How to Build Contingency Planning Into Your Call for Papers

Last-minute changes to your conference program are bound to happen. Incorporate these four steps in your next call for papers or speakers to be more prepared for the inevitable.

Contingency planning is more necessary than ever

Meeting planners have always been contingency planning pros. And the risk of a speaker having to cancel at the last minute has always existed. But over the past several years, that risk has increased exponentially.  There are more factors present that could prevent a planned speaker from being able to travel.

Plan for the inevitable during your call for papers

If you’re using an abstract management system to conduct your call for papers, posters, or speakers, there are several steps you should take that will make it easier to make future adjustments to your program schedule and session content if necessary.

  1. Proactively manage your speaker preferences

    As part of your submission form, be sure to ask potential speakers whether they are willing to deliver their session content in-person or virtually. That way, if things need to change, you already have reportable data on which speakers you can ultimately select based on the final conference format, rather than going back and collecting this information after the fact.

  2. Collect all speaker assets early, and in multiple formats

    As part of your initial call, include a place for session presenters to supply everything you will need for your final event materials, including headshots, bios, and other supplementary materials. Ask for these files to be provided in formats that will work well across print, online, and mobile. That way, regardless of how attendees access the conference schedule and session information, you’re already covered.

  3. Consider video as part of the initial call for papers process

    Abstracts and presentation proposals are used to judge the quality and relevance of the suggested topic. But it’s also important to know whether the speaker can present the information in a compelling and engaging way. It’s also never a bad idea to use video to “audition” your speakers—even for an in-person event. However, this audition process becomes even more important in a virtual setting where it can be harder to hold the audience’s attention.  Have your speakers submit a short (1-2 minute) video of themselves delivering a portion of the presentation during your initial call for presentations. Some abstract management platforms even feature a built-in video recording tool to make the process easier.  And later, if you do need to offer pre-recorded, on-demand session content as part of your virtual or hybrid event, speakers can use this same tool to record and submit their final presentations.

  4. Leverage the built-in scheduling tool

    Many meeting planners use a series of spreadsheets to build their conference schedule which makes changes to speakers or sessions extremely time-consuming. If your abstract management software includes a built-in electronic scheduling tool, now is the time to take advantage of it! Using this tool, you can easily pull in accepted papers, posters, and presentations, drag-and-drop them into the schedule, and see flagged conflicts at a glance. Not only does this make it significantly easier to build an initial schedule, but it also saves a lot of time and potential errors if you need to manage last-minute changes.

The only think certain is uncertainty. In the world of meetings and events, there will always be a disrupter to throw our perfectly-laid plans awry. It’s even more important to take steps early on in the conference planning process—including during your initial call for presentations—that provide greater flexibility down the road.

Event Technology Software Integration: Is It Really Needed?

 

Over the past several years we have seen a significant increase in the number of customers that ask us about integrating CATALYST® Abstract Management System by Omnipress with their Association Management System (AMS). This probably comes as no surprise, as event technology integration is a hot topic in the meetings industry right now. Meeting planners are looking for ways to simplify processes for both attendees and staff while gathering smarter insights about their event. At Omnipress, we’ve developed CATALYST to integrate with many third-party technologies, including your AMS, and are continually working to increase our software integration footprint. We want to be sure that integration is an option for our customers when necessary. But integration–not just with an abstract management system, but with nearly any type of cross-platform connection–often requires more time and resources than meeting planners are prepared for. Before embarking down the integration path, it’s extremely important to have a clear understanding of your objectives and desired outcomes, to evaluate whether or not integration is truly necessary.

Integrating Your Event Technology Planning Tools

The event technology landscape is overwhelmingly diverse. Corbin Ball, a noted event technology expert, states that he currently tracks, “nearly 1,500 event tech products in 60 categories” on his website, ranging from comprehensive all-in-one platforms to smaller, more specialized tools. The benefit of an all-in-one platform is that, in theory, all products within the platform seamlessly integrate with each other. But many organizations find that not all tech products available within a single platform meet their specialized needs uniformly. As a result, they opt to build a “tech stack” of separate, best-in-breed products that can (hopefully) connect data from one system to the other seamlessly.  Recognizing this need, more and more technology providers are building cooperative relationships to ensure their products “play well” together.

The case for integration makes perfect sense. As a meeting planner, why wouldn’t you want to have the option to choose tools that work best for your specific organizational needs, and the convenience of a streamlined way to capture, track and manage data between them?

CATALYST® Abstract Management Software AMS Integration Instances

Below are the most common AMS integration use cases we see customers taking advantage of with CATALYST:

Single sign-on

If a member already has login credentials to access their account details or resources based on their member profile and status, those same credentials can be used to log in to CATALYST. This makes the process of submitting abstracts more convenient and simpler for users.

Access and content control

With AMS integration, organizations can use data such as member level, member status or payment transactions to control access to online educational materials. Additionally, meeting planners and program managers can control whether a member has permission to submit an abstract, or even which questions they see on the submission form.

Data consistency

Pull member data from your AMS into CATALYST and simplify the submission process for an author, preventing them from having to re-type data that already exists in the system. With AMS integration there’s also less room for human data entry error, increasing data cleanliness and accuracy.

Co-author data entry

Many abstracts or papers are submitted by one author, on behalf of a team of co-authors who are also members of the organization. Data integration can allow that author to easily look up co-author information from the AMS and have it auto-populate into the abstract submission form, increasing convenience and data integrity.

While it’s clear to see the inherent benefits of integration, many associations don’t always realize is the ongoing investment of time, budget and resources that will be required for optimal integration—particularly if your requirements are fairly complex and custom. Sean Lawler, Product Development Manager at Omnipress, points out, “If we have already integrated with a particular AMS or other database provider before, it does simplify the process, as we are already familiar with their back-end environment.” But, he cautions, “The real wild card is that almost every client has their AMS configured differently, so every integration is somewhat unique and adjustments have to be made.”

Organizations also need to think beyond just the initial build. “It’s not a ‘one-and-done’ situation,” says Lawler. “The integration often needs to be maintained as you make changes to your database.”

Is Event Technology Software Integration Important to Your Organization? 

Unfortunately, there is no “simple button” to push to make integration happen, no matter how technologically advanced the product is, nor how experienced the provider. Given the resources required, the real question for meeting planners is whether the ROI truly makes sense.  To help in your evaluation, here are just a sampling of the questions Sean and his team explore with customers before settling on integration options.

1. What current challenges or pain points are you trying to solve, and why?

In some cases, we’ve found that data integration was not the core of the issue. Instead, we worked with customers to address and improve aspects of their submission and review process, which helped to reduce and streamline the work involved.

2. By solving these challenges, what is the estimated net gain to your organization—time, labor, financial, etc.?

It’s important to understand the true impact of integration to help calculate the short and long-term ROI for the organization.

3. How often, or how real-time do you need to access the data?

If there truly is a need to see data on an ongoing basis or in real-time, then integration probably is your best option. Sometimes, customers indicate they only need data at the very end of the project. In these cases, we can often provide the data they need, at no additional cost to them.

4. Where are you in the current lifecycle of your AMS? Are you planning on making a switch in the next 1-2 years or making a major change or upgrade within your existing system?

If you foresee any major changes on the horizon, then we recommend delaying the integration conversation until that time if possible, because the work that is done the first time will likely have to be done all over again once the changes are implemented.

There’s no doubt that increased visibility, streamlined processes and consistent data provide significant benefits to meeting planners. Integration of your organization’s event technology is one way to achieve this. But depending upon your true needs and goals, it may be possible to implement more practical processes that achieve the same results, without the necessary timeline and investment of integration. It’s important to ensure all stakeholders are aligned on objectives and outcomes and come to the table with an open mind. There is no doubt that integration will continue to play a large role in the future of event technology, including CATALYST Abstract Management System, but it may or may not be the best option for your organization today.

Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call For Papers

While conference attendees love good food, great networking opportunities, and creative activities, what they really value most about your event are the insightful, inspiring, and educational session presentations. Which makes the task of sourcing high-quality content extremely important. For many event planners, running a call for abstracts, papers, posters, and presentations is one of the most time and resource-intensive tasks. But it doesn’t have to be.

Best Practices Guide for Sourcing High-Quality Content

We consulted with four of our resident abstract management experts, Erin, John, Dave, and Paul, to develop the Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Content. Using their experience working with hundreds of conferences each year, they provide ten simple changes meeting planners can make to simplify the abstract submission and review process.

As a follow-up to this guide, we sat down with these experts to dive further into the advice provided within the guide.

Q&A With Four Abstract Management Experts

Q: One of the tips featured in the guide is to “prepare your forms to collect all necessary data.” What does this mean, and why is it so important?

Erin: People spend a lot of time unnecessarily chasing down data from submitters at the eleventh hour because either they didn’t think to collect it, or they didn’t think they would need it. It’s really important to first understand where all of the collected data is ultimately going to live and how it’s going to be used, so we can help our customers get exactly what they need.

John: If the planner has a sample of what their final conferences materials will be, possibly from a previous conference, we try and get that early on in the abstract management process. The customer doesn’t think of the data the same way we do, and they shouldn’t have to. That’s our job. We look at the final conference materials and make the connection between what’s actually being published versus what’s being included on the collection form.  

Paul: Here’s a real customer example of why collecting all necessary data on your form is so important. I noticed that one customer published the city, state, and country for each of their authors, but they weren’t asking us to collect it on the form. We had time to change that before the call for papers opened, which ultimately saved them a lot of time!

Dave: Best practice tip: If you know you’re going to need specific information, make it required in the first round of your call for papers, so you’re asking people to come into the abstract management system as infrequently as possible – they’ll really appreciate it!

Erin: At the same time, we do want to be mindful of how much people are asked to provide early on. We push our customers to really think about whether they really need some information, and if they are really going to use it. It’s a fine balance that we help customers maintain.

Q: Are there other ways that author or submitter data is sometimes used that customers don’t always think of?

Dave: Reports! Sometimes a customer will need to have certain data sets for internal reporting purposes, but they may not have collected it because they weren’t thinking of reports at the time. But the reality is, even though the conference site is still being built and they won’t need to access reports for several months, providing all data sets upfront helps streamline the process.

Q: What about data quality? How can we ensure an author or speaker provides a complete submission?

John: It’s all about the fields you use on your submission form. You have to break up data into smaller pieces. Otherwise five people will fill out the same field five different ways.

Erin: This is a huge culprit! For instance, don’t just include a “Name” field. Break out “First Name” and “Last Name” into two separate fields.

Paul: And, think of everything your authors are going to want to provide, like credentials and designations. If you don’t have a specific space for it, they’ll find a place to put it anyway, and that causes a lot of unnecessary data cleanup on the back end.

Dave: Co-authors can be tricky too. If the submitter is the only person that has access to that submission, they’re going to have a hard time completing it if they don’t know all of their co-authors’ information. So, on your instructions, tell your authors to gather all of their co-author information ahead of time, and it will be a much easier process for them.

Q: Speaking of instructions, how do they factor into the submission and review process?

Dave: Instructions are incredibly important! Having clearly-written instructions that are easily accessible at the right points during the submission and review process will increase compliance and quality substantially.

John: Keep your instructions very simple, and break them out into smaller, more digestible pieces. Some customers have a tendency to try and over-explain, and this actually causes more confusion and misinterpretation.

Erin: Be sure to have a brief overview of basic qualifiers on your conference website, where the call for papers is being advertised. This allows authors to determine whether their topic is a good fit before they get into the system and start a submission.

Paul: And don’t forget about your  reviewers. Be sure you write instructions for them as well.

Q: If you could share just one piece of abstract management wisdom with all meeting planners, what would it be?

Erin:  Finalize the big decisions about how you want the process to go at the very beginning, so you don’t find yourself having to change anything while you’re already in the middle of collection. I’ve seen this happen with some large committees, and the customer then had to go back and ask hundreds of authors to come back into the system and update information.

John: I’m going to add to that and say that it’s also important to determine early on who will be the designated point of contact for everything, and funnel all communication and decisions through this person. It simplifies the process tremendously, and you won’t have multiple committee members inadvertently providing conflicting information.

Paul: Provide a designated contact to field questions from submitters—particularly new submitters. Some customers don’t think they want to do this for a variety of reasons. Not having this available and accessible creates frustration for a potentially high-quality speaker.

Dave: Consider reducing the number of reviewers you recruit. I’ve had customers that wanted to assign a single reviewer to a single submission. With fewer reviewers, you actually get better data because they are seeing a bigger pool of submissions and have more context on quality.

John: I think the biggest thing for meeting planners or program chairs to know is they don’t have to be tied to legacy processes just because that’s the way it’s always been done. There may be an easier way to achieve the same outcome, so let us help you explore that option. That’s what we’re here for.

For more tips on how to design a call for papers process that is easier to manage and results in higher-quality submissions, download the Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Content.

3 Ways to Protect the Quality of Your Abstract Submissions

The #1 reason attendees choose a conference–whether in-person or virtual–is for the educational sessions.  Which is why it’s so important to select and schedule sessions that align not only with attendees’ interests, but also with your organization’s quality standards.

Many organizations use an open or invited call for abstracts, papers, and presentations to source this content, relying on an extensive peer or staff review process to identify and select the highest-quality papers and presentations, and help weed out those that aren’t.

You can help your reviewers with this task by putting a few simple steps in place at the front-end of your submission process, to help deter incomplete or lower-quality submissions from even making it through the submission process.

 

1. Charge a submission fee

While submission fees can help generate some added revenue for the conference, the primary purpose is  to discourage submissions from those who are simply “phishing” for any available opportunity.  You can set the fee at a modest level–just enough to discourage less-than-serious submissions, but not so high that it becomes a barrier to your authors or presenters.  Some find that even a modest fee encourages more thoughtful, thorough, and complete submissions from even the most legitimate authors.

2. Limit per-author submissions

Some meeting planners institute a limit on the total number of abstracts one author can submit, ensuring they present only their best work for consideration. Others set limits within their abstract management system that prevents a speaker from starting a new submission until their previous submission is complete.

3. Use plagiarism detection tools

The internet has made it easier to access, and in some cases “borrow” previously published work. As a result, more organizations are turning to plagiarism detection tools such as iThenticate as part of their scholarly paper review process. Some abstract management systems (such as CATALYST) can integrate directly with iThenticate, using essentially a one-click process to upload abstracts and papers to their database from within the submission form. Results are returned to the conference planner within minutes.

Top-notch event content is one the most important elements your conference can provide. Making some simple changes to your author and speaker submission process can help ensure you receive the high-quality materials that reflect your organization’s reputation. Not only will great content help generate interest in your next event, but over the long term, it will continue to reinforce your position as the go-to resource for your industry.

10 Tips for Writing Instructions for Your Call for Papers [INFOGRAPHIC]

When your organization is looking for speakers and authors to submit abstracts, papers, posters, or session proposals for an upcoming event, you want the process to be as easy as possible so that you receive even more high-quality submissions to choose from. An easy submission process begins with clear, concise submission instructions so that speakers and authors understand all requirements before they begin. Here are some simple tips and best practices for writing call for papers instructions that reduce confusion and frustration. 

Write easy-to-follow call for papers instructions with these 10 tips

View a larger, printable .pdf version of the infographic heretips for writing call for papers instructions infographic screenshot

1. Know your audience

Some submitters may not understand the terminology in your instructions. Keep your audience’s background and demographics in mind so you use language you know they’ll understand, especially if English isn’t their first language. 

2. Keep it short

When reading online, users shy away from long, complex paragraphs. To increase the chances that your users will read–not skim–your instructions, use short, easy to understand sentences.

3. Use simple terms

There’s no need to use fancy words when writing instructions for your call for papers. Using simple terms will make sure more people understand the process you are explaining.

4. Use contextual instructions

Supplement your instructions with tips that appear throughout your submission form. These additional points can be written next to specific fields, or appear when a user places their cursor over a “Help” icon. Having these instructions on the page ensures people see them right when they need them most.

5. Use numbers and bullets

If you want your submitters to follow the instructions like a recipe, use numbered lists to indicate the steps they need to take. If you have more general or optional instructions, use bullets.

6. Use the imperative

Vague statements can confuse readers. Use the imperative and write your instructions like direct commands. For example, write “Select one topic below,” instead of “Please pick from this list of topics.”

7. Use different typefaces and sizes

If you need to call attention to a particular instruction or warning, use bold typeface or consider changing the font style or size. Using a different colored font can also help, but keep in mind that colors can be difficult to read for some users.

8. Anticipate the length of the submission process

Give submitters an idea of how long the process will take. For example, your submission process may involve 3 sections and take approximately 20-30 minutes to complete. That way, submitters will be able to ensure they have enough time to complete the submission and not be rushed.

9. Go through a test-run

Because you know your submission program inside and out, you will be less likely to catch instructions that might be unclear. Ask co-workers, family, or friends who are not as close the event as you are to go through the instructions and provide feedback before you open the submission site to everyone. 

10. Don’t be afraid to change your call for papers instructions

If you think you’ve written clear instructions but you’re still receiving feedback that users are struggling with your system, it’s not too late to change them. Making edits while your call is open gives future users the chance to have a smoother submission process.

Writing instructions for your call for papers may not be as easy as it sounds. When you’re close to a project, providing detailed instructions that external users will understand can be a challenge. But, if you follow these tips, you will produce more effective instructions that can make it easier on submitters!

Looking for more tips to simplify your next call for abstracts, papers, posters and presentations? Check out this article, Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call for Papers, where we collect advice from a panel of abstract management experts.

 

7 Creative Ways to Crowdsource Data With an Abstract Management System

 

If your association uses an online abstract management system to collect, review and manage your call for papers, you know just how valuable it is. What you might not know, though, is that the uses for this system don’t stop when your annual conference does. That’s right—the same system that collects your abstracts and papers can be used year-round to crowdsource data that benefits your association.

At its core, an abstract management system is a tool to help you collect and review data from many different sources. Using this tool for more than just abstracts can help save you time and reduce collection-related headaches down the road. Any project where you need to collect information from multiple people can be made more efficient by using a collection system.

Here are seven scenarios where an abstract management system can help you crowdsource data:

Sponsor or exhibitor information

When preparing for your annual conference, you aren’t limited to collecting information for your speakers or presenters. If you’re compiling a directory or program that includes your sponsors or exhibitors, you can create forms to collect all of that information in the same place! This is a great way to consolidate the number of places you collect information for your annual event and make planning much more efficient.

Scholarship or grant applications

If your association presents scholarships or grants, consider using your system to collect those applications. You can have them reviewed as if they were abstracts and even put them through multiple rounds of review to determine finalists.

Directories

Do you publish a directory annually or once every few years? If so, you know how big of a headache collecting reliable information from your members can be. Imagine being able to set up a form to collect member information that you can efficiently organize and pull out for publication later.

Board nominations

When electing new members to your association’s board, getting countless nominations can be cumbersome to manage on paper or in an email. Use your abstract management system to collect and review board nominations each year.

Survey or feedback

Whether you’re looking to collect feedback on your annual conference, your continuing education courses or just general feedback about your organization (or all three!), using your system to conduct a survey is a great way to keep all of that information in one place.

Call for bids

When it’s time to set up a call for bids for a project your association is working on, managing all of the responses can be challenging. Collecting your vendors’ bids through your collection site can help you more efficiently review them and select who to hire. Bonus tip: You can designate certain fields to be required, making it less likely that vendors will submit incomplete bids

Competitions

If you run a competition that requires organizing and reviewing multiple submissions, whether it’s for writing, projects or anything else, your abstract management system can collect all of the documents and files you need to judge each submission choose finalists and select a winner.

 

There are virtually no limits when it comes to collecting, reviewing and managing submissions or information from your association’s members. Because abstract management systems make it easy to crowdsource data, using the same streamlined process to handle these other cumbersome projects can make your job easier year-round!

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