Call for Session Proposals
36th Annual Visitor Studies Association Conference
Saint Paul, MN • July 16-18, 2024

Redefining Visitor Studies

The Visitor Studies Association represents a community of evaluation practitioners and visitor advocates who draw on many of the same norms and best practices, cultivated and refined over decades of experience and learning. As we gather once again in person, it is an opportune moment to critically examine our collective perspectives and knowledge, to capitalize on the strengths in our practices while unearthing areas that require redefinition to advance quality and equity within our work. As we undergo the work of redefining, we ask questions such as:

  • How can we acknowledge existing practices or create new ones that accommodate the new and changing realities of institutional environments?
  • How can our community of practice contribute to the work that we do and enable us to generate and share new resources, approaches, and best practices?
  • How can we better serve both visitors and non-visitors through evaluative practice?
  • How can members of the communities we serve have shared authority in our work?
  • How do we begin to define community without ignoring individuals, who have divergent and intersectional experiences and knowledge, both within our institutions and outside?

Both as professionals in our own contexts and as a cohesive evaluation and research community, let us examine the tensions that exist between our individual roles and ways of knowing, the dynamics of our organizations, and the best practices we aspire to. This conference will foster opportunities for robust discourse and, more importantly, define new ways forward as we seek to better amplify and honor the voices of the communities we are dedicated to serving.

In considering submitting a Session Proposal, the Conference Planning Committee would be excited to receive proposals that:

  • Examine what happens when best practices meet the realities of real-world evaluation contexts.
  • Explore ways of sharing or collaborations in which the evaluation community has come together to support or inform a project or initiative.
  • Describe instances in which an evaluator’s personal identity, lived experiences, or perspectives contributed to or informed their methods or approaches.
  • Deconstruct or critically examine current practices that could benefit from redefinition or reconsideration.
  • Illustrate emergent practices that may represent future directions for the field.

Evaluation Criteria
Proposals will be rated on the following criteria:

  • The proposal provides a clear picture of what to expect during the session, including how presenters will elicit dialogue with the audience about project relevance and implications.
  • The proposal articulates how it is aligned (directly or indirectly) with this year’s theme.
  • The proposed learning objectives are realistic and achievable.
  • The proposal should represent diverse perspectives.
  • The proposal demonstrates presenters’ knowledge of and experience with the topic, including relevant methodologies, sources of evidence, and/or literature.
  • The proposal highlights specific findings and conclusions and their relevance to the visitor studies/informal learning field.
  • All presenters should be confirmed by date of submission.


January 12th, 2024 11:59 pm PST: Deadline for Submission

January into February 2024: Sessions undergo peer review

February 2024: Program Committee finalizes decisions and arranges program schedule. If there are any special presenter circumstances that would impact scheduling, presenters should list them in the submission form.

March 2024: Notifications sent to applicants

Questions? If you have questions or require additional information, please e-mail the VSA Office at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

Session Proposal Guidelines:
We encourage the inclusion of substantial audience discussion within sessions. We are especially looking for ways to involve participants through thought-provoking, reflective conversations related to key ideas and issues raised during your session.

This year, we are using an online submission form. Read through the guidelines below; then submit your proposal. Please note that special formatting, such as bullets, is not transferred in the online form.

Submit your VSA 2024 Session Proposal

All proposals must include the following:

  1. Session Chair: The session chair is the principal contact person for communications between VSA and presenters and is responsible for sharing logistical information with co-presenters. Please be sure to list the individual who will serve in this organizing role in the “Session Chair” field.
  2. Confirmed Presenters: Presenters should represent diverse backgrounds and perspectives and can come both from the museum world or outside it. Proposals with confirmed presenters will be rated more highly. Please note: In order to encourage diverse perspectives, VSA has instituted a participation limit for individual presenters. Individuals may only appear on 2 session proposals total. If an individual is listed as a session chair or presenter on more than 2 proposals, none of the proposals will be considered until that individual has withdrawn his/her name from the appropriate number of proposals. Posters do not count toward the two session limit.
  3. Title of your session: 10 word maximum.
  4. Program Description: Please provide a high level description of your session for inclusion in the Preliminary and Final Programs (50 word maximum). This description may be edited by the Program Chairs for clarity.
  5. Session format: Your session should acknowledge and build upon the participants’ own knowledge and experiences. They should be able to clearly connect with your material and apply it to their own situations. Most conference sessions should be designed so that participants are actively engaged rather than passively receiving information. You must indicate one preferred format from the list below for your proposal.

The session format options are: A) hosted presentation B) panel presentation, C) individual paper presentation, D) facilitated discussion. More details on each of these options are below:

  1. Hosted Presentation
    • A single presenter or group-led presentation detailing or examining a specific methodology, instrument, or process. Generally, this will educate attendees on integrating similar steps into their work.
    • Maximum of 4 presenters, including session chair
    • 60-minute recommended session length

While this may include traditional presentations, we encourage presenters to consider alternative techniques that incorporate greater audience engagement, discussion, and interaction on the topic. Presenters should reserve sufficient time for audience discussion and Q&A within the session. Presenters should describe the format in the “Session Plan” section.

  1. Panel Presentation
    • A moderated discussion that serves as an opportunity for multiple presenters to examine a specific issue, topic, or theme from a variety of perspectives
    • Maximum of 4 presenters, including session chair
    • 60-minute recommended session length

We encourage presenters to consider alternative techniques that incorporate greater audience engagement, discussion, and interaction on the topic. Presenters should reserve sufficient time for audience discussion and Q&A within the session. Presenters should describe the format in the “Session Plan” section.

  1. Individual Paper Presentation
    • An opportunity to present on a single topic, project, or study
    • Individual presenter or 2 presenters from the same institution or project team
    • 30-minute recommended session length

Generally, this will include a presentation of completed, or mostly completed work, including findings, lessons learned, and next steps. Presenters will be responsible for facilitating audience discussion, and should reserve sufficient time for Q&A within the session. Presenters do not need to complete the “Session Plan” portion of the proposal.

  1. Facilitated Discussion
    • Informal group discussion with participants around key topic or area of interest in the field, lead by single presenter or group
    • Maximum of 3 presenters, including session chair
    • May include a brief introductory presentation to set up the topic to be discussed, but the majority of session should be devoted to dialogue among attendees
    • 45-minute recommended session length

Presenters should describe how they will frame the topic, facilitate discussion, and wrap up the conversation in the “Session Plan” section. In this plan, presenters should also explain how they will adapt their discussion for varying audience sizes (e.g., small break out groups, pair and share, polls, etc.).

Note: Poster presentations will be invited through a separate solicitation in March, 2024.

  1. Length of Session: As part of the virtual conference, VSA wants to offer as much flexibility as possible to presenters. Please use the recommended session times in each session format description as a guideline for selecting the length of the session below. 
    • 30 minutes
    • 45 minutes
    • 60 minutes

Program Chairs may recommend changes to session length if the selected time does not seem to align with the session plan.

  1. Intended Audience: Indicate via checkboxes which audience(s) will benefit most from this session. Consider level of material, job focus, etc. You may make up to three selections.
    • Experienced evaluators and researchers
    • Novice evaluators and researchers
    • Emerging museum professionals
    • Visitor-facing practitioners (e.g., educators, visitor experience staff, etc.)
    • Experience designers (e.g., exhibit designers, program developers, etc.)
    • Museum administrators
    • Another audience (please describe)
  2. Learning Outcomes: What will participants know or be able to do as a result of attending your session? You should have two or three learning outcomes, each a separate thought. At least one should relate to VSA’s learning competencies, as described here:  Evaluator Competencies
  3. Proposal Narrative: Provide a summary of the content of your presentation. Please include how your session relates to this year’s theme.

Word Limit (excluding references):

  • 300 words for an Individual Paper or Facilitated Discussion.
  • Narrative should not exceed 750 words for Hosted Presentation or Panel Presentation.

Please observe these word limits out of respect to our volunteer reviewers.

  1. Session Plan (for Hosted Presentation, Panel Presentation, and Facilitated Discussion Formats): Describe what will happen during your session. Be sure to include your strategies for audience involvement and interaction, as well as a breakdown of how you intend to use the time allotted. Detail any plans to incorporate resources or other technologies, as well as how you expect attendees to participate.

Any specific needs or requests should be emailed to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Submission Agreement:
In order to submit your proposal, you will need to read and agree to the following six statements:

  1. I understand that as the session chair, it is my responsibility to secure session presenters and to disseminate all logistical and other information to session presenters.
  2. I agree that neither I nor my participating session presenters will use the session as a platform to promote products or services of any kind.
  3. I understand that presenters do not receive complimentary registrations, honoraria, or paid expenses to speak at the VSA Conference.
  4. I understand it is my responsibility to register myself for the conference and to inform all presenters that they too are solely responsible for registering themselves for the conference by the Early Bird Registration deadline.
  5. I agree that all presenters for this session will be fully informed that they must be available to present any day of the general conference programming (July 16-18, 2024) and that they will not be permitted to participate in more than two proposals.

I confirm that I have read and agree with the six statements listed and that I am responsible for sharing this information with all presenters for this session.

Proposal Submission Process:

Proposal Review Process:

  • Program Chairs may return or reject proposals without review if the proposals do not address all required information, include presenters listed on more than two proposals, or exceeding the word limits specified above
  • Peer-review of proposals will not include presenter identification
  • Reviewers will evaluate each proposal they receive according to the criteria listed above

For more information about VSA, including updates related to the 2024 conference, please visit our website:

Submit your 2024 Session Proposal Here