen Every TimeOratium, The Communications Skills Blog, 19 April 2016.

Tamsen Webster, “Lessons from TED: How to Find the ‘Big Idea’ for Your Next Keynote,Oratium, The Communications Skills Blog, 21 October 2015.

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