Imagine the Possibilities

Recommendations for Developing a Great Proposal

  • Sessions can range from practical to philosophical, but should always offer worthwhile content that helps attendees Imagine the Possibilities to make a difference in their workplace and in their community.
  • Review the selection criteria (below) and make sure your proposal hits the high points.
  • Infuse your own character and energy into the proposal description.
  • Think creatively about ways to build in audience interaction. This helps keeps attendees energized and engaged… and talking about your program once they’ve left.
  • Know your audience! Read the adult learning guidelines (below).
  • Make your learning outcomes clear, concise, and measurable.
  • Carefully consider the number of speakers you want in the program. Having more than three speakers for a one-hour program is not encouraged.
  • Bring in perspectives from outside the library field.
  • Consider how your session connects to PLA’s goal areas of advocacy, leadership, literacy, and networking—helping strengthen public libraries and their contribution to the communities they serve.
  • Review and revise your proposal and share it with colleagues.
  • Submit your proposal online by the deadline—April 14, 2017 at 11:59 PM Eastern.

Selection Criteria

Proposals are rated and chosen by the PLA Conference Program Subcommittee. The committee uses the following criteria to rate each proposal:

  • Proposal Description Does the description clearly, with sufficient detail, outline the proposed presentation?
  • Learning Outcomes Are the learning outcomes clear, specific, and actionable?
  • Innovation Does the content offer fresh, memorable ideas, methods, or resources?
  • Relevance Is the content relevant to public library professionals?

Adult Learning Guidelines

At PLA Conference, the rooms are packed with adults eager to learn new ideas and best practices. How can you connect with them and ensure your program is both effective and appealing? Consider these six principles of adult learning identified by Malcolm Knowles, an educational theorist, and presented by Aaron Wolowiec, a meetings and education strategist.

  1. Adults are internally motivated and self-directed. Adult learners resist learning when they feel others are imposing information, ideas or actions (or when content leaders appear unprepared, inexperienced or inauthentic). To encourage more self-directed and intentional learning, as well as to foster the learner’s internal motivation to learn, content leaders should:

    • Develop interactive learning exercises that are challenging, but not overwhelming;
    • Show genuine interest in the thoughts, opinions and questions of their audience;
    • Provide feedback to learners, as appropriate, that is both constructive and specific; and
    • Support the disparity in learning styles by employing a variety of learning methods.
  2. Adults bring life experiences and knowledge to learning experiences. Adults like to be given the opportunity to use their existing foundation of knowledge and apply their various life experiences to their own professional development. Therefore, content leaders should:

    • Welcome opportunities for learners to share their interests and experiences;
    • Draw correlations between past experiences and current problem-solving challenges;
    • Facilitate opportunities for reflective learning; and
    • Examine existing biases or habits that may influence future learning or skill development.
  3. Adults are goal oriented. Adult learners become ready to learn when they experience a need to learn in order to cope more satisfyingly with real-life tasks or problems. To facilitate a learner’s readiness for problem-based learning and increase his or her awareness of the need for the knowledge or skill presented, content leaders should:

    • Provide meaningful learning experiences that are clearly linked to personal/professional goals;
    • Share real-life case studies that connect the dots between theory and practice; and
    • Ask questions that motivate reflection, inquiry and further research.
  4. Adults are relevancy oriented. Adult learners want to know the relevance of what they are learning to what they want to achieve. To support learners in their quest for seeking and identifying relevancy, content leaders should:

    • Ask learners at the beginning of the learning experience what they expect to learn;
    • Check for meaning, understanding and relevance (to the context of work) throughout the learning experience;
    • Identify what skills, knowledge or expertise learners gained as a result of participating in the learning experience; and
    • Determine how learners might apply what they learned in the future (and in the context of their everyday lives).
  5. Adults are practical. Through hands-on exercises and collaborative brainstorming, learners move from classroom and textbook mode to hands-on problem solving where they can recognize first-hand how what they are learning applies to life and the context of work. To support this transformation, content leaders should:

    • Clearly explain their rationale when presenting new ideas or innovative solutions;
    • Be explicit about how the content is useful and applicable to the learners’ work;
    • Promote active participation by allowing learners to try new things, offer suggestions or share healthy skepticism rather than simply observe; and
    • Provide ample opportunities for repetition to promote skill development, confidence and competence.
  6. Adult learners like to be respected. Content leaders can demonstrate respect by:

    • Taking an active interest in the development of all learners;
    • Acknowledging the wealth of experiences that the learners bring to their work;
    • Regarding learners as colleagues with unique perspectives and valuable life experience; and
    • Encouraging the expression of new ideas, reasoning and feedback at every opportunity.

Reprinted with permission from Aaron D. Wolowiec, MSA, CAE, CMP, CTA. Aaron is the founder and president of Event Garde, a professional development consulting firm based in Michigan. Website: