Presenting at the NSPRA National Seminar: Tips and Tools

NSPRA 2021 New Orleans logoThis winter, the National School Public Relations Association accepted proposals for in-person and virtual sessions at the NSPRA 2021 National Seminar, which is scheduled for July 11-14, 2021, at the Sheraton New Orleans Hotel in Louisiana.

Those who submitted a presentation proposal, were encouraged to review NSPRA's  10 Tips to Earn Top Ratings as a Presenter and these 5 Tips to a Great Presentation Proposal:

  1. Know the Popular Topics
  2. Know Your Audience
  3. Know Which Format Fits Your Proposal
  4. Demonstrate Your Experience
  5. Follow the Proposal Guidance

All proposals were due by Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Those who submitted proposals will be notified by email whether their proposal was accepted. Notifications are anticipated by mid-March.  

5 Tips to a Great Presentation Proposal

1. Know the Popular Topics

One way to succeed with your presentation proposal is to choose a topic where you have experience and expertise that other school public relations professionals want to know more about. 

As you consider what to present on, you might start by asking yourself, “What have my colleagues asked me about a lot this past year?” 

Members' Topics of Interest

Next, compare your answers to the following list of topics that NSPRA members have already expressed interest in: 

  • Hands-on, how-to instruction for various communication tools, apps, software and accessibility features
  • Digital communication skills (e.g., video, social media, podcasting, photography)
  • Employee recruitment and retention strategies and campaigns
  • Guidance for managing a communications department
  • Leadership training for veterans looking to advance their careers
  • Customer service initiatives
  • Storytelling skills, particularly in a virtual environment
  • Writing skills, in general and specifically for speeches and scripts
  • Presentation, public speaking and interview skills
  • Sessions unique to the work of communicators in a BOCES, intermediate unit, regional education agency or county office of education.

Session Focus Areas

Each presentation proposal must fall into one of the following session focus areas:

  • PR/Communication TACTICS (best practice strategies, programs, campaigns, tips, advice for implementation, media relations, COVID-19 crisis and vaccine communications, etc.)
  • PR/Communication Strategic PLANNING (research and evaluation strategies, coordination/management of effective programs, collaborative efforts, accountability/results, etc.)
  • PR/Communication LEADERSHIP (strategic counseling, reputation management, relationship building, organizational dynamics, mentoring/guidance, professional development, etc.)
  • PR/Communication EQUITY and diversity (research, strategies, programs, campaigns, activities, etc.)
  • PR/Communication WELLNESS and stress management (school system programs and campaigns, coaching and self-care tips for communicators)
  • MARKETING/Branding (research, strategies, programs, campaigns, activities, etc.)
  • Internal and/or external stakeholder ENGAGEMENT (research, strategies, programs, campaigns, activities, etc.)

Now that you know what school PR pros want and how NSPRA may categorize your session, settle on a popular topic where you have a lot of experience and expertise to offer.

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2. Know Your Audience

The NSPRA 2019 National Seminar attracted more than 1,100 attendees. Nearly half (42%) were first-time Seminar attendees. While the majority were school public relations professionals, nearly 50 superintendents also attended the Seminar.

More broadly, here are some key demographics about NSPRA’s members based on their responses to a 2020 Membership Profile Survey:

  • 75% identify as female.
  • 8% identify as Black/African American or Hispanic/Lantix.
  • 73% work for a school system serving grades K-12 or preK-12.
  • 11% work for a  BOCES, intermediate unit, regional education agency, county office of education, educational association or state education department.
  • 41% are advancing or mid-career professionals with 5-15 years of experience in school PR.
  • 31% are veterans with more than 15 years of experience.
  • 32% are aged 40-49 (Generation X), 27% are aged 50-59 (Generation X/Baby Boomers) and 24% are aged 30-39 (Millennials).
  • 39% are their organization’s only school communicator.
  • 36% are in a communications office of 2-4 people.
  • 17% are Accredited in Public Relations (APR). 

The top 5 responsibilities for NSPRA members are crisis management, media relations, social media, strategic communications planning and writing/editing.

As you review these demographics, picture the target audience for your presentation: Who would benefit most from what you have to share? 

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3. Know Which Format Fits Your Proposal

New in 2021, NSPRA is developing plans for a hybrid Seminar experience, with sessions potentially offered in the formats below. When completing your presentation proposal, please select no more than four (4) formats in which you are willing to present. As you review these format options, consider whether you would be willing and able to:

  • Deliver your presentation in person to a physical audience.
  • Record for or broadcast live to a virtual audience. 
Seminar Session Format Types
Skill Session - 
In person
1 hour Live lecture, panel discussion or interactive session with time for Q&A. Deliver in person at the Seminar, but session may be broadcast live to a virtual audience.
Skill Session - Virtual 30 minutes Pre-recorded lecture or panel discussion. Must submit a video file (MP4) and presentation slides (PDF) by June 11, 2021. NSPRA will have exclusive permission to share, sell and/or rebroadcast the session recording for 12 months after the Seminar.

Special Session - 
In Person

1.5 hours Live lecture or panel discussion with time for Q&A. Cover a topic in depth, but appeal to a broad audience. Deliver in person at the Seminar, but session may be broadcast live to a virtual audience. Limited spots available.
Action Lab -
In Person
1. 5 hours Live, interactive, hands-on, mini-workshop with strategies and tactics adaptable for immediate use by participants. Deliver in person at the Seminar, but session may be broadcast live to a virtual audience. Must have a hands-on component. Limited spots available.
Gold Mine - 
In person
25 minutes x 3 rounds Live mini-session on a program/best practice topic with time for Q&A. Present at a table for a small group of 8-10 people, during a total of three rounds.  Deliver in person at the Seminar. A one- to two-page tip sheet is required and must be submitted by June 11, 2021.
Gold Mine - 
15 minutes Pre-recorded mini-session on a program/best practice topic.  Must submit a video file (MP4) and a 1-2 page tip sheet by June 11, 2021. NSPRA will have exclusive permission to share, sell and/or rebroadcast the session recording for 12 months after the Seminar.

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4. Demonstrate Your Experience

As part of your presentation proposal, you will be invited to share:

  • The number of times you have delivered a professional presentation or training/workshop.
  • Your experience presenting at a NSPRA National Seminar and the year of your most recent presentation.
  • A reference who has observed and can speak to your presentation skills if you have not presented at a NSPRA National Seminar. 

Seminar planners consider presenters’ experience levels, and if applicable, past Seminar evaluations as part of the proposal review process. If you have little or no presentation experience, consider identifying a more experienced co-presenter to join you to ensure a stronger proposal.

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5. Follow the Proposal Guidance

NSPRA is seeking presenters who offer unique insights; effective strategies and tactics; timely information on new and emerging issues; useful, hands-on resource materials; and relevant content and experiences that meet the high standards of NSPRA Seminar participants. 

In selecting session proposals, priority will be given to sessions with NSPRA members as lead or co-presenters.

All vendor session proposals must include an NSPRA member as co-presenter. Do not submit proposals that include sales pitches by individuals or companies intending to promote specific products and services. NSPRA welcomes companies to consider sponsorship opportunities that include a Corporate Showcase session, where pitches may be made. Please contact the Seminar manager, Kristina Ottomanelli, at for more information. 

Submit your proposal at by Friday, Jan. 29, 2021. Presentation proposals must be submitted via this K12 Insight e-form, but you can download a copy of the submission form (.docx) to review and edit prior to your final submission.

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10 Tips to Earn Top Ratings as a Presenter

Seminar attendees are invited to complete evaluations of session presenters each year. Based on their feedback, NSPRA offers the following presenter tips  so you can earn a five-star rating from your audience. Watch a video about the tips below.

The Do’s

  • Do match your description
  • Do tell a story
  • Do give practical advice
  • Do provide takeaways
  • Do practice, practice, practice

The Don’ts

  • Don't just talk about you
  • Don't tell without showing
  • Don't read your slides
  • Don't offend your audience
  • Don't forget your target audience


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Questions? Contact NSPRA Associate Director Mellissa Braham, APR, at or (301) 519-1227.