Evaluation 2018 Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions: Considering Whether to Submit a Proposal
Frequently Asked Questions: Proposal Development and Submission
Frequently Asked Questions: Audio-Visual Aids and Technology
    Frequently Asked Questions: p2i


    Frequently Asked Questions: Considering Whether to Submit a Proposal


    Who may submit a presentation proposal? The American Evaluation Association welcomes proposals to present at its annual conference from anyone with knowledge or expertise related to evaluation theory or practice, evaluation methodologies, the business of running an evaluation firm, or contextual factors with a significant influence on the field of evaluation. AEA values serving as a forum for the exchange of ideas among those from many disciplinary backgrounds who all share an interest in the field of evaluation. Over 2000 people contribute to the presentations made each year at our annual conference. Approximately half of the conference attendees are involved in one or more presentations.


    May I submit, or appear on, more than one proposal? Yes. However, there are a number of issues that you should take into consideration when submitting more than one. First and foremost, each proposal should have independent content. You may not submit the same content to two different TIGs or the same content as two different types of presentation. Second, you should attend to the presenter limits. Each person may appear on the program no more than twice as a primary presenter and twice as a discussant. Learn more about presenter limits by clicking here.


    What is the likelihood that my proposal will be accepted? The overall acceptance rate usually varies between 75% and 85% for conference sessions and between 45% and 55% for professional development workshops. In any given year, the acceptance rate is influenced by the quality of proposals, the number of proposals, and the constraints of time and space related to the conference venue.


    What steps can I take to increase the likelihood of my proposal being accepted? While no specific recommendations can guarantee acceptance of a proposal, adhering to the following will increase the likelihood of acceptance:

    • Fill out the form completely and well. Incomplete proposals will not be forwarded for peer-review. Use the guidelines herein to complete the submission form in the expected format. Employ good grammar and syntax. Be sure to proofread and spell-check. Take advantage of the space provided to tell the fullest story possible related to your proposal.
    • Keep in mind the review criteria (see below) when developing your abstract(s) and relevance statements. In particular, focus on aspects of evaluation rather than findings. If your proposal is tied to a specific evaluation, use the findings as context and examples for the evaluation lessons learned.
    • Choose wisely when selecting a presentation type. Review each one to identify the option that most closely matches what you have to offer. The most often mis-selected type is that of an expert lecture. An expert lecture presentation is three times the length of a standard paper and the content should warrant such an extended examination, and, as explicit in the session type itself, the presenter should actually be an expert.
    • Ask questions. Once you have reviewed all of the materials available online, please do not hesitate to contact the AEA office (info@eval.org or +1.888.232.2275) or the leadership for the Topical Interest Group to which you expect to submit the proposal for review (http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=11).


      What criteria are used when reviewing proposals? The vast majority of proposals are reviewed by one of AEA's 40+ Topical Interest Groups (TIGs). While AEA does not mandate the review criteria for each TIG, the Board has approved a set of recommended criteria that are provided to each TIG and employed by most of them. In some cases, one or more of the review criteria may be not applicable to a given proposal. These criteria are:

      1. Relevance/Importance to a Broad AEA Audience: A proposal submitted to AEA should address topics that are of importance to a broad audience within AEA. If accepted, this proposal is likely to attract a large and diverse audience.

      2. Relevance/Importance to TIG: A proposal reviewed by a particular TIG should address central topics of the subject area(s) defining the TIG.

      3. Technical Quality: A proposal should meet high standards of technical quality as defined by the TIG. Expanded to a manuscript, a very high quality proposal would likely be published in a peer-reviewed journal.

      4. Innovativeness: This refers to the introduction of new ideas and methods. An innovative proposal has the potential to promote the development of new skills and knowledge.

      5. Diversity: This refers to a proposal's contribution to the diversity of presentations with respect to subject matter, populations, programs, methods, culture, ethnicity, and presenters.

      6. Focus on Evaluation Methods, Theories, Policies, and Practices: This refers to a proposal's focus on broader issues of evaluation methods, theories, policies, and practices. This is in contrast to proposals presenting the results, findings, and circumstances of a specific evaluation.


      What are my obligations if my presentation is accepted? If your presentation is accepted, you will need to a) review the online listing for your presentation, and b) confirm the listing's accuracy and your intent to present. Once that is done, you - and all other presenters represented on your proposal - should register for the conference. Please note that there is no discount on conference registration for presenters and that every person participating in a presentation and/or attending the conference must register and pay. We strive to keep the conference registration fees low for all attendees. Finally, you should prepare your presentation including visual aids and a well-developed exploration of the topic. Throughout the process, you will be encouraged to learn from the guidance provided by, and to use the checklists and preparation assistance available from, AEA's Potent Presentations Initiative (p2i). Please take a moment to check out the p2i site now. It is important to practice your presentation multiple times in order to be sure that it is clear, concise, and fits within the time allocated.


      How many times may a presenter appear on the program? As a general rule, each person may appear on the program as a primary presenter only twice, and then twice again as a discussant (but not a main panelist) on a panel or multi-paper session (for a maximum of four). When calculating the count, the following will be excluded for those sessions for which the criteria apply:

      1. Pre- and post-conference professional development workshop presenters,
      2. AEA Journal Editors when participating in sessions such as 'meet the editors,'
      3. The AEA President when giving a Presidential address or otherwise presiding,
      4. AEA leaders when reporting on or conducting AEA business,
      5. Topical Interest Group (TIG) Leaders, when not presenting their own work, at a TIG business meeting.

      These guidelines apply to all sessions including the Presidential Strand and Conference Plenaries. These guidelines apply to all session types including TIG business meetings when there is a presentation included. Each person may participate as a primary presenter on only two submissions and as a discussant on only two submissions. Presenters should consider their choices wisely and submit or agree to participate on only two sessions in a primary role.

      IMPORTANT: Presenters may not be represented in a primary role on more than two proposals assuming that some may be rejected.

      If a presenter appears more than twice in a primary role within the submission pool, after having researched the caveats above, the AEA office will notify the presenter and work expeditiously to remove the additional presentations from his or her list. Proposals that include presenters who are over their presentation limits may not be sent on for review. Replacements, changes, and substitutions may be made as time permits, but each will be assessed an administrative change fee of $20.

      Presentation Types and Counts

      Session Type Counts as Primary Presenter Counts as Discussant Not Counted
      Birds of a Feather Sessions None None All persons
      Listed on proposal
      Demonstration All persons
      Listed on proposal
      N/A N/A
      Expert Lecture Lecturer Discussant Chair
      Ignite Presentations FIRST presenter listed is assumed to be the primary presenter None Other presenters
      Multipaper All Presenters - FIRST person listed for each component presentation is assumed to be a presenter Discussant Chair,
      Other authors on
      each paper
      Panel All Presenters - FIRST person listed for each component presentation is assumed to be a presenter Discussant Chair,
      Other authors on
      each presentation
      Paper First author - FIRST presenter listed is assumed to be the first author/primary presenter None Other authors
      Poster First author - FIRST presenter listed is assumed to be the first author/primary presenter None Other authors
      Pre/Post-conference Workshops None None All persons
      Listed on proposal
      Roundtable First author - FIRST presenter listed is assumed to be the first author/primary presenter None Other authors
      Skill-Building Workshop All persons
      Listed on proposal
      None None
      Think Tank Session Facilitators Breakout group leaders None

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      Frequently Asked Questions: Proposal Development and Submission


      What should I list in the affiliation field(s) on the submission form? When we request your affiliation, we are asking for where you work or study, but not your position or job title. The one exception is that those who are self-employed, and do not have a name for their firm, are listed as Independent Consultant. Affiliations are listed next to each person's name in the final program.

      Guidelines: The following guidelines will help you to fill in the affiliation fields on the proposal submission forms:

      1. Do not use acronyms or abbreviations. Spell out the full words appropriate to your affiliation. Acronyms and abbreviations are often regional or discipline specific and may not be familiar to some reviewers or conference attendees.

      2. List your affiliation at the highest level. We list only the top-level affiliation for each person, not his or her department or division or other sub-group.

      3. Provide only one affiliation for each person. Even if a person listed on the proposal works at more than one place, or is studying at one place while working at another, list only the single most appropriate affiliation for him or her in relation to the proposal.


      Examples: The following examples suggest both problematic and improved affiliations:

      Bad: CDC (problem - acronym)
      Better: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

      Bad: Director of Evaluation and Planning (problem - position title not affiliation)
      Better: Foundation for Poverty Alleviation

      Bad: UMN School of Ed, Institute for Eval (problems - abbreviations, multi-level)
      Better: University of Minnesota

      Which group should I choose in the Peer-Review Selection box? AEA strives to have all proposals reviewed by one of its Topical Interest Groups (TIGs). The full list of AEA TIGs may be found at http://www.eval.org/p/cm/ld/fid=11. If you are unsure as to which TIG to select, we urge you to use the "Please choose for me" option and your proposal will be read and assigned to an appropriate reviewing group. If a proposal appears to fit with none of the TIGs, AEA will assign it to the conference committee review working group. This team serves as a catch-all for homeless proposals. However, we strongly prefer that proposals go to a TIG for review whenever possible.


      May a Chair serving on a Panel or Multi-Paper Session also be a Presenter? Yes, a person may serve as both the Chair as well as a Presenter as part of a Panel or Multi-Paper session.


      What should I do if I believe that my proposal is appropriate for two or more TIGs? Only one TIG may serve a the primary reviewing body. If you believe that more than one TIG would be appropriate to review and sponsor your proposal please use the 'Additional TIG' text box provided in the proposal to indicate your choice. (see also next question)


      What should I do if I believe that my proposal should be co-sponsored? Select one TIG to serve as the primary reviewing body for your proposal (the reviewing body is listed as the sponsor in the program for all session types except posters and roundtables). In the "Additional TIG" box that appears in the form, indicate that you believe that your proposal would be appropriate for co-sponsorship and name the TIGs that you believe would be appropriate co-sponsors. However, please note that co-sponsorship is completely at the discretion of the primary reviewing TIG. It is up to the primary TIG's program chair to a) determine if he or she wishes to have a proposal co-sponsored and then b) contact the program chair for the potential co-sponsoring TIG to determine if that TIG wishes to co-sponsor.


      What makes for a good presentation title? A presentation title should clearly and concisely convey the topic of your presentation to an uninformed audience. The title and presenters, with affiliations, are the only parts of your proposal that appear in the hardcopy program. Most attendees will determine whether or not to attend your presentation based on the title.

      Guidelines: The following guidelines will help you to fill in the title fields on the proposal submission forms:

      1. Capitalize all major words in your title and all words of four letters or more. Even if you divide your title into two parts with a colon, capitalize major words and long words in both the first and second halves.

      2. Do not use acronyms or abbreviations. Evaluation data from previous conferences notes that attendees are frustrated when they are not familiar with the language used in the program.

      3. Suggest the likely audience for the presentation. Include an indication of the field, the methods, and/or the issue that will be addressed.

      4. Focus on Evaluation. Focus on the theory and practice of evaluation, evaluation methodologies, and/or operating an evaluation business.

      5. Specify breadth of topic. Hone in on the specific aspects of a broad topic that you will be addressing in your presentation.


      Examples: The following examples suggest both problematic and improved titles:

      Bad: The Whitney Project: Ten years on the lamb in Oweta (problems - topic could be clearer, focus on evaluation is not explicit, capitalization stops after colon)
      Better: Evaluating the Whitney Project: Challenges to Collecting and Using Longitudinal Data for Rural Health Program Improvement

      Bad: Operating Under the Influence: Evaluation in the Era of NCLB (problems - acronym, title likely overbroad for presentation)
      Better: Operating Under the Influence: Using Empowerment Evaluation to Establish School Progress Benchmarks in the Era of No Child Left Behind

      Bad: What I Learned When I Started My Own Consulting Business Right Out of College and Subsequently as a Practicing Consultant: Ways to Succeed (problems - wordy, focus on evaluation is not explicit)
      Better: Tried and True Strategies for Getting Started as an Evaluation Consultant


      What should I put in the Other Information box on the form? At the end of each form, you will find a box that asks "If you have other information that you believe we need in order to process, review or schedule this presentation, please share it in the box below." This is your opportunity to note such things as an intent to move and change addresses in the near future (needed for processing), a desire not to have your proposal redirected to another TIG even if the reviewing TIG felt it was a bad fit (needed for reviewing), or travel plans that would preclude you from attending one of the days of the conference (needed for scheduling).

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      Frequently Asked Questions: Audio-Visual Aids

      What Audio-Visual aids are normally available to presenters? Each presentation room, with the exception of those for posters and roundtables, is equipped with an LCD projector (also known as a datashow or PowerPoint projector), a computer, and a screen. You may rent other Audio-Visual aids (see information below).


      May I order other Audio-Visual devices beyond what is provided? You may order additional Audio-Visual devices by sending your request to the AEA office at info@eval.org,  but please note that all additional AV charges will be borne by the presenter.


      May I access the Internet for my presentation? No. It is unlikely that you will be able to access the Internet during your presentation. The cost, that would be born by the presenter, is extremely high and Internet access in the presentation rooms is not reliable. You should download any presentation content so that you need not connect during your presentation. If your presentation may only be made if an internet connection is available, please contact the AEA office prior to submitting your proposal so that we may discuss your connectivity needs. All costs related to securing a dependable internet connection in the conference room would be at your expense and such connectivity may not be financially or logistically feasible.

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      Frequently Asked Questions: p2i Information

      What does AEA consider to be a high quality presentation? The American Evaluation Association believes that our members learn best from one another when presentation content is strong, visuals are compelling, and delivery is clear. Our Potent Presentations Initiative supports presenters in each of these areas. Begin by reviewing the recorded webinars here and downloading our Presentation Preparation Checklist.

      What makes strong presentation content? The AEA conference includes a wide range of topics - from evaluation results, to new theories, to practical skill-building for day-to-day practice. Audiences consist of evaluators, evaluation managers, and other stakeholders. To reach that broad audience, strong content should (1) match the title and abstract printed in the program, and (2) follow an action-oriented structure. Structure your content so that it roughly fits our Messaging Model which prioritizes the information most relevant for AEA audiences and provides suggested time allotments.


      How can I develop compelling visuals? Poster presenters should review our Guidelines for Posters to understand both the physical layout of available poster space and graphic design advice for developing appealling visuals. Review our sample poster and past poster winners for exemplars.

      There are many ways to craft slides for a presentation, and we recommend using our Slide Design Guidelines as a starting point. The guidelines were developed around research-based best practices in graphic design and presentation. For inspiration modifying existing slides to a set that are more engaging and informative, review the Fab Five Reboot posts where we redesigned the slides from 5 of AEA's top presenters.


      How can I improve my presentation delivery skills? A surefire way to become better at presentation delivery is to practice presenting. Practice early and often, in front of colleagues and a lay audience. Many presenters have found our Presentation Assessment Rubric helpful and have asked practice audiences to use it to provide feedback. 

      Good planning can also make for a more confident presenter. Modify our Rundown Template and take note of your presentation timing, so you know what points to make by what times, as well as what associated materials you will need to support you.