For many event managers, conference committee members and convenors, navigating through the abstract process is part of day-to-day life. There’s no question about it, managing abstracts is an involved and time-consuming process that requires precision coordination.
If the abstract process isn’t well managed, cracks will appear, you’ll run out of time and ultimately, you won’t be able to give your delegates the winning conference programme that they deserve.
Here are our top 10 tips to make managing abstracts a breeze and help you come out with a win.
1. Allow ample time
It’s safe to say that managing the entire abstract process is a BIG job. There four main stages: submissions, reviewing, scheduling and publishing the programme, each stage requires precision planning and execution.
Padding out your timeline will make sure that if, and when unexpected curveballs arise (and we all know they do), you’ve got time to deal with them without throwing out your entire timeline.
Free resource: Download our abstract timeline here.
2. Automate as much as you can
Creating automated user workflows for everyone involved: admin, committee members, convenors, submitters and reviewers, does three things — one, it saves time; two, it creates a positive experience for those involved; and three, automation helps avoid costly mistakes.
Whether you’re automating your entire calls for abstracts process using software, taking registrations through an online system or using an email marketing tool to send out your calls for abstracts and decisions – they are all designed to streamline the process and help you get the job done faster and with more control.
3. Be ready to promote your calls for abstracts
There’s a lot to think about when coordinating your calls for abstracts. Having all the elements lined up and ready to go before launching will help you avoid scrabbling your way through this stage.
Here’s a checklist to help you prepare before launching:
- Have your website ready with all the information submitters need to complete their submissions.
- Have your target email lists ready to go. Spend a bit of time checking that your lists are current and that you’ve included the right people.
- Set up an email marketing tool such as MailChimp or Campaign Monitor to send and track your calls for abstracts emails. They’ll also help keep your list up-to-date – very helpful for reminder emails and building your list next year.
- Create templates to use year in and year out. Useful templates include: Calls for abstract, calls for abstract — reminder, abstract accepted — oral, abstract accepted — poster and abstract unsuccessful.
4. Be kind to your reviewers
We wouldn’t be able to get through one of the most important stages
[reviewing] without them. They’re most likely volunteers who are giving up their time to undertake your conference reviews – so be kind to them.
Set out clear expectations within reviewer guidelines before reviewing commences. Consider ways in which you can make their lives easier – e.g. Monday deadlines are better than Friday as it gives them time during the weekend to complete all their allocations.
If you’re considerate of your reviewers, you’ll get the best results out of them, which leads to quality conference content.
5. Allocate reviewers based on expertise
This really is a must. If a reviewer has expertise in the area they are reviewing, it will save both of you time. This is because they already understand the discipline and won’t need to spend time trying to comprehend it.
Secondly, they’re better equipped to apply scientific rigour to their reviews and score abstracts critically. Having reviewers who are experts in the area will benefit the overall quality of the conference material.
6. Ask for what you want
It is that old saying — if you don’t ask, you don’t get. This applies to asking your submitters to submit exactly what you want and in the format you need it in.
Be really clear in your instructions – the last thing you want is to have to go into the second round of submissions and reviews because you weren’t clear on what you wanted in the first place.
7. It’s not always about the writing
Sure, abstracts will likely have scores against them for writing and presentation but sometimes research quality outweighs the written quality of an abstract. If the research is relevant to the overall conference, then it’s just too good not to share.
Give everyone who submits quality research a chance to present their work, whether it be a poster presentation or an oral.
8. Mix up the schedule
There’s a bit of a knack to creating an engaging conference schedule. Start by thinking about what you would want if you were the attendee – what do you want, when do you want it and how do you want it delivered?
The conference schedule comprises of three elements: the people, the session types and the social events. Find novel ways to mix these all up and engage delegates, speakers and sponsors to make your conference memorable.
9. Decide on programme outputs early
Printed programmes are slowly being phased out in favour of digital programmes. Digital programmes come in the form of conference apps or mobile responsive websites that house the full programme or a simple downloadable PDF file on your website.
While collating the final schedule, abstracts and everything that goes into a printed programme is time-consuming, developing a conference app or website can take up far more time if you’re starting from scratch.
By deciding on outputs early, you have time to research the best options available and produce them. Unless you are simply displaying a PDF of your programme on your website for delegates to view/download, creating a digital programme at the last-minute is not an option.
10. Utilise feedback
Often we collect feedback post conference and then never really look at it again. When it comes to managing abstracts, there’s definitely value in spending a bit of time reading feedback from past conferences.
Whether it be feedback about your submissions process, the format your programme is available in or the length of your sessions during the conference, all this information in can inform some big decisions and ultimately improve your conference.
Review the feedback!
We know that at times, navigating your way through managing abstracts can seem like a bit of a minefield, it’s a big task. After searching high and low for a publication on how to manage abstracts from start to finish (and not finding anything) to share with you, we decided to write our own.
We’ve written The Little Book on Abstracts as a reference for seasoned event professionals and programme convenors, as well as providing a valuable resource to those just starting out in the industry. The book also includes a suite of ready to use template that you can download or add to your MailChimp folder.
Subscribe to receive your free copy of The Little Book on Abstracts.