Why the NTC proposal process is different

Submitting a session proposal for a conference can be intimidating, overwhelming, and stressful. For the annual Nonprofit Technology Conference, we want to create a process that supports participation—by those who’ve done it lots of times as well as those who’ve never submitted an idea to any conference.

We also want to engage the community throughout to ensure the best program and best conference possible. All this means we have a session proposal process that works pretty differently than others you may have experienced. And that’s intentional!

Traditionally, conference proposal processes mean you draft your title and description (in a Word doc, or an email to a colleague, or in your notebook), and then copy/paste it into a form and wait to hear back, months later.

The main challenge with this process is that each proposal is shared in isolation. As a submitter, you have no idea if your copy and paste broke the formatting before it ever arrived, what other sessions were also submitted, or who else may be interested in speaking. Lastly, you almost always wish you could make a few tweaks after sending it in.

In general, the experience tends to feel a bit more like a lottery than a thoughtful process.

Our community-driven proposal process

We know the NTEN community has a lot of expertise to share and we want to use a process that helps it shine. We are all better served when community members are set up to propose their best possible ideas to build a more informed and well-rounded conference agenda. That’s why we use a more transparent approach that allows for iteration of ideas.

The NTEN process includes several steps:

  1. Review guidelines
  2. Submit proposal
  3. Review other proposals
  4. Gather feedback from online community
  5. Refine and update
  6. Finalize

Three ways this process helps you

1. View your proposal in context

Seeing your proposal as it compares to the others being shared is a huge advantage. And seeing what others’ takes on a topic can help you define yours more clearly and make changes to highlight what makes your idea different and the particular experience or knowledge you bring.

It can also help you spot what topics may be missing that you could propose sessions on, like important topics that may have less competition, in terms of making it into a balanced agenda.

2. Gather feedback prior to voting

Imagine if you could get feedback from the same people who were going to be voting on your proposal while there was still time to make changes? With our process you can. Folks who want to attend your session can help you refine it now and help your session make it into the final agenda.

3. Edit as much as you like

As the saying goes, “Perfection is the enemy of progress.” When you work on a draft behind closed doors to get it perfect and then submit it just before the deadline, you’ll often have an instant feeling of wanting to change just one little thing or correct typos that you missed.

Submitting your proposal “live” early on in the process allows you to use be more iterative. Getting it out there can help you (and others) see it with fresh eyes and make improvements a number of times before moving into the community voting stage.

You have until August 17th to get your ideas in, but we hope you’ll post them soon and benefit from the opportunities to get feedback, find co-presenters, and improve your proposal before then!

Amy Sample Ward
Driven by a belief that the nonprofit technology community can be a movement-based force for positive change, Amy is NTEN’s CEO and former membership director. Her prior experience in direct service, policy, philanthropy, and capacity-building organizations has also fueled her aspirations to create meaningful, inclusive, and compassionate community engagement and educational opportunities for all organizations. Amy inspires the NTEN team and partners around the world to believe in community-generated change. She believes technology can help nonprofits reach their missions more effectively, efficiently, and inclusively, and she’s interested in everything from digital equity to social innovation.