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April 26, 2023

5 Tips for a Winning AU 2023 Proposal


AU 2023 is shaping up to be an incredible conference—three days of learning, connecting, and exploring the future of design and make. Much about AU stays consistent year to year—but a few things change every year as we work to create the best possible event. With Call for Proposals in high gear through May 15, we thought we’d offer a few tips to those working on their submissions—and those who might still be on the fence—on how to craft a proposal that will rise to the top of the pile.  

1. Focus on business objectives  

While you might have practical reasons for adopting a new workflow, technology, or approach—such as saving clicks or reducing repetitive tasks—we also want to know what it did for your company, your business, and your bottom line. In your proposal, be sure to highlight the measurable value and the strategic goals that you achieved, and that others can replicate. Tell the full story from an angle that can engage your peers and make the business outcome the happy ending.  

2. Connect to the important trends  

We live and work in a time of rapid change, and at AU 2023, we’ll be focusing on three overarching trends. If your proposal ladders up to one or more of them, that’s a recipe for success. This year, we’re looking for sessions that explore:  

  • Transformation: Tell us how you’re responding to change, navigating the unknown, and driving new possibilities in your industry. How are you reimagining the ways things have been done to design and make better?  
  • Platform: When applications and data are based on desktop computers, as they were for decades, there are limitations on how we can design and make, especially in our highly collaborative industries. When we can move those applications and data to the cloud, new possibilities open up for how we connect our processes and our people, so tell us how you’re reimagining possible with cloud-based platforms.  
  • Sustainability: The ways we’ve design and made in the past were effective, but they carried a heavy cost in resource use, physical waste, and greenhouse gas emissions. Tell us how you’re finding better ways to make and build with less impact on people, communities, and the planet.  

3. Pick your focus—technical excellence or thought leadership 

AU is for leaders and learners. That means we want your most gnarly technical instruction session proposals—and also your biggest big-picture industry visions. In the end, we’re looking to create an even balance between the two types of sessions throughout the conference. Just make sure that you’re choosing the right class format for your idea. Big picture? Maybe it should be an industry talk. How-to? Probably it should be technical instruction.  

4. Think about how to frame your unique knowledge 

Every person in the AU learning community has a unique knowledge set, based on where they’ve studied, the projects they’ve worked on, and the people they’ve worked with. And everyone could propose multiple classes based on that knowledge. So think about what you know better than anyone else. As Ariel Castillo recently wrote in a guest blog about his journey to becoming an AU speaker:  

“In 2022, I submitted five different proposals—some that took a high-level approach to our company’s transformation, others that focused on specific parts of that journey. The two proposals that were accepted focused on workflows and technical specifics. So I recommend considering different classes that you could teach with your knowledge—and don’t be afraid to be granular.”   

5. Think about what other industries might learn from your work 

Most of us work in a particular industry, but AU is for many industries—building design and engineering, construction, product design and manufacturing, and media and entertainment. And we’ve heard many interesting stories over the years about how someone got their breakthrough idea attending a class for an industry other than the one they work in. It could be an architect who got inspired about the possibilities of visualization in an M&E class. It could be a GC who got an idea for improving construction processes from a class on manufacturing. So while you should absolutely focus your energies on how others in your industry can benefit from your class, also give a thought to how this learning and innovation might benefit people who do other things.  

Bonus tips 

Okay, we said we’d only give you five tips, but these two don’t really count, because they’re tips that apply every year.  

  • Take care of the basics of your proposal. That means make sure your title is clear and your learning objectives are descriptive. Don’t skip any sections. 
  • Revise your proposal. Writing is rewriting, as they say. Don’t just whip it off and push send. Take feedback from colleagues. Print it out and reread it a few times. Take your time and make it the best you can.  


Call for Proposals runs through May 15. So read the Proposal Guide, download the Proposal Worksheet, and make some magic happen. We can’t wait to see what you have to share.