Preparing an Effective Proposal for OLC Accelerate 2020


Tawnya Means and Sherri Restauri, Presenter Services Co-Chairs, OLC Accelerate 2020

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You have a great idea or rock star practice that you would like to share with others, and as you review this year’s conference calls for proposals, you find a conference theme and track that seem to be a good match. As you prepare your proposal submission, keep in mind that the way that you write your proposal will make a big difference in whether or not you will get the opportunity to share it out with colleagues. So what are the best tips for helping your conference proposal to hit all of the criteria for review? We’re here to share a few ideas.

Any effective proposal will:

  • align with the goals for the conference, 
  • tell an interesting, concise, and relatable story, 
  • include plenty of details to keep the attention of the reviewer(s), 
  • and clearly and explicitly meet the requirements of the submission call. 

Below we have included a few strategies for achieving your goal of conference proposal acceptance.

First, review the submission criteria

Carefully review the Call for Proposals (CFPs). It will tell you exactly what our reviewers are looking for and can give you a framework to prepare your submission, such as this year’s conference theme, individual track details, and even our Presenter FAQs for the conference to give you ideas on what to expect if this is your first time with us. Make sure that you present your idea to fit with all these criteria to maximize your potential for acceptance.

You should write an abstract and outcomes that speak to the themes and required components of the conference. Try to consider what will make your proposal stand out from others but also connect with the right audience. Definitely talk to your peers and test the idea with others to see if your idea is as interesting to others as it is to you. Their feedback may help you reframe or rethink your idea.

Consider the use of keywords and integrate them judiciously into your proposal. You don’t want to over-tag your proposal, but you also want to be sure that you select appropriate terminology that best suits your track to attract the attention of your reviewers. You’ll find helpful terminology listed on our Track Descriptions page amongst the 7 tracks. 

Include a concrete and appropriate plan for engaging the audience. Strive for interactivity with your audience through engagement, such as through poll questions or structured activities. Keep in mind the opportunities and limitations of each session type as well as time constraints. Please be realistic. If you are proposing a 45-minute concurrent session, you need to evaluate how much of the time should be spent in presenting and how much should be on engaging with the audience in pairs, groups, or activities.

Make sure to conduct a final check of your proposal against the Submission Checklist and look for typos, missing items, word counts, and other final details. The reviewers will likely not know you, and this proposal may be their first introduction to you and your ideas, so make a good first impression! Finally, pay close attention to the Selection Criteria from our CFP page; presentations are selected according to ratings in five major categories:

  1. Relevance to the conference
  2. Clarity
  3. Audience Appeal
  4. Interactivity (Active Engagement)
  5. Alignment to Session Specific Criteria

Start your proposal with the takeaways

Think of your session in terms of how the conference attendees will see it… a book of many short abstracts, all competing for their time, with multiple attractive choices. Why should an attendee select your session over another session? To help the audience know why they should attend your session. your title and abstract should accurately reflect what will happen in your session and explain what they will learn. Additionally, your outcomes should be realistic and match audience expectations.

Draft an outline

A high-level outline will help you write a strong proposal that follows submission guidelines and covers all elements of the idea in a concise and clear manner. An outline will allow you to identify opportunities for audience participation and engagement. The goal is to write a clear, detailed, and thoughtful abstract, aligned with realistic outcomes that will tell a story of your idea in a way that others can relate to.

Write for your audience

Your title and abstract should accurately represent not only what you will cover in your presentation, but also should address who this topic is best suited for. During the submission process, you’ll be asked to select from types of institutions, audience levels, target audience groups, as well as special session designations. Make sure to review these criteria in our Submission Checklist BEFORE you submit, so that you may write your proposal towards your audience.

Most importantly, remember the importance of being concise, clear, and focused. You can highlight how your session matches the major themes to ensure the attendees clearly understand your focus. 

In summary

Make sure that you will be able to deliver on your proposal in the actual presentation, within the time limits, with interactivity, and while staying on topic. The title should pop and describe your session clearly. It may be the only information visible to attendees. Plan to engage your audience and give them inspiration, research findings, and new ideas that make them glad to have attended your session.

New for 2020! Onsite and Virtual Presentation Options
OLC Invites you to submit for OLC Accelerate 2020 – 20/20 Vision: Envisioning the Future of Online, Blended and Digital Learning. The Submission deadline has been extended! Submit your presentation for consideration before 11:59pm ET on Monday, June 1, 2020.

OLC Accelerate 2020 offers a curation of conference tracks and exhibits and promises a cross-section of the prime topics in our field, offering exciting programming formats, myriad formal and informal networking opportunities, and a wealth of resources aligned to supporting quality online, digital and blended learning.

We chose the name OLC Accelerate for this annual conference because it is devoted to driving quality online learning, advancing best practice guidance and accelerating innovation in learning for academic leaders, educators, administrators, digital learning professionals and organizations around the world.

Tawnya Means, Assistant Dean and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business, University of Nebraska-Lincoln
Presenter Services Co-Chair, OLC Accelerate 2020

Dr. Tawnya Means is an Assistant Dean and the Director of the Teaching and Learning Center for the College of Business at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. In this role, she provides vision, leadership, and management for a Center focused on serving the needs of students and faculty as it relates to teaching and learning. Her team develops and implements a comprehensive and effective learning support structure for students and creates faculty development programs and resources to assist faculty with instructional innovation and adoption of pedagogical best practices. In addition, her team supports the college Assurance of Learning process for maintenance of accreditation through AACSB. She is an assistant professor of practice in the Management department, teaching graduate and undergraduate capstone courses in strategy, and an innovative blended course on leadership, communication, and teams in the virtual world.

Sherri Restauri

Sherri Restauri, Director, Coastal Office of Online Learning, Coastal Carolina University
Presenter Services Co-Chair, OLC Accelerate 2020

Dr. Sherri Restauri has served in academia for over 20 years. During this time, she has served as an instructional designer, faculty member in psychology and other areas, and also as an administrator over Online Learning at several universities. Dr. Restauri joined the Coastal Office of Online Learning as their Director in July 2016. Her research focus is on improving the teaching and learning process across all teaching modalities through the use of inclusive technology, with specific interest in pedagogical practices to increase student engagement, and best practices in online pedagogy.


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