The Ugly Truth About Google and Your Educational Programs

Associations are known for providing high-caliber educational programs to their members. But do your prospective members know this? Increasingly, no. Google has created more competition for your association’s conferences, training courses, and other educational content. Luckily, Google can also be the solution.

Google’s Rise in Importance for Associations

Once upon a time, associations were the singular source of industry information and knowledge. But today, they face stiff competition from other industry resources. Vendors and other organizations who are trying to sell their services to your members are producing their own educational content to get their attention.

Perform a Google search on almost any topic, and you’ll find a lengthy list of educational programs like conferences, mini-courses, workbooks, webinars, and podcasts, being offered by industry corporations and other organizations. These organizations make sure their content appears when someone is actively searching for information, answers, and guidance.

They are designed to build awareness and trust among the very same people you’re targeting for membership—young professionals.

Your association may have an entire library of content on the topic (and a network of professionals to consult with), but that’s only going to matter if that content appears in search engine results alongside your competitors.

Young Professionals are the Key to Educational Program Growth

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the number of Millennials in the U.S. —the youngest of whom are in their late 20’s to early 30’s—has eclipsed Baby Boomers. And, according to the Pew Research Center, they are now the largest generation in the workforce.

Generation Z, currently aged 10-25, only makes up 5% of the workforce today. But they are the #2 demographic group by size, just behind Millennials.

Unfortunately, according to our 2022 Training Trends Report, only 20% of associations saw more young professionals participating in their training programs in 2021. 35% did not see any increase, and 35% weren’t sure.  The reason? Only 28% have a well-developed strategy in place to address the training and education preferences of young professionals.

The good news is that early observations note that these young professionals actively seek out professional development opportunities. This, coupled with their size, make them a prime target for educational programs.

How to Make Restricted Educational Content More Accessible to Google

Many associations restrict access to their educational content to protect its value. But this is often done in a way that also prevents search engines like Google from crawling this content.

There are steps organizations can take to maintain access control while allowing this content to appear on search engine results pages (SERPS).

Here are a few ideas of how to do this.

1. Find out what people are searching for online

Make a list of your most popular conference sessions, training courses, or other resources and the specific topics they cover. Use free online tools to uncover the specific questions or keywords searchers use when looking for resources on one of these related topics.

These free online tools include:

  • The Google auto-complete function in the search bar
  • Google’s “People also ask” and “Related searches” tool found on search results pages
  • Google Trends and Wordtracker, which provide search volume history on specific keywords and phrases

2. Turn these search topics into “feeder” content

The goal of step #1 is to uncover common pain points and questions people in your industry are asking. Turn these pain points and questions into content that can be accessed by anyone, like articles and short videos.

Make sure this content is keyword optimized for search engines.  And within the content, include an offer to register for or purchase the related class or content.

3. Create entry points to your events, courses, and resources that are search engine optimized

Some organizations are too protective of their resources. They put everything behind a gate, to the point where someone on your website can only see that you have resources, but not what they are. Which does nothing to attract new participants.

Instead, create a webpage anyone can access that provides a summary or even a short preview of an upcoming event, course, or resource.  Perform keyword and content optimization on this page so that it’s included in search engine results.

If a user doesn’t have the appropriate credentials to access the full source material, that is the perfect place to entice them to register or join!

Associations don’t need to open their educational content to non-members if it doesn’t align with their organizational strategy. But there are ways that organizations can, and should, openly publish samples of for prospective members to discover.  Like it or not, Google is key to organizational growth.

Make Your Training Manuals Mobile-Friendly in 3 Easy Steps

To keep up with the preferences of current and future learners, your digital training materials need to be mobile friendly. Getting there doesn’t have to require a significant investment of resources. There are a few simple steps you can take to optimize your existing content for mobile viewing.

The Need for Mobile-Friendly Training Materials is Increasing

Mobile learning remains one of the fastest growing segments in the e-learning market.  Your training participants want to access educational materials where and when it’s convenient for them. And, they’re becoming even more comfortable doing this on their smartphone or other mobile device.

In fact, your future participants have already fully embraced mobile learning. 67% of students already use mobile phones to complete their coursework (Source: Learning House and Aslanian Market Research Study).

According to the Mobile Learning Global Market Report 2022, the mobile learning market is expected to grow from $54 billion in 2022 to $155 billion in 2026. And it’s projected that over 72% of internet users will access the web only through their smartphones by 2025.

Mobile learning also coincides with two other growing education strategies: microlearning. where smaller pieces of content can be consumed more quickly, and just-in-time training, where information is accessible at the time and place its needed.

Turn Existing Training Materials Into Mobile-Friendly Content

This is what a mobile-optimized document looks like:

  1. It loads quickly
  2. An entire page fits within the width of the screen
  3. The content is broken up into smaller, scannable sections

If you already offer a digital version of your training manuals, booklets, and other educational materials, you don’t have to start over from scratch. It is possible to make a few modifications to your existing content to meet these criteria.

1. Re-flow the document text

If the pages in your training manual have multi-column text, change it to a single-column format to eliminate the need for left-to-right scrolling. While vertical scrolling is common on on mobile devices, horizontal scrolling is extremely disruptive to the user. It increases the time it takes to read a document while reducing comprehension.

You can also look for opportunities to add white space and break up longer blocks of text into smaller paragraphs to make it easier to read on a smaller device.

2. Minimize the file size

Mobile devices have less processing power than a desktop computer. The last thing a user needs in a time-critical situation is a PDF file that takes too long to open. There are several file optimization tools available in Adobe Acrobat®. The exact steps will depend upon which version of Acrobat you’re running, but some general guidelines include:

  • Use the Reduce File Size command or PDF Optimizer
  • Enable Fast Web View in the File > Preferences dialog box
  • Unembed unnecessary fonts
  • Downsample or compress images

3. Create bookmarks or hyperlinked table of contents

If you have a longer textbook or training manual, it may be impractical to break it up into separate, shorter documents. But it is possible to make these documents easier to navigate by using bookmarks in your PDF. These bookmarks create jump destinations that link to other documents or web pages.

If your content lives in an online resource library or publishing platform, each publication can be broken out into easy-to-navigate, hyperlinked sections.  Many digital publishing platforms offer contextual search capabilities so users don’t have to scroll through hundreds of pages to find the answers they need.

Providing mobile access to training materials is going to continue to be a key component of professional development programs moving forward.  Future educational content will be designed using a mobile-first approach. In the meantime, your existing content can still work if you take simple steps to optimize documents for mobile delivery.

How AOTA Builds Strong Relationships with Young Professionals

Many associations see young professionals as the key to a strong future. But they’re still figuring out how to connect with them. The American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA) shares their successful strategies and insights for engaging younger members.

Young Professionals Overtaking the Workforce

For decades, Baby Boomers have dominated association membership demographics. But as they continue to retire in record numbers, that share is quickly shrinking. An estimated 75 million “Boomers” will retire by 2030.

Meanwhile, Millennials, who range in age from mid-20’s to early 40’s, are the largest share of the workforce at 35%. And although only 5% of the workforce today, it’s estimated that Gen Z will make up 30% by 2030.

Associations Struggle to Increase Membership of Young Professionals

Gen Z members indicate they are actively seeking out professional development opportunities. This makes them a prime target for associations. But according to the latest Membership Marketing Benchmarking Report, most association members are over the age of 40.

Creating programs and content tailored to young professionals can be a daunting task for association professionals who are already stretched thin. It helps to see what other organizations are doing, using these ideas to start building and testing small pilot programs.

One association that has been successful connecting with younger members is the American Occupational Therapy Association (AOTA). We spoke with Frank Gainer, Director of Conferences, and Melissa Stutzbach, Program Manager of Education and Young Professional Development. They shared their current strategies and the insights they’ve gained along the way.

AOTA’s Strategy for Engaging Young Professionals

AOTA’s mission is to represent the interests and concerns of occupational therapy practitioners and students, and to improve the quality of occupational therapy services. The organization delivers a wide range of programs and activities to their 60,000 members.

Given that nearly half of these members are students, the staff of AOTA wants to ensure they demonstrate the value of membership by helping them transition into a meaningful practice, providing specialized resources and facilitating connections with established professionals and peers.

As Gainer describes it, “Our focus on students and new practitioners has been a progressive journey that dates back to at least 2007.” It was at this time that AOTA introduced their National Student Conclave, a two-day event designed to help students successfully transition into a practice.

“Our Conclave programs focus on practical skills and topics that are needed for new practitioners to be successful on the job that aren’t necessarily covered as part of a typical college curriculum.” These programs include panel discussions with fellow students who are further along in their clinical training and resume evaluation sessions.

The results were extremely positive. Gainer notes, “We were afraid that Conclave would deter students from attending the annual conference, but it hasn’t. In fact, they are actually more engaged at the annual event.”

The success of this event led AOTA to recognize the need for a dedicated resource to focus on student and new professional development. In 2013, Stutzbach was hired to identify and implement programs designed to increase the success and engagement of young professionals.

AOTA’s Two-Part Approach to Engaging Mid-Level Professionals

AOTA recognizes its young professionals are not just students. Stutzbach also sought to address recent grads-to-mid-level professionals.

“When I came on board, we recognized that our engaged members consisted primarily of our students and our more seasoned practitioners. Where we were lacking was with our newer-to-mid-level practitioners. You could clearly see the drop-off in engagement levels when our student members graduated.”

Since 2013, AOTA has developed two overarching goals that must be achieved in order to increase newer-to-mid-level professionals:

1. Continue to strengthen the connection students have to the organization to increase post-graduation retention

2. Create programs that increase membership value for new graduates

In order to accomplish these goals, AOTA has introduced the following tactics:

Overhauling the existing student leadership group

In an effort to start somewhere manageable, AOTA first addressed existing initiatives, looking for ways to make programming more engaging and interactive while providing opportunities to connect students with fellow students.  AOTA also introduced a student newsletter written by students to deliver practical information that typically isn’t covered in the classroom.

Introduction and evolution of programming and engagement opportunities at the annual conference

AOTA student members receive full access to their annual conference. But navigating this large event can be overwhelming to students who are also still navigating their careers. AOTA looked to make the event more approachable and valuable to students by including a student session track featuring content that is specific to their experiences.

Additionally, Gainer and Stutzbach are continually looking at new ways to engage attendees and “shake up” the programming to appeal to younger members. According to Gainer, “Our conference team is a very creative group that is open to new ideas and are willing to try new things.” Just a few of the elements they have recently introduced include:

  • Interactive, discussion-based sessions
  • Fun movement breaks: imagine 600 people learning to Salsa for 30 minutes—an element that was so successful it’s making an appearance for the third year!
  • Adult coloring books for a creative mental break
  • Live feeds on Facebook and Instagram so those that couldn’t attend feel like a part of the action

Created a tiered rate structure

AOTA offers a new practitioner rate that applies for the first two years after graduation. The goal is to provide a more gradual increase in dues as students start to enter the workforce.

Created leadership training and opportunities for new graduates

AOTA created leadership roles for new graduates on governing bodies, allowing them to provide their input and perspective on the direction of the organization. AOTA also helps facilitate leadership opportunities with state associations. And, they have created an Emerging Leaders Development Program. In this  application-based program, accepted members participate in a 3-day leadership training workshop and are then paired with a mentor who guides them throughout the year on service learning projects.

What’s Next for AOTA

Although AOTA already has an impressive roster of initiatives to attract and retain younger members, they are always looking for ways to improve and grow. Stutzbach notes, “We keep a pretty solid feedback loop going to understand what members need, where we can do better, and where we should go next.”

So, what’s next on the docket? “It’s time to revitalize the program that started it all—Conclave. Attendance has been somewhat static, so we’re looking at some new ways to reinvent this very valuable event.”

Advice for Fellow Associations

For those organizations who are still developing a plan to address the needs of young professionals, Gainer and Stutzbach have the following advice, “Try something small and attainable, gather feedback, and build from there.” Both are huge fans of surveying members as well as communicating some of the new initiatives being introduced.

Here is some additional advice Gainer and Stutzbach shared for organizations just getting started:

  • Make sure you pull in the perspectives of young professionals across the organization: what’s trending, what they’re interested in and what will resonate. You also need to have at least one dedicated staff member to make sure this input is infused into everything you’re doing or else you’re going to lose sight of it as you become buried with your day-to-day tasks.
  • Hire someone young.
  • If you can, get a social media person and figure out how people in that profession connect with each other. Then, add social media components that allow members to feel connected not just to your organization, but to your people. Let them in on the behind-the-scenes of what you do.
  • People have to be empowered to take risks. But create opportunities to take risks that have minimal consequences, so that if something doesn’t work, it’s not a huge monetary loss.
  • Have fun with it.
  • It doesn’t have to be complicated. Start small and build from there. Some things will just happen organically that way, so not all the work has to solely be on you.
  • Don’t be afraid to fail. You’re going to try something, and it may bomb, and that’s okay.
  • And for goodness sake, don’t prevent students from going to sessions at the conference. Seasoned members are open to, and excited about, sharing their experience and wisdom, and helping students transition into the workplace. This could be the best place for your association to start.


Apply Microlearning Concepts to Your Printed Course Materials

Microlearning uses short pieces of content to deliver education in smaller learning units. That content is typically in the form of  e-learning programs and other online content such as videos. But your printed training materials can also support your microlearning strategy.

The Importance of Microlearning

Microlearning is one of many tools in the professional development toolbox. It’s meant to help people achieve a specific outcome quickly through short content that focuses on a single subject.

Breaking up training content into smaller, more focused units helps to improve learning retention.  It also makes the content more convenient and accessible, which supports the concept of just-in-time training where learners access the exact information they need when they need it.

Microlearning is More Than Just An eLearning Strategy

Microlearning is typically delivered through eLearning platforms such as online modules, videos, quizzes, and games because of their convenience, accessibility and portability.  It’s not usually associated with printed materials, like course books and training manuals. These tools typically have longer chapters that introduce multiple, complex concepts.  But that’s starting to change.

More recently, organizations are recognizing the need to incorporate microlearning principles into their printed course materials as one way to improve learning outcomes. To do this, it requires a few simple design and layout modifications.

Four Ways to Format Printed Course Books for Microlearning

Turn one book into a series

Take a single course book and break it out into a branded series of separate pieces that each have a singular focus.  In doing this, you may have room to play with the format and add notetaking pages or other self-reflection and application exercises to make the content more personally relevant.

Keep sections short

Reduce the length of your chapters and sections. Providing more frequent breaks in the material gives readers an opportunity to pause and digest the material. And look for ways to turn long paragraphs into bulleted lists, making them easier to read.

Turn text into graphics

Look for ways to break up long sections of text with graphics that supply and reinforce the same information. For example, if you are outlining list-based information, try substituting pages of text with a simple-to-follow infographic.

Use QR codes to your advantage

It’s easy to blend print and digital educational content using QR codes. Add QR codes to specific pages that link to videos, quizzes, handouts, and other materials. This article, 3 Reasons to Use QR codes in Your Training Course provides additional ideas for using QR codes to enhance learning

If you are looking to incorporate microlearning practices into your existing continuing education programs, consider your printed materials. By making a few changes to the design and layout, you can break up longer content into smaller pieces to increase comprehension and retention.

5 Reasons to Offer Online Conference Materials (Even If You Already Have an App)

Mobile event apps have become an important, and often expected part of the conference experience. When paired with online conference materials, you provide the perfect combination of usability and accessibility for your event content.

One question we get from customers is whether it’s necessary to offer both a mobile app and web-based access to the event schedule and session content. The answer depends upon your attendees, their preferences, and how they use technology. But it’s also important to understand that a mobile event app doesn’t replace online conference materials. It complements them.

Here are five reasons to keep your online conference materials

1. Web and mobile content serve different purposes

When attendees view your event schedule and session content online before the conference begins, they are usually starting to plan their event experience—including making the decision whether to attend. After they conference, they will usually hop online again to revisit favorite papers and presentations.

Conference apps, meanwhile, help drive the on-site event experience. Attendees use them to navigate the event schedule and logistics, and connect with other attendees. Event organizers use them to provide timely updates to attendees, increase engagement, and promote sponsors.

2. Online conference materials have a longer shelf life

Some attendees may start using an event app during the days before a conference begins to scope out other attendees and make appointments. But the majority of an app’s usage happens during the event. And most attendees don’t return to the app after returning home.

Online materials are viewed days, weeks, and even months after the conference wraps up. Attendees will revisit learning concepts from sessions they attended, and use it as an opportunity to seek out content from sessions they weren’t able to attend.

3. The online platform provides increased exposure for event sponsors

One of the benefits of having both a mobile app and online conference materials is you have an additional place to promote event sponsors and exhibitors. Within your online proceedings website or platform, include your sponsors’ banner ads, videos, company descriptions, logos, and other promotional materials.  And because everything is online, you can easily track and measure engagement for each sponsor.

4. Online content can be discovered by search engines

To access content in the app, an attendee has to already be registered for the conference. But what about those that haven’t registered yet? When you put your event content online, you increase the opportunity for it to be picked up by search engines and served to prospective new attendees who are interested in these same topics (as long as the content has been search-engine optimized, of course!).  You can still restrict access to content, like full technical papers, so that only registered attendees can view them. Just make sure your conference and session descriptions are on pages that can be crawled by search engines.

5. Online conference materials can become a source of non-dues revenue

Think beyond this year’s event. Start building a multi-year library of online conference proceedings and charge members or non-members for access.  You can select who gets to see what content from recent or past events and start building a new source of non-dues revenue for your organization.

Mobile app vs. online conference materials shouldn’t be an either/or scenario. They both serve very different purposes. Together, they can increase the value of your event for attendees and beyond.

How to Select a Mobile Event App For Your Conference

Mobile event apps have become a key part of the event experience for attendees. They deliver important real-time information, help to increase engagement, and facilitate connections with exhibitors, sponsors, and fellow attendees. With hundreds of mobile event apps to choose from today, finding the best one for your conference can be overwhelming. To help you narrow down your options, we’ve put together an overview of the different types of apps available, common features, and considerations.

Determine What Type of Mobile Event App You Need

The first aspect of a mobile event app to consider is what type you’ll need. Mobile event apps come in three basic forms: native, web, and hybrid.

Native Apps

Native apps are built for a specific platform or operating system, such as iOS or Android, and are self-contained. Once you install it, the app lives on your mobile device, stores relevant data on your phone, and can access features of your device, such as the camera or GPS as part of its functionality.  Most features operate with or without an internet connection. An internet connection will be required, however, to update content once a user has downloaded the app.

Examples of native apps include:

  • WhatsApp
  • Spotify
  • Mobile banking apps
  • Pokemon Go

Web Apps

Web apps are accessed through the mobile device’s web browser, not installed on the device like a native app.  It can launch on any device, including a desktop computer, mobile phone, or tablet. This means they require an internet connection to access the content, and will function according to the device you are using. They also can’t access native device features such as your camera or GPS.  On some devices, users can create an app-like experience by adding a bookmark to their home screen that, when clicked, will take them directly to the website.

Examples of web apps include:

  • Google Docs
  • Netflix
  • Microsoft Office

Hybrid Apps

Hybrid apps use a native app “shell” that is built for each operating system and downloaded to the device, but pull content from the cloud. These apps can offer partial functionality while offline, but require an internet connection for the app to fully function.

Examples of hybrid apps include:

  • Gmail
  • Facebook
  • Uber

Table: Side-by-side comparison of mobile event app types

Native AppsBuilt specifically for each operating system (Apple’s iOS or Android) and installed directly on the mobile device.
  • Speed, performance and user interface are optimized
  • Works without Internet connection
  • Must build a specific app for each operating system
  • Takes more time to develop and deploy
  • Higher development costs

Web-Based Apps

Websites built using HTML that are designed specifically for smaller screens
  • No need to distribute using app stores
  • Works on any device with a browser, but experience varies
  • Lower deployment costs
  • Slower performance
  • Internet connection is required
  • Not as secure

Hybrid Apps

Native app shell that is platform-specific and installed on the mobile device, but with content being fed from the web
  • Caches content, so it works offline to a degree
  • Downloadable from app stores
  • Easier to deploy cross-platform than native apps
  • Lower cost than native apps
  • Doesn’t run as smoothly as native apps
  • Offline performance can be inconsistent
  • Built to specific operating system

When choosing the type of mobile app that is best for your event, you’ll want to keep a few things in mind:

  • What type of WiFi access will you have?
  • What content are you featuring in your app?
  • How will attendees interact with the app?

Does your conference location offer free and reliable WiFi? If not, a web-based or hybrid app may not be the best choice.  A native app with preloaded content is probably a better fit in this scenario.

How do you want attendees to engage with the app during the event? Is it meant to be a tool to check session schedules and room assignments? Or are you hoping they’ll connect and share experiences on social media? If the latter, a hybrid app may be the best option. Access to content can largely be done on offline native apps, but interactivity and live information feeds will require internet access and will be better suited for a hybrid app.

One Important Note: Some mobile event app providers also offer a companion desktop platform that has most of the same look, feel, and functionality as the mobile app. This allows attendees to more readily access the content before and during the event on the device of their choice. It also delivers a consistent experience if you’re holding an event with both in-person and virtual participants.

Understand Which Features are Most Important to Your Attendees

Nearly all mobile event apps on the market contain the same base features because they tend to be the most important for nearly any event type:

  1. Event agenda with session description and details, often with the ability to select sessions and build a personalized itinerary
  2. Event map showing the layout of the venue
  3. Speaker information
  4. Attendee profiles
  5. Exhibitor and sponsor listings

Beyond this, it’s important to know which features your attendees want and will actually use. 

If you’ve used a mobile event app in the past, look at your app data to see which features were accessed by the most people, and how often they were used. If this is the first time you’re offering a mobile app, send a brief survey to past attendees asking them how likely and frequently they are to use certain features such as:

  • Social networking & social feeds
  • Direct messaging
  • AI matchmaking
  • Gamification
  • Polls and surveys
  • Digital exhibitor booths
  • Notetaking

One important note: If you’re going to offer features like gamification, social engagement, and networking, make sure to allocate time and resources to promote and facilitate these activities. There will be a fraction of your attendees that go all-in on participation without any assistance. But most of your attendees will need ongoing prompting and encouragement.

Know Which Features are Important to Your Organization

In addition to meeting your attendees’ needs, what do you need from your mobile event app?

Are you looking for more revenue generation opportunities? Your chosen mobile app should offer multiple opportunities for sponsor and exhibitor exposure such as banner ads, sponsored posts, and lead retrieval.

Do you need an easier way to track and manage CE credits? Look for an app where attendees “check-in” to the sessions they attend.

Do you want to streamline processes and the exchange of data? Select an app that can integrate with other systems, such as your abstract management software, association management system, or registration system.

Do you want to be able to schedule and send push notifications? Your chosen app should not only have this functionality, but its back-end interface needs to be easy for you and your team to navigate and use.

What type of data and analytics will you need, and to whom? Your internal organization may be most interested in the ROI of the app, which means you’ll need metrics on app adoption and usage. Your sponsors and exhibitors may need data that illustrates the ROI of your event, including clicks to banner ads, sponsor profiles, and video views.

Recognize What Level of Support Will You Need

Many mobile app providers only provide the technology, and all setup is done by you and your team. This includes populating all event, session, and speaker data. This tends to be a less expensive option, but that also means all the upfront work is falling on you. On the other hand, some mobile app vendors also provide full app setup. This does often add to the app cost, but it allows you and your team to focus on other crucial tasks.

After the initial setup is complete, what type of ongoing support is important to you? Do you prefer to have one, dedicated point of contact for questions and technical issues? Or are you okay with submitting requests to a general support team?

It goes without saying that any mobile event app needs to be intuitive and easy to use—for you and your attendees. And, the price needs to fit within your event budget. Beyond that, it’s important to understand not only which features are important, but why. This will help you prioritize feature sets and narrow down the prospective list of mobile event apps to evaluate for your next conference.

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.


4 More Ways To Use An Abstract Management System (Besides Collecting Abstracts)

If you run a large call for papers, an abstract management system is must-have event tech. This software centralizes the collection and review of submissions, automates tasks like outbound communication, and provides critical event data.  But you’re not limited to just collecting abstracts.

You can extend the value of your abstract management software by using it to collect other member or partner-sourced data.

Here are five more things you can manage through your abstract management system

Sponsor information

Of course you can use your abstract management system to collect assets from your conference sponsors and exhibitors. But it’s also a great tool to help you manage assets for your annual or organization sponsors too.

Scholarship, grant and award applications

If your association presents scholarships or grants, consider using your system to collect those applications. You can follow a process that is similar to abstract management, inviting the selection committee into the software to review submissions, communicate with applicants, and determine your award recipients.


If you run any other type of competition that requires organizing and reviewing multiple submissions, your abstract management system can collect all of the documents and files you need to judge each submission choose finalists and select a winner.

Member directory

If you publish a printed or digital member directory, use your same system to collect up-to-date member information and profile photos through a simple form.

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.

Abstract management software is an important piece of event technology if you manage a call for abstracts, papers, or presentations. But it’s value can also extend into other areas of your organization, using the same features to simplify and streamline other collected data.

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