How to Write a DAC Panel Proposal
compiled by ABK, January 2001
(Comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org)
What Are the Goals and Structure of Your Proposed DAC Panel?
- There are basically two types of DAC panels: "educational"
- Independent of which panel type you are proposing, the following
generic questions always arise during committee discussions.
The successful panel proposal will address these as well as the
other issues compiled in this web page.
- Is the topic of general interest? DAC organizers count
the attendance at each session, and track from year to year
how well certain topics tend to draw audiences. This is not
to say that all DAC panel proposals must be on the latest fad
or sexy issue - but audience appeal is a factor.
- What will the audience come away with when the session is over?
Will they have something to use at work the following Monday?
The successful panel session will not only draw an audience,
but will leave them satisfied that their time was well spent.
(Who is your target audience, and does it match the DAC attendee
- How are you going to maximize audience impact? Choice of
panelists by position or constituency, structure of the session
time budget, order of presentations, use of moderated and
free (audience) Q&A, etc. are among the organizer's degrees of
freedom. Explain in your proposal how these choices are aimed
at maximizing success.
- Along similar lines: What is the anticipated impact of this
panel, and of its topic, on the EDA field in general?
- If certain positions are the domain of "technologists", then
have you really populated the panel with the most credible R&D
people (as opposed to, say, marketeers)?
- Do you have real customers and designers on the panel, or is it
vendor-dominated? (Depending on the context, vendor-dominated
can be all right - but usually some real-world "tales from the
trenches" help keep the discussion interesting and relevant.)
- If you have a "debate" panel:
- How are you going to avoid the pitfall of "much heat,
- It helps to identify the three or four key questions that
will focus the discussion.
- It also helps to identify the various constituencies (e.g.,
flat vs. hierarchical, synthesis-centric vs. physical-centric,
formal vs. ad hoc, ...) and how the panel membership covers
the various viewpoints.
- If you have an "education" panel:
- How are you going to avoid the pitfall of too much "motherhood
and apple pie"? E.g., do you have a "naysayer" who will say
that this isn't a critical problem after all, that it's already
solved by the EDA customer base, that the trend is a mirage, ...?
- Are you sure that you've covered all bases, all constituencies?
- In addressing these issues, it's not a bad idea for your proposal
to end up looking somewhat like the example summaries that appear
in the Proceedings (see the first three links
- Your proposal should also clarify the anticipated structure of
- 3/4 of the sessions at DAC are 90 minutes long (the other 1/4
are 120 minutes long). How will you use the time? Following
are two "tried and true" scenarios.
- Scenario 1 begins a typical 90-minute session with a 5-10 minute
introduction and context setting (what is the scope of the
panel, what are the key questions to be illuminated during
the 90 minutes, who are the panelists and what are their
qualifications, what constituencies or viewpoints do the
panelists represent, etc.). While the moderator can introduce
the panelists and scope, sometimes in an "education" panel
the first panelist will set the scope (e.g., an academic who
flashes the ITRS slide, the laundry list of issues slide,
etc. so as to avoid duplication in later talks).
- Scenario 1 will then have around 7-minute
position talks from each of 6 panelists. Counting transition
times, this already uses up the first hour of the session.
(Some moderators and organizers attempt to identify a few
common questions that all panelists must answer -- or otherwise
limit the position statements to, say, a maximum of 5 slides.)
- Scenario 1 will then conclude with 30 minutes
of moderated Q&A, often semi-scripted to highlight the
distinctions between panelist viewpoints.
It is nice to have audience Q&A, but this can be fairly random
and unfocused, and is often less effective in terms of value
to the audience. (The trend seems to be away from audience
- In Scenario 2, the moderator leads off with a question which
panelists will answer with their positioning statements.
From there, the discussion begins. This is a less common
organization, but on the occasions that it's been tried,
it has worked well.
- The above are just some possibilities. The main point is that
session structure is a necessary component of a panel proposal.
Rough Outline of the DAC Panels Process
- In a given year, DAC will have approximately eight (8) panel
sessions. One or two may be "plenary", e.g., the "CEO panel"
or the "Embedded Systems panel". The DAC Panels Subcommittee
works with the Executive Committee and the TPC, trying to strike
the right balance between programmatic needs ("growth in embedded
systems"), programmatic balance ("need to have a system-level
verification methodology panel"), current interests ("DSM timing
closure is a hot topic"), setting direction for the EDA
community ("future trends"), and projected audience interest.
- Panel proposals are due at the same time as other submissions (late
October). However, there is much more flexibility with panels than
with technical papers, so you should send in your proposals late
rather than waiting an extra year. In previous years, Terri Alexander
at MP Associates (email@example.com, 303-530-4333/-4562) and the DAC
Panels Subcommittee Chair have been the appropriate points of contact.
- Anywhere from 30 to 50 proposals are received in a given year.
These are reviewed by a Panels Subcommittee of around 6-8 TPC members,
starting Tuesday evening of ICCAD week (early November) and continuing
via teleconference, email, and a face-to-face meeting in the Bay Area
Depending on issues of balance, quality, programmatic need, etc.
the Panels Subcommittee may also solicit new proposals from members
of the EDA community.
- By mid-December, there are typically around 12 to 16 "live" proposals.
Each is assigned to a "shepherd" who is a member of the
Panels Subcommittee. If you are associated with a "live" proposal
(e.g., as organizer/proposer), then you will probably be contacted
by the shepherd in late December and early January to refine your
proposal. The purpose of this contact is to initiate a process of
improvement and definition of your proposal, so that it can be presented
to the DAC TPC in its best possible light. Please note that
the concept of "your proposal" is somewhat vague. This is because
there are often many similar proposals submitted to DAC. (For example,
in recent years there are always multiple "perils of UDSM" proposals,
"verification methodology" proposals, "new EDA business models"
proposals, etc.) The Panels Subcommittee will tend to pick the
strongest exemplar in each equivalence class, and use it as the
basis for mixing and matching together a stronger proposal. Thus,
your proposal may appear to be "rejected", even though essentially the
same panel idea ends up in the program. Conversely, your proposal
may appear to be "selected", but the reason may be as insignificant
as the title or the moderator's name.
- At the DAC TPC meeting, which typically takes place in the Boulder area
on the third Thursday in January, all live proposals are presented by
shepherds to the entire TPC. (Because of time constraints, typically
each entire proposal is boiled down into 1 or 2 PowerPoint slides.
Examples are (last three links)
Feedback is obtained. Based on all
inputs (including the number of available session slots), the Panels
Subcommittee internally agrees on a recommended slate of panels.
As noted above, there are typically around eight panels at this stage.
These panels are cleaned up during the last part of January
to address any TPC concerns, and to solidify title/abstract and
- The cleaned-up slate of panels is subject to approval at the
DAC Executive Committee meeting, which typically occurs on the
second weekend in February. Until this approval is obtained,
nothing is officially in the DAC program.
- By mid-February, the Advance Program must be finalized. This
means that all moderator and panelist names, affiliations and
locations must be locked down. Typically, a 60- to 80-word
panel abstract is written for use in web and/or printed advance
- By the end of March, the Proceedings must be finalized.
This means that a 1-2 page double-column summary of the panel
(abstract, position statements, etc.) must be sent to the publisher
in both softcopy and hardcopy form. Panel organizers work closely
with shepherds on this. See the EXAMPLES (first three links)
- Well before DAC, it is recommended that the moderator and panelists
get together -- not only by email, but face-to-face -- in order to
agree on the key issues that will be discussed, as well as the structure
of the panel, order of presentations, contrast of position statements,
- Note that all panel presentations must be approved by DAC in advance.
A number of guidelines re appropriate use of logos,
level of overt product marketing, etc. must be followed. Organizers
and shepherds must work closely with panelists so that presentation
materials are available for review in a timely way.
- Caveat: For DAC-2002, there is a plan to shift the due
dates (and thus the schedule) later, e.g., the submission deadline
will likely be at the beginning of December, and the rest of the Panels
schedule will likely shift accordingly. Stay tuned for updates.
Tips for a Successful Proposal and Pleasant DAC Panels Experience
- The ideal number of panelists is either five (5) -- especially for
a 90-minute session -- or perhaps six (6). Seven is too many for
a 90-minute session (as noted above, 3/4 of all DAC sessions are
90 minutes long).
- Please do not fudge the participant list. When you say that someone
is "confirmed", they should be. Proposals lose credibility
when a committee member contacts the "confirmed" moderator or
panelists and finds out that they never heard of the proposal.
- Please do not attempt to put two members of the same organization
onto the panel, e.g., as Moderator and Panelist. "Same organization"
encompasses any obvious close business or personal relationship.
(Examples: investor/VC, board member, advisor, co-developer,
co-marketer, future acquisition/merger, ...) Such relationships
will not escape scrutiny, will weaken the proposal, and are an
invitation for DAC to start changing your panel composition.
The basic guideline is this: a DAC panel is not a commercial or
a forum for product announcements, and should not be stacked with any
given company's own customers. There are never any "slots" on panels
that may be filled at the discretion of a company.
- Please do not expect to "own" your proposal. DAC owns the panel
proposals, and feels free to mix, match, re-spin, etc. according
to what is best for the DAC program. The best-case outcome for
a proposer/organizer is to still be listed as such (probably jointly
with a DAC TPC member) in the program and proceedings.
- If you are the proposer and have a public relations firm as your
affiliation, please do not tell the shepherd that Company X must
be on the panel because that is how you get paid. The argument just
doesn't have any impact. (And even if it is injected into the
committee discussion, someone will say, "Hey, those guys work on
- Please do not "spam" low-quality proposals. Sometimes the
Panels Subcommittee will see 5 proposals from the same "organizer",
with each proposal having just a title ("EDA and the Third World",
"What Your Mother Never Told You About Dealing With
EDA Sales Organizations: The Fourth-Quarter Lever", ...)
plus about 2 lines of content. Some of these might be good, but
no one will ever know: they're likely to be thrown away immediately.
Weak proposals also tend to damage viable proposals that come
from the same source.
- Please try to find a good title. Obviously, a title such as
"The Purpose of A System-Level Design Language is to Maximize
Productivity of Designers Who Are Used to Using MATLAB" won't
pass muster... but you'd be surprised how many titles in proposals look
like this. A good title is catchy and crisp, and clearly sets out
the question or issue that the panel will address.
Remember, all that the DAC audience has to go on -- in determining
whether to attend a panel -- are the names of the panelists and the
description in the program. Only rarely will the audience look to
the proceedings for help. If you have some recognizable names, this
will help, but in any case, make the title and description of the
(Here are some building blocks of the generic DAC panel title:
"From the Trenches", "What's Next", "Past Problems and Future
Solutions", "Impact on EDA", ... you get the idea. Put a colon
in there and you're set!)
- Please think hard about the "Q" of the moderator and panelists.
Of course they don't have to be telegenic, but good stage presence,
quick repartee and humor, etc. are all helpful attributes.
DAC organizers are concerned about this aspect of the panel, and
proposals can lose out based on the perceived verbal strengths or
weaknesses of the session participants.
- Please do not submit a proposal if you are not able and willing
to follow through. "Follow through" means (i) rapid turnaround time
with your shepherd, (ii) flexibility with respect to panel composition
(no attempted pocket-vetos, please), (iii) active help in tracking
down position statements and PowerPoint presentations from
panelists, (iv) coordinating setup meetings before DAC, etc.
It is a lot of work and responsibility.
- Please do not attempt to go around your shepherd or the
DAC Panels Subcommittee in setting the content of, e.g., the Advance
Program, the Final Program, or the Proceedings. Because MP Associates
and the proceedings publisher are extremely busy during the February
to April time frame, it is possible to pull a fast one (e.g., list
a phantom panelist or organizer). However, this will be remembered,
and your name will be mud for years to come.