How to Write a Successful Proposal for the Agile Conference
1. Summary. The summary must sell and exude excitement. Since its the only thing the attendees will see, it needs to pull them into your session instead of the 15 others they can visit at the same time. The attendees should be able to show the abstract to their manager/team and have them understand the value of the session.
2. Catchy title. A catchy title may help to build stronger mental model and focus the session's abstract better. Watch out for catchy becoming corny, though.
3. Sell yourself. The reviewers should have confidence that you are a good presenter and that you will be successful at facilitating the session. Don’t assume you can cruise on your reputation, not all the reviewers will know you well enough to judge. Include a link to other material/web sites that may help you to sell yourself.
4. Prior experience with session. Share experiences giving the session. Links to slides, videos or people's blog about those sessions. If you're planning to do a test run at the local user group, mention that - it makes a big difference as far as a reviewer's confidence about the quality of delivery is concerned.
5. Co-presenters. For long presentations 90 or 180 minutes a second presenter is really a good idea. After about 5-10 (max 20) minutes of hearing someone's voice you become habituated and tune out. Switching presenters delays that.
6. Interactivity. Even 60 minute talks need some interactive element, they need some event, exercise, or discussion to help the attendees integrate the knowledge they've acquired and make it their own. Spell out at least the names/short descriptions of the activities, and how the participants will participate
7. Have a plan. At least a minimal plan is necessary so the reviewer will have an idea how you will spend your limited time budget. The longer a session you want the more details you need to provide.
8. Clarity. Make a clear statement of what the attendees will do or expect. Sometimes proposers can err too much on the side of selling their ideas in a catchy way that exactly what will be done in the session is not clear.
9. Clear learning objective. State how will their lives of attendees will be better, more effective, more enjoyable as a result of attending.
10. Enjoyment. Make the reviewer feel the attendees will enjoy themselves during the session. At best, they should learn specific concepts, skills, principles, approaches, frameworks. The amount of material taken away should not be overwhelming. As one reviewer said, “At the end of the day, what I'm looking for is something that gets my juices flowing and makes me want to fight for a place in the session.”
11. Questions. It may be appropriate to pose questions to the reviewers and gives us options for adjusting the proposal.
12. Language. Use active verbs, not passive language.
- Bad: "This session allows you to learn..."
- Good: "Learn/experience..."
- Bad: words like "might", "could", "intent"
- Good: words/phrases like "master", "learn", "experience", "do", "participate"
- Not "You can participate", but "As you participate, you learn..."
13. For Experience Reports. For an experience report, background context is essential. Tell us what the story arc of the experience is, some lessons learned, some challenges. Tell us whether you have empirical evidence or anecdotal experience.