(A lot of this applies to conference proposals generally.)
CILIP have announced details of the 2011 New Professionals Conference, which takes place in Manchester at the University, on June 20th. The Hashtag is #npc11 if you want to discuss it on Twitter etc.
There is currently a call for proposals to present, and I can't recommend highly enough that you do this if you're within 5 years of having joined the profession. You have till April 15th to get something in. All the details are on the CILIP website.
It’s a brilliant experience! It takes you out of your comfort zone, it connects you to your peers, it gets you into the conference for free! It’s completely worth doing – I guarantee you’ll feel differently about the profession afterwards, more positive, more energised and more excited.
Important disclaimer: I was on the organising committee last year and involved with choosing the successful papers, but I am NOT involved this year, so these views are just my opinion and are in no way official. Kay?
The most important thing about the subject matter is making it appropriate to the context of the conference. So for example, something about the value of libraries generally might be really interesting and really entertaining, but it might not be as useful for this particular conference as something which the delegates can take away and apply to their own lives, and to their own careers. Think about the utility of what you're saying, and the 'take-homes' that the people watching your presentation will get from it.
Be explicit about the value of your presentation. You have 300 words to play with – I’d probably use 250 to talk about the topic, and the last 50 would start with the phrase ‘this paper will be beneficial to new professionals because…’.
Get a second pair of eyes on it before you send it off – another opinion is almost always helpful.
Same disclaimer as above - this is my opinion, and is certainly nothing official or endorsed by the organisers.
I think, personally, the formatting of your proposal really matters. The organisers of this event are volunteering and doing it on their own time, so there's not always the luxury of a huge amount of time to discuss the proposals. There'll probably be more than 40 decent ideas, and it takes a long time to get through that much stuff. So anything that’s poorly put together is already heading towards the 'maybe' or 'no' piles rather than the 'yes' pile. Of course the content of the proposal is by far the most important thing, but that oft quoted scenario of 'two otherwise equal candidates' actually applies quite often in this type of situation, so don't put yourself at a disadvantage. Poor formatting shows a lack of attention to detail, and a lack of understanding of the assessment process. For what it's worth, here's what I would do if I were submitting:
- Send a PDF - Word docs are only fit for emailing to people if there's a chance the recipient may need to edit it.
- Don't use Times New Roman, use Calibri, Arial or similar, and make it a normal rather than tiny or huge font size.
- Include your name, a short bio and your email address in the document (this does not have to fit into the 300 words - make it clear which section is which). You may have also put some or all of this stuff in the email you send it in, but the chances are the panel will be printing out all the documents and getting together over coffee to go through everything - they don't want to be making notes or printing emails. Put everything in one place for their easy reference.
- It goes without saying, proof-read it to death. Read it out loud to catch mistakes, and don't rely on the spell-check - I still find myself having used the wrong their / there / they're from time-to-time… Americanised spellings are another thing spell-check might not catch.
- Send it to someone whose opinion you trust, and get them to check it over too.
And if you do get accepted…
You’ll be asked to write a ‘full proposal’ by June. This is really just to check you can follow up on your promises and deliver a full paper. It doesn’t have to be written to a journal standard of prose and referencing. When I presented in 2009, I wrote mine up all formally and then a week before the conference, I started to practice delivering it and realised that I’d have to completely rework it. I couldn’t read it out loud as it was (that would have been rubbish) and I couldn’t even just split it up into notes (the tone and phrases were suitable for being read alone, not said out loud to an audience). So don’t beat yourself up trying to write the full proposal – it’d be more productive to write the notes you plan to learn or speak from, and then turn THOSE into the full-proposal, not the other way around. More tips on presenting for first time speakers are available elsewhere on the blog.
All just my opinion of course. :) Here's another one - last year's Best Paper prize winner Bronagh offers her views too.