Top tips for a successful conference proposal

Top tips for a successful conference proposal

The Annual EAIE Conference offers a fantastic occasion for learning more about the broad field of international higher education, but also for peer-to-peer knowledge sharing. It is a place to start a dialogue with colleagues about the changes taking place in the field and how challenges can best be overcome. More than that, it can be an opportunity to showcase how things are done at your institution. But how do you go about becoming an EAIE conference speaker?

If you want to become a speaker, there are various options: you can be a speaker in a session, you can chair a session, you can give a workshop, or you can be a part of an Ignite© session. As Chair of the Conference Programme Committee (CPC) – the body that reviews proposals in collaboration with the EAIE Expert Communities – I have outlined some tips that you may want to consider in trying to submit a competitive session proposal.

Working together

At the conference, discuss potential topics of interest with your respective Expert Community. Seek their advice on topics that are currently ‘hot.’ As you attend sessions, try to get a feel for what is missing or would be needed in the Expert Community of your interest. Reach out to your colleagues at different universities and get their feedback, asking them whether they would consider being in a session, if they are good public speakers. Finding speakers in advance of submitting your proposal is important and you should try and make this decision prior to submitting your proposal.

Four simple tips

When writing your proposal, be sure to address the following four tips to help it stand out in the reviewing process:

1. Content of the proposal – make sure the content is described well, clearly, has a strong take-away element, and clear outcomes. It is, after all, the soul of your proposal. If accepted, this is why people will want to come to your session.

2. Relevance to the field – because there are so many proposals, the relevance should be obvious and not inferred or a remote possibility. It is possible that there are multiple areas that you are addressing. While that is quite okay, do make sure that it is clear in your proposal that you are addressing more than one area. You want people in your field to come to your session if it is relevant to what they are doing, if it will help them do their job better, or if it will inform them of the changes for improvement of their specific area.

3. Innovativeness – something that is new or has not been sufficiently discussed would typically qualify as a competitive proposal. It could also be an innovative approach to something on campus, for instance. Even if the format you are choosing is different only in the way the topic is to be handled, this could be considered innovative. Most importantly, make sure it is not an old topic that is being handled for the first time by a university or organisation. Extensively covered topics do not catch the attention of the experts who are reviewing it and may cause you to lose points.

4. Diversity of speakers – Make sure your speakers are from different countries. If from the same country, they should be from different universities. Chairs and speakers from the same university will cause you to lose valuable points. The CPC feels it is important to see how a topic is addressed by higher education institutions from different countries and regions. This helps to add depth and diversity to your session. The CPC is also always looking for new and exciting presenters to join the ranks of EAIE conference speakers and you can certainly score points by bringing in someone new.

Finally, since so many proposals get submitted, even if you follow all of the above tips, it is fully possible that you end up receiving disappointing news. If this happens, do not worry! There is always the next year. And like the lottery, the more you play, the better your chances of getting a proposal accepted.

Duleep Deosthale is Former Chair of the EAIE Conference Programme Committee and Vice President of Admission Table, USA