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Writing a Winning Conference Proposal

Before You Push Submit! 

As you consider submitting a proposal for the 2029 NCSS Annual Conference, think about what a winning entry looks like from the point of the proposal reviewer and conference attendee so that you can turn your great idea into a successful proposal.

Audience Level: Who is your audience?

Proposals are needed at all levels, all content areas, pedagogy and technology. Who do you want to attract to your presentation? Make sure that you select the appropriate audience on the proposal form. Presentations are listed by audience level in the Conference Program so that attendees can easily find ones that match their interest.

Discipline: Have you anchored your presentation in a content area?

Proposals are needed that explore the effective use of content, teaching strategies, technology, and pedagogy in all social studies content areas. Proposals focused on general methodology should be tied to a discipline to show how it works in a classroom setting. Presentations are also listed by discipline in the Conference Program so that attendees can find ones related to their content specialties.

The Title: An attention grabber!

You have 10 words to catch people’s attention; use them well! Create a catchy title that reflects the proposal and draws attention to what you have to say. Make the conferee want to read on.

What conference attendees look for:

"The Stressed-Out Teachers Guide to Classroom Projects". That word stress just jumps off the page and already you are intrigued, while "Using Projects in the Secondary Classroom" is boring !

What the reviewer looks for:

  • Is the title interesting?
  • Does it match the session described in the proposal?
  • Spelling
  • Capitalization appropriate to a title
  • Grammar and punctuation

The Abstract: The Hook!

This is your opportunity to hook people and make them want to see what you have to offer. You have one shot – 30 words – so make it count!

What conference attendees look for:

Target your main point and succinctly state what the attendees will get from your session, using an active verb to begin (e.g., learn, explore, discover, discuss). Using primary sources? The latest pedagogy? Inclusion techniques? Surefire teaching strategies? Ready to go lessons - always a big draw for classroom teachers!

What the reviewer looks for:

  • Is the abstract clear and concise?
  • Does it adhere to the 30-word limit?
  • Spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation (You would be amazed how often this is overlooked.)

Objectives, Skills and Strategies: What are your intentions for this proposal?

There are no word limits here, so write as much as you need to explain what you plan to do. Only the reviewers will see this part of your proposal. The reviewers are classroom teachers, social studies administrators, and college professors.

What the reviewer looks for:

  • Are the objectives specific and realistic?
  • Do the descriptions of skills and strategies demonstrate what will happen at this session?
  • Do the quality of your ideas and the care you’ve taken to communicate them inspire confidence?
  • Does the proposal make you want to attend this presentation?
  • Spelling, capitalization, grammar and punctuation

(Notice how using bullet points makes it very clear exactly what is needed here. Your proposal will be much easier to read if you use this format.)

Before Submitting: Write, Review, and Revise

We are guessing you have seen a running theme here! Again, ask yourself the following questions before you submit your proposal for the 2020 NCSS Annual Conference:

  1. Have you run your proposal and abstract through Spell Check and Grammar Check? One way to make sure everything is correct is to draft the proposal in a word document and then cut and paste it into the proposal form. Have you done a word count to make sure the title and the abstract are the correct length? Every word counts, no matter how small. Have you read the proposal out loud? Sometimes hearing it helps pick up incorrect usage. Has someone else read the proposal to be sure it makes sense? A second set of eyes is always helpful.
  2. Have you accessed resources to word smith your proposal? Examples:

Creating a conference program is a tremendous job. Each year, 850-1200 proposals are submitted, more than twice than can be accommodated on the program. Even the best of them often have spelling, syntax or grammar errors that work against their acceptance. Please – please – before you hit the submit button, check things one more time. It may make the difference between the email that says “Congratulations” and one that does not.


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