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.

Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call For Papers

Running a call for papers is one of the most time and resource-intensive tasks. But it doesn’t have to be.

Conference attendees love good food, great networking opportunities, and an inspiring atmosphere. But what they really value are insightful educational sessions. Which makes the task of sourcing high-quality content extremely important.

How to manage a call for abstracts is a process that’s often passed down from one program committee to the next. Steps are followed because “that’s how we’ve always done it.” But there might be a better way.

We consulted with four of our resident abstract management experts, Erin, John, Dave, and Paul, to develop the Abstract Management Tip Sheet. Using their experience working with hundreds of conferences each year, they offer 12 things meeting planners can do to simplify the abstract submission and review process.

As a follow-up, we sat down with these experts to dive further.

Q&A With Four Resident Abstract Management Experts

Q: One of the tips featured is to “Reverse-engineer your submission forms.” What does this mean, and why is it so important?

Erin: People spend a lot of time hasing down data from submitters at the eleventh hour. 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 Abstract Management Tip Sheet.

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.

Competitions

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.

10 Easy Ways to Promote Your Call For Papers

Running a call for papers, posters, or presentations is how you source the high-quality session content that attracts attendees, advances professions, and transforms industries. To be successful, you need to have a large enough pool of topics and content to choose from. It’s important to create a plan to promote your call for papers to as many qualified submitters as possible.

Here are 10 simple things you can do to promote your call for papers.

Infographic: Promote Your Call For PapersEmbed/Share This Image

1. Use your website

Place images or promotional banners throughout your organization’s website that advertising your upcoming call for abstracts. The homepage and events pages are excellent locations to place these buttons. But don’t limit yourself just to these areas. Work with your marketing team to target the sections or pages of your website that get the most traffic. Be sure to include a link that takes visitors directly to your abstract submission website.

You can also advertise in any other member-facing online properties you may have, including your online community, resource library, and learning management system (LMS).

2. Send email campaigns

You already have a list of people to target to promote your event. Use this list to promote your call for papers, too. While it’s a good idea to send out at least one email entirely devoted to your call for abstracts, you should also mention it in other email communications. One great mailing list to target is contributors from previous years who did not make the cut.

3. Update your team’s email signatures

Ask your coworkers to include a brief description of the event and the submission site link in their employee email signatures. This information can also be shared within the email signature as a P.S. line, which typically grabs the reader’s attention.

4. Use multiple social media channels

Share information and a link to your call for papers submission page on the social media channels your industry members use most.

The most common social media platforms for professional organizations have typically been LinkedIn, Twitter, and in some cases Facebook.  Be sure to post multiple times, varying the content and images with each post. And it never hurts to include short videos and animated gifs as part of your posts which have shown to increase engagement.

Give specific language and links to everyone within your organization and key members of your industry with the request to post to their networks as well. Each time you post, be direct and straightforward about asking your followers to share each post too.

Your social media plan should also include YouTube, as it’s now the #2 search engine behind Google. It’s also used heavily by young professionals.

And speaking of young professionals, if your organization isn’t doing much with Instagram or TikTok yet, your call for papers may be a great time to start testing these platforms. A recent report indicates that Gen Z prefers TikTok and Instagram for search over Google. And, TikTok and Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts often get additional exposure through cross-posting on other, more traditional social media channels like Facebook and LinkedIn.

5. Write and promote a blog article

Write an article about your call for papers for your association’s blog and include a link to your paper submission site. Your article can include information about the event and its historical role in the industry, a short highlight reel video of previous events, noteworthy speakers and topics from past events, or a video interview with past presenters sharing their experiences with the event.

Make sure to work with your team to optimize the article for search engines to help increase its visibility. And of course promote the blog article on all your usual marketing channels (including social media).

6. Publish your call for papers on conference directory sites

Add information about your event and call for papers to multiple conference directory sites. These sites compile open calls for papers and make it easy for industry professionals to discover presentation opportunities.

Here are some popular conference directories:

  • WikiCFP – a listing for calls for papers (and workshops and journals) that is completely free to use. This site is quite popular with the IT and Engineering specialties.
  • PapersInvited – the world’s largest database of calls for papers
  • Conference Alerts – another good place to add your event

7. Send direct mail

In recent years, even more of our daily activities have gone online. This has created substantial digital fatigue. Receiving a tangible piece of physical mail has once again become a novelty that cuts through the digital clutter.

Send personalized invitations to submit an abstract, paper, or presentation to a targeted list of recipients. Include a shortened URL or QR code to make it easier for the recipient to get to your submission site directly from the printed mailer.

8. Include information in your newsletter

Your newsletter subscribers are industry professionals. Tap into their expertise by including information about your call for papers and a direct link to the submission page. This doesn’t have to take up a lot of space—a sentence or two, or a small advertisement will suffice.

9. Advertise your next call for papers at your current event

Many organizations will plan to have the submission site for their following year’s conference available during or immediately after their current conference. During this time, you have a captive audience, and your event is currently top-of-mind.

While on-site, use handouts, signage, and announcements to generate interest. Advertise your upcoming call for papers in your current event materials, including the printed program book, online agenda, and within the mobile event app.

10. Reach out to your affiliate network

To get the most exposure for your open call, you’ll want to reach potential submitters from outside your own database. Ask your network of industry partners and affiliates to promote your call for papers on their communication channels, including emails, newsletters, online communities, and social media.

Pre-package the content to make it as easy as possible for them to share. Include the written description, images pre-sized for different channels, and the hyperlink.

Following just a few of these tips should increase awareness of your call for papers and create a pool of talented professionals for your selection committee. And, if you’re short on qualified reviewers, most of these tips can work for enticing them to assist you, as well!

Looking for more tips on managing a call for abstracts, papers, or presentations? We interviewed three abstract management specialists and documented their helpful insights in the article Abstract Management Pros Share Tips on Managing a Call for Papers

 

Skip to content Top