Crafting a Conference Proposal
By Leo Balseiro
Conference Presentations as a Scholarly Contribution
Have you ever attended a conference and considered applying for a presentation on your own? One of the ideas I conceived as a direct result of attending conferences answered this question and generated a lot of intrigue toward the specific definition of conference presentations: in other words, what do conference presentations mean for the advancement of our profession? Seemingly, there are a handful of professional events throughout the year, with dozens of presenters at each and hundreds more in applications. To consider the value and, perhaps, why you should consider presenting at a conference is critical to your direction as a leader in the counseling profession.
What is a conference contribution?
A conference contribution is a scholarly activity, where professionals apply their prose and content to the masses to share and discuss a diverse array of ideas. The idea behind conference contributions, whether it be papers, presentations, or panel discussions alike, is that they are intentional in advancing the dialogue of discussion and stimulating to the broader significance of the profession. With this in mind, seeking to contribute in the form of a conference presentation for the sole means of “just doing it” warrants further consideration behind the intentionality of the contribution (Ali, 2009).
All persons applying for a conference presentation should adhere to the evaluation rubrics used by evaluators. Hundreds of presentation applications are evaluated similarly to an academic assignment, and the rubric is specific to the information included, the relevance of the information, and how the delivery of the information. For instance, evaluators use the rubric provided by the American Counseling Association to assess numerous areas. Such areas include the content relevance with the needs of the counseling profession, organization of ideas in the literature review, clearly stated learning objectives, qualification and expertise of the presenter, and a well-developed presentation woven with a clear pedagogical approach (ACA, 2020). Thus, to consider one’s position and goal-directedness in these areas will significantly increase the chances of becoming accepted!
Finally, ensuring that your topic coincides with the themes of the conference you are applying for is also optimal for your chances of getting accepted. For example, scholarly contributions toward the advancement of multicultural counseling competencies may suit either conferences and seminars structured around multicultural competencies or for a general counseling conference. Or, for scholarly contributions toward the advancement of multicultural sensitivity within pedagogical applications, potential presenters may explore counselor education and supervision conferences.
No matter the person, at some point throughout their academic career, everyone has developed a hand for creating presentations. Presentations alike have various designs, with unique backgrounds, bullet points, pictures, videos, and the like that which presenters implement to stand out against the masses. However, as you prepare a presentation recalling the intention behind your scholarly activity is key. Thus there are several evidence-based considerations to designing your presentation in a manner that optimizes the conference experience.
For example, presenters strongly recommend the rule of six in devising your presentation outline. The rule of six is as follows: your presentation must have an image every six slides, each slide must have at most six bullet points and have a minimum of six words per bullet. Potential presenters should pay additional consideration to diversification and instructional methods, curtailing them to address each learning objective. Finally, another consideration lends itself to the legibility of each slide. For instance, you should test the readability of your slides through the use of a projector or a large monitor. Such practices are not only for your audience but also to guide you in expecting the unexpected (Garner & Alley, 2016; Tapia-Fuselier, 2019). Also, consider the format of what you would like to contribute as well. Presenters who are not interested in presenting at a conference for the first time and feel like the task of presenting for the duration of a 60 to 90-minute presentation is daunting, might consider a poster presentation to get their feet wet. Also, presenters who do not want to venture into this endeavor for their first time alone are welcome to collaborate with other professionals for one presentation!
These are general ideas to consider for those who are interested in presenting at a conference. Hopefully, these ideas will jump-start you in the direction of fruitful scholarly contributions down the road! When in doubt, always seek the consultation of your academic mentor for more advanced critiques and ideas, and also check out ACA’s and ACES’ available resources. Finally, of course, please feel free to add on to these ideas through your academic work. Best of luck to you in your academic endeavors!
Ali, K. (2009). Writing a successful annual meeting paper proposal. Retrieved from: https://www.aarweb.org/annual-meeting/writing-successful-annual-meeting-paper-proposal
American Counseling Association (2020). Call for Proposals: ACA 2020 Conference & Expo. Retrieved from https://www.counseling.org/conference/about/call-for-proposals.
Garner, J. K., & Alley, M. P. (2016). Slide structure can influence the presenter’s understanding of the presentation’s content. International Journal of Engineering Education, 32(1a), 39-54.
Tapia-Fuselier, J. (2019). Want to present at a conference? Here are some tips and tricks! Retrieved from: https://www.counseling.org/news/aca-blogs/aca-member-blogs/aca-member-blogs/2019/05/28/want-to-present-at-a-conference-here-are-some-tips-and-tricks