How to Submit a Proposal

We seek proposals that offer the potential of quality sessions on important topics that span APA members' professional interests and that align with NPC18 educational tracks. We are soliciting proposals for the following session types:

Educational Session

Propose a 75-minute presentation concerned with any facet of planning that is represented within an NPC18 Educational Track and Topic. Sessions in this category must fill 75 minutes with educational content, but how to do that is up to the proposer. You can choose from a variety of session formats like conducting a debate, having an interactive conversation with the audience, or facilitating a panel discussion. Or, consider a facilitated group discussion or a presentation that incorporates research. Your proposal should indicate the roles of speakers, panelists, and the audience if it entails more than a typical question and answer period. New this year: Educational session proposals may include content that qualifies for Certification Maintenance law or ethics credit.

Deep Dive Session

When your subject matter is very broad, requires in-depth presentations, or is ripe for enhanced audience involvement, propose a comprehensive, highly interactive session that can include lectures, hands-on learning, debates, creative attendee engagement, and useful resources for participants. Deep Dives last 2.5 hours — twice as long as regular sessions — and are appropriate for subject matter that is eligible for CM law or ethics credit.

Fast, Funny, and Passionate Presentation

Seven to 10 of these bite-sized presentations occur during a standard 75-minute session. Typically, a presentation is based on a personal project or short visual essay. Capture the flavor of today's planning by making your audience laugh — and think. Submit a humorous and engaging five-to-10-minute Fast, Funny, and Passionate presentation and we will assemble it with others into a session that informs, captivates, and entertains the audience.

Mobile Workshop

Propose a mobile workshop that takes attendees to a planning project or projects in the host city or surrounding region. Attendees should learn about local planning challenges, best practices, and impact on the community. Typically led by planners, mobile workshops offer the opportunity to explore behind-the-scenes planning initiatives with a planner's perspective on local challenges.


APA will accept NPC18 poster proposals at a later date still to be determined. Please be on the lookout for APA's call for poster proposals.

A Note on Audience Participation

NPC attendees have asked for more opportunities to participate in and engage with educational sessions. While audience participation may integrate more naturally into some topics than others, APA encourages all submitters to incorporate audience engagement into their proposals. Examples include polling, formal Q & As (audience members submit questions in writing; a panel member or other session participant may answer a subset of questions), or starting the session with a question that requires audience members to interact. Please do not feel limited by these examples. We encourage you to select or devise an audience participation method that suits the proposal type and topic. We want to excite participants with new learning experiences. If you include enhanced audience involvement, be sure to point it out in your session proposal.

What Should Be Included in a Proposal?

  1. Choose a title and write a description that accurately depict the content of your session.

Both will appear in the online program and in APA's NPC app. Both title and description should be able to stand alone and clearly convey what your presentation will cover. Your proposal must specify learning objectives to attract the appropriate audience for your topic.

  1. Determine the educational track and topic(s) with NPC's target audiences in mind.

The NPC Committee strives to provide a balanced conference program for our target audience. Your proposal must identify which educational track and educational topics within the track best fit the content of your session.

  1. Describe your proposed session.

Include two descriptions of your session: short (no more than 40 words) and long (no more than 200 words). Conference attendees will see the short description, so make it an effective sales pitch. Tell your potential audience why this is a can't-miss session.

In the long description, outline the session by describing the format and the roles of the moderators, speakers, panelists, and the audience if it entails more than a typical question and answer period.

Describe how your session will engage the audience. Detail why your proposed session will be memorable, unique, and compelling and how it will enlighten and absorb the NPC18 audience. Include learning objectives that detail what session participants will learn.

  1. Identify the speakers

Include a complete list of confirmed speakers. We suggest recruiting a representative panel. Avoid choosing all the speakers from the same firm or agency, and try to include a mix of planners in the public sector, private sector, and academia.

Some proposal types require additional elements. Be sure to review and comply with the specific requirements for the type of session you are proposing.

Proposal Review

All proposals received will be peer-reviewed to ensure that sessions chosen for the NPC18 program reflect innovation and diversity in planning research, practice, education, and professional development.

APA will notify everyone who submits a proposal of its acceptance or rejection for the NPC18 educational program by December 1, 2017. The proposal submitter is responsible for notifying other individuals named in the proposal of APA's decision.

Submit a Proposal

Educational Session Formats

Conduct a Debate

A debate is an engaging way to present opposing views about a topic. Generally, a debate includes a moderator and presenters to represent each side of a controversial topic. The debate may consist of the moderator stating a proposition, one side presenting affirming arguments, and the other side presenting dissenting arguments. Alternatively, the moderator may pose pointed questions to which each debater responds with his or her views on the topic. Time for rebuttal and audience questions can be incorporated.

When submitting a proposal with a debate, please describe the topic, participants, format, major points likely to be argued or the questions to be posed, and the debaters' expertise vis-à-vis the topic.

Conduct an Interactive Conversation With the Audience

Typically, one or two experts on a topic serve as hosts. This session type is well suited to helping attendees with problems they are currently facing, discussing new developments in an area, and building networks among people with similar interests. These sessions usually begin with explanatory or introductory information and move on to involve the audience in an activity.

Proposals for conversation-style sessions should name the topic, explain why it is appropriate for this session, name one or two experts to serve as hosts, and describe the expertise of each host vis-à-vis the topic. Although the expert host(s) may make a short opening presentation, the majority of time should be devoted to answering questions from the audience and promoting discussion and networking.

Conduct a Panel Discussion

In a panel discussion, the organizer plays a very active role, moderating a three- or four-person panel and ensuring that all panelists have the opportunity to speak. The moderator can pose questions and facilitate audience questions. Panel discussions should generate spontaneous interaction among panelists and between panelists and the audience. Diverse perspectives among panelists is important to the session's success.

A proposal that includes a panel discussion should describe the session structure or format, the issues or themes to be discussed, and some key questions that will either be addressed primarily by the panel or supplemented with questions generated by the audience. Be sure to describe how your session will engage the audience.

Conduct a Facilitated Group Discussion

In a facilitated group discussion session, the meeting room is set in five clusters of 25-30 chairs arranged in a circle. A facilitator and note-taker are assigned to each cluster and a nearby easel posts a question or discussion theme. Participants are encouraged to rotate around the room to each cluster and engage in facilitator-led conversations, spending 8 to 10 minutes at each one.

The facilitator starts by presenting the cluster participants with key questions or provocations. In the last 20 minutes of the session, each facilitator reports to the whole group the themes and discussion items that occupied his or her cluster. The session can end with additional discussion among the audience.

This format is designed to facilitate wide audience participation and sustained discussion. It often produces a progression of ideas since dialogue can flow freely. It is, therefore, a very useful session format for brainstorming and developing works in progress. This session type also is well suited for small-groups discussions of hot topics and new developments and for developing networks among people with similar interests. A facilitated group discussion offers participants the opportunity to hear and learn from industry colleagues and to tackle common business issues.

Facilitated group discussion proposals should preview the topic and list the themes or questions to be presented to each cluster. The proposal should explain why the topics are appropriate for this session type, name five experts to serve as facilitators, and describe the expertise of each host vis-à-vis the topic or theme.

Incorporate Research

Research-based sessions highlight promising emerging and innovative research ideas, best practices, or case studies. Speakers should summarize the researcher's topic and work in relation to theory and practice and describe the results of recently completed or ongoing planning research. A session might include a panel of researchers working on complimentary projects, pair one or more researchers with practitioners who contributed to or are using the research, or individuals who are qualified to comment on the research findings.

Proposals based on planning research presentations should describe the work in progress or proposed. A synopsis of the topic should include the central research question, results, supporting evidence, and implications.