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Call for Proposals Guidelines

This page provides information you will need to consider as you prepare your submission.

On this page:

Download Lists of CFP Questions

Use the links below to download a complete list of the questions for the type of proposal you are submitting. You can use these lists to prepare your proposal before submitting the online form.

Some Tips on Preparing Your Proposal

  • The review process: We use a double-blind review process, so it is imperative that you maintain your anonymity and do not reveal to anyone, anywhere that you have submitted a proposal. In addition, “name dropping” in your submission will immediately knock you out of the proposal process. Presenter names should only appear in the specified fields of the submission form.
  • First blush: The title and abstract are like a first date with your ideas. When the reviewers examine these two areas, they are looking for ideas that are intriguing, unique, and well-thought out. Conference attendees will also review these to determine if your session is worth their time. As a rule, abstracts should artfully convey a general “what,” on the topic, a specific “what” on your ideas within the topic, a “why” on why the reviewers and attendees should care, and then finally, the “outcomes” that will be gained by attending the session. Good titles and abstracts complement each other, and get the reviewer and attendee interested in seeing more.
  • Typos, short answers, and dense language: Please remember that the reviewers are taking their time to read each and every conference submission. That being said, you should also take your time crafting your work, making sure that it is of high quality. When it looks like a submission was written at the last minute and it is filled with typos and poorly written descriptions, the reviewer will question whether it is worth her or his time to continue reading. This also applies to the converse. A submission filled with dense academic language might be ideal for some audiences, but our conference attendees consists of a wide range of professionals – internal and external OD practitioners, managers, academic faculty, students, and community members. The reviewers need to know that your submission will appeal to attendees from various backgrounds.
  • Attendee Investment: Since attendees are paying to participate in this conference, think of your proposed session as an investment of their time and resources. Unless a conference attendee happens to know you or your work personally, your submission information is all they will have to make their very difficult investment decisions: “Where do I want to spend this chunk of time? Will the takeaways referred to specifically in the abstract yield the ROI my very limited investment warrants?” Be clear in describing the value of your proposed session, and in outlining what attendees will learn from their time with you.
  • Combining the Art and Science: We are a scientifically-rooted profession committed to facilitating learning from and through experience. Consequently it is vital that you be as clear as you can in painting a picture in response to the question “How will they learn?”
  • Specifics: Even though space is limited for each design question, it is important to outline the specifics of the presentation. Reviewers need to know if what you have planned is appropriate for the audience and the time slot. When generalizations are used (e.g., “tried and true presentation methods”) it makes it harder to determine the fit of a proposal idea. Further, if your submission lacks sufficient detail, the reviewers will wonder if you actually have a plan. Your experiential portion should not “depend on the people in the room,” because there is no guarantee of the number of attendees in your session.
  • Completeness: Your submission must include everything that we need to evaluate your proposal. Avoid comments like “See my website/LinkedIn article/Facebook page.” And please adhere to the spirit of the blind review by not breaking confidentiality.
  • Sales pitches: A word about the “elephant on the table.” As a presenter, you are of course “selling,” even if you are only selling your ideas and yourself. You are hoping attendees will find what you’re offering to be of value to them and to their clients – and that, if/when it is appropriate, they might even engage you to work with them. Your challenge as a presenter at our conference is to attract rather than promote. This not only applies the actual presentation at the event, it also applies to the review process. Proposals that contain elements that look like sales pitches are usually found by the reviewers and knocked out of the process. Please note that yes, this is an opportunity to make new connections, but we ask that you adhere to the “No Selling” rule.
  • Impact: Finally, a note about the opportunity embedded in the last two design questions: the key word in both questions is “might.” Let your heart and soul speak their piece – we never know if or when something we say inspires something new or plants a seed in someone else. To paraphrase Einstein: “I never created anything really new that I didn’t dream about first.” Dream big. There is no reason that any idea cannot make a large-scale impact when it is used in the right manner, by the right people, in the right context.

Concurrent Session Format Descriptions

We are seeking presentations in a variety of formats to create a richer and more engaging experience for all attendees. Presenters are strongly encouraged to find innovative ways of sharing their experiences, knowledge, research and cases. Areas of audience interaction should be evident in all session proposals.

Design Charrette (30, 60 or 90 minutes)

This is a collaborative session in which a large group divides into smaller groups to co-create possibilities. The smaller groups then share their work with the full group, spurring further dialog and connection.

World Cafe (90 minutes)

A series of conversational rounds that last 20-30 minutes each. At the end of each round, one person remains at each table as the host, while the other three travel to separate tables. Table hosts welcome newcomers to their tables and share the essence of that table’s conversation so far. (The World Cafe format was originated by the World Café Community Foundation. Learn more at

Open Space (90 minutes)

A participatory session in which a large group gathers in a circle focusing on a question that matters. You invite anyone who cares about an issue to step into the middle of the circle and writes the topic of their curiosity on a flip chart paper. Then the rest of the group is invited to convene around the topics that interest them most. You and the topic creators facilitate dialog in small groups around the topics at hand while people are free to move about to the topics that interest them most. A gallery walk of the notes taken during the conversations will be held at the end of the session. (Open Space was originated by Harrison Owen. Learn more at

Other Experiential Format (30, 60 or 90 mins)

This session type is for creative experiential ideas. Your ideas, knowledge, and learning that you wish to share through an experiential method not listed above are all welcome. These sessions should be very interactive with participants walking away energized, connected, and enlightened.

OD Talk (18 mins)

Your 18-minute talk will be grouped with two others by the conference planning team. This 90-minute session format is designed to have three speakers, each talking/involving the audience in experiential activities for 18 minutes or less on their topic. These presentations often have a personal narrative woven in to tie everything together. The intent is to inspire OD “Ideas Worth Spreading,” energizing the audience to build on and keep on spreading ideas. Q&A would take place at the end of all three presentations.

Traditional Presentation (60, 90 mins)

This is a traditional session format that is an efficient way for a presenter to cover content through a captivating lecture presentation. Experiential sessions will be given preference over traditional presentations.

Poster Session Design Considerations

Posters will be promoted as pieces of OD Artwork providing a graphic snapshot of the impact of OD for the future. Posters would be displayed throughout the duration of Annual Conference. Conference attendee will have the opportunity to select their favorite poster that created a meaningful impression in their hearts/minds. All posters displayed at the Annual Conference will be eligible for the award provided that they are presented during the Poster Session on Friday, October 18. Winners will be announced the following morning in the Plenary Session. Please refer to the following tips on designing your poster.

  • Lettering should be simple, bold, and easily legible from a distance of 4ft (122 cm). Lettering for the title should be at least 1.5in (38mm) high. Under the heading, include the names of authors and their affiliations in smaller lettering.
  • In the body text, keep the number of words to a minimum: please remember that this is not a paper. Arrange the elements in a logical sequence: introduction or statement of the problem or issue, objectives of the research or project, methodology used (where appropriate), major findings or outcomes, interpretations or significance of findings or outcomes, and conclusions. Use numbers if necessary to ensure that readers can follow the sequence.
  • Illustrations and color will enhance the effectiveness of your presentation. Tables, figures and photographs are encouraged. While you should consider graphic impact, note that simplicity and legibility are more important than artistic embellishments. The background of the poster may be any color, so long as there is a strong light-dark contrast between background and lettering.
  • When working on the arrangement of your display on the poster, be aware that it is preferable to align materials in columns rather than rows. Audience members who are scanning posters have a much easier task if they can proceed from the left to right rather than having to skip around in the display.
  • One example of a good poster design is shown here. Click the image to view it at full size.
poster example
Image Credit:
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