Member Monday: 5 + 1 Tips on Conference Proposals (the inside scoop)

I spent most of yesterday either driving to, being in, or driving from an NESCBWI RA/Advisory Board meeting. The driving I really hate, but the people I get to work with on the Advisory Board are wonderful.

We spent a great deal of time processing the evaluations from the most recent annual spring NESCBWI conference. Yes, we really do look at all of the comments so thanks to everyone who filled out an evaluation. Your workshop feedback helps us choose the Encore! schedule. You comments on how to improve the conference are implemented by the next conference director. This year, that person is Joyce Johnson. All conference communication should go to nescbwi13 at gmail dot com.

As an RA, the first question that I start to field about next year’s conference is, “When will you put out a call for proposals?” I can tell you that the announcement will be out sometime this week, and I’ll certainly post the info link that Joyce publishes.  If you are interested in presenting, now is a good time to get your ducks in a row. Below I’ve listed some tips to help you hone your workshop proposal idea.

  1. NESCBWI caters to many different constituents: writers, illustrators, industry professionals, beginners, intermediates, and PAL published. You will not be able to meet everyone’s needs. Don’t try. Be specific about your audience. If you say your workshop is for the most advanced members, be sure to be sophisticated, dig deep, and expect a high level of prior knowledge. We are eager to involve PAL members and would love some expert workshop presenters for this crowd.
  2. Also consider the time you will need. Too much time and you’ll be fumbling for enough info to fill the slot, praying that someone has a question for you. Not enough time and you’ll deliver your information so fast that no one will glean the benefits of your knowledge.
  3. Your MFA is awesome, and your graduation lecture/critical thesis was great but that doesn’t make it an SCBWI lecture. People want workshops that give craft-based how-to’s that inspire them to go home and get to work. MFA work is often very theoretical. See if there is a way that you can make your expertise more practical. If not, come up with another idea.
  4. If NESCBWI is going to pay you to come to teach at the conference, they want to get their money’s worth. If you have more than one AMAZING idea, or if you have an idea for something so popular that the conference committee would want to run it twice, that’s a benefit. In this same vein, panels are expensive. If you can do it yourself, and do it well, submit alone.
  5. Consider craft issues that you and your fellow writers/illustrators have faced and surmounted. (Humor in picture books, the omniscient narrator, multiple narrators, ripped from the headlines plots, diverse characters, showing emotion, rhythm in prose) How did you do it? How did others do it? Gather that info, analyze it, and present it in a direct and succinct way with clear examples, humor, time for questions, work time and …
  6. Never forget chocolate for the attendees.

7 thoughts on “Member Monday: 5 + 1 Tips on Conference Proposals (the inside scoop)

    1. You’re welcome, Jo! You probably could add a lot more here about your experience presenting this spring. Is there anything you’d do differently in preparing for or proposing a workshop?

      1. I really like everything you have, but one thing that people seem to enjoy and appreciate are doing at least one hands-on activity related to the presentation so that they can see how they can put what we’ve been talking about to good use in their own work. As an attendee, I’m always pleased to walk away from a workshop with something like that in my pocket, too. 🙂

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