Johanna Rothman, known as the "Pragmatic Manager," offers frank advice for your thorny problems. She helps leaders and teams learn to see simple and reasonable options that might work. Those practical alternatives can help them be more effective with others at work. With those choices, they can choose what—and how—to adapt their product development.

With her trademark practicality and humor, Johanna is the author of 19 books, hundreds of articles, and blog posts about many aspects of product development. Her most recent nonfiction books are the Modern Management Made Easy series. Find her monthly newsletter and blogs at &

Write a Conference Proposal by Johanna Rothman

Book Description

Do you dream of speaking at a conference? You want to share your successes—and maybe your failures.

Conference committees accept proposals they understand. Those same committees reject confusing proposals.

You can write a clear proposal. Use the tips in this book to:

•Start with the real outcomes. Not a promise for an outcome, but what people will learn.
•Create a compelling one-paragraph abstract
•Choose a title that invites the reader into your session.
•Connect to your readers with your bio

Increase your chances with the program committee. Craft a proposal the conference committee can understand and accept.


Conferences have returned in 2021, and they'll be going strong in 2022. Have you ever wondered how those conferences choose their speakers? The speakers apply. They make a proposal. Johanna Rothman, who has built a career advising business people on how to improve their businesses, is an in-demand conference speaker. This book shows you why. – Kristine Kathryn Rusch



  • "I turned in 2 proposals to a conference. They accepted one and wait-listed the other—from a conference that accepts fewer than 10% of all the proposals. That's how good Johanna's book is."

    – JF Unson, Agility Consultant/Coach
  • "For a reluctant (and non-natural born) writer, it was easy to follow Johanna's suggestions step-by-step and write a succinct and engaging conference proposal. After a decade of trying, a specific conference finally accepted my proposal."

    – Mun-Wai Chung, Business Agility Consultant and Executive Coach



Prepare to Present at a Conference

You want to present a talk, workshop, or an experience report at a conference. (Or, a lightning talk, Pecha Kucha, or more.) You have something important to share. How can you create a proposal that the program committee will accept?

You write a proposal.

I've been a professional speaker to support my consulting business for 25 years. I've delivered several hundred presentations of some variety: track talks, workshops, keynotes, lightning talks, Pecha Kuchas, and panel presentations.

I've had to write a proposal for each of them.

And I've been a reviewer, a track chair, and an experience report shepherd for the Agile 20xx series of conferences for more than 10 years. I've also been an experience report shepherd for the XP 20xx conferences for several years.

I've had to read too many horrible proposals.

I'm happy to share what I've learned in this book. As you work through the proposal writing, do let me know if you have questions or comments.

I make no claims that the ideas here are the One Right Way to create a conference proposal. I've developed these ideas over the years, refining what works for me.

Some of these ideas will work for you. I hope all of them will, but you may have to adapt them to your circumstances.

My best wishes and I hope the conferences accept your well-crafted, honed proposals.

Let's start.