How does your association decide on presenters for its annual meeting? Is there a traditional call for papers, followed by rounds of submission and review? Or do you invite speakers, forgoing the call for proposals altogether? Does your process incorporate elements of each approach?

In an article last fall, Associations Now deputy editor Samantha Whitehorne mused on the pros and cons of the practice so familiar—or, some might argue, so tired—to association professionals. One group mentioned in the article (A Call to End the Call for Proposals?) divorced itself from the call for papers altogether, opting instead to invite speakers with experience in subjects that their membership wanted to learn more about.

The world didn’t end. The conference happened and people enjoyed the experience.

Many associations continue to sound the call, and there are many good reasons to do so. For example, submitting a proposal is one way to engage current members and spark interest in potential ones as well. Even if their proposal is not accepted, simply the act of preparing one is a step forward in one’s career. The belief that you, as a professional in your field, has something to offer others like you represents a changing paradigm and a shift toward self-assurance that can open new doors.

Yet there are dangers to relying only on an open call to choose the content that defines your industry and your association. It’s easy to fall into a pattern of relying on the same topics, perhaps even featuring the same speakers, for many years. Some potential speakers might be dissuaded by a complicated submission process and decide not to put their hat in the ring. Another potential downside to the traditional method comes into play: What’s the best way to advertise your call for papers beyond your membership?

According to the article, which cites a report released by Tagoras and Velvet Chainsaw Consulting, most organizations (62%) accept 40% or more of the submissions they receive. One has to wonder: Are all of these proposals worthy of the audience that comes to your annual meeting? Or were they simply what was easily available, and not bad?

Of course, the best course of action will depend on many factors and probably lies somewhere between the traditional approach (call for papers, come what may) and the novel one (by invitation only). There should be flexibility in your collection process, and that means your abstract collection and speaker management system shouldn’t be carved in stone, either. The fluidity of a new process or a modified one means that in order to keep things simple, your system should be ready to evolve as your collection needs do.

No matter how you choose to find your presenters for your annual meeting, Omnipress’ abstract collection and speaker management system can help simplify the process. Papers can be submitted by professionals who want to speak at your event as well as those who have been invited to do so. Using the system for final collection helps to keep the materials organized; the scheduling feature makes it easy to move forward to the planning stages and set up schedules and content for use in a printed program, event content website, or mobile event app.

To see the abstract collection and speaker management system in action, try the demo!

About Omnipress

Omnipress delivers educational content for associations and other organizations. Digital and print solutions for in-person, virtual, and hybrid conferences and training programs.

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