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.

4 Ways to Use Video to Enhance Your Virtual Event

As in-person events return in full-force, many organizations will continue to offer virtual access to session content. There are several ways to do this, including asking your speakers to pre-record a version of their in-person presentations for on-demand viewing.  If you’re using a video capture tool (as a standalone tool or as part of your abstract management software) to record and collect videos from your speakers, this same tool can be used in other ways to enhance your virtual event.

Here are four ways meeting planners are using video that go beyond just capturing session content:

1. Audition your virtual speakers

Giving a presentation to a virtual audience requires a very special skill set. Understanding how to present the material in a way that is engaging without being able to use movement can be challenging. Some presenters really rely on audience feedback—eye contact, smiles, laughs, nods—to maintain their energy level and enthusiasm.

To ensure that your speakers are not only presenting relevant, high-quality content, but that they can carry a 30-to-60-minute virtual presentation, consider having them use your video capture and submission tool to provide a short audition video as part of your initial submission process, and include them in your review criteria. You can even allow reviewers to leave feedback on the video before the final presentation.

2. Perform a presentation test-run before the event

Ask your selected speakers to provide a short, sample recording of their presentation to confirm their A/V setup is sufficient. Items to check include quality and sharpness of their camera, whether the audio works and is loud enough, lighting, and background. That way, they can address any potential issues well ahead of the event.

3. Gather videos for event marketing

At some point between when your speakers are selected and when you prepare content for your virtual event platform, you’ll need to collect additional information from your speakers such as headshots and bios. This is also a perfect opportunity to have your speakers and session leaders use your abstract management software to record and submit short intro videos that can be used on your website and social media channels to promote the event.

4. Gather videos from sponsors and exhibitors

Your sponsors and exhibitors want as much opportunity as possible to get their message in front of attendees. Instead of the traditional banner ad, logo placement, or text listing, give them the option of video.  Even if they don’t already have a pre-produced video to share, they can easily use your video recording and submission tool to record a short message that is personalized to your attendees. It’s an easy, low-cost solution that provides increased exposure and value.

While the format of events has changed, the need to source high-quality content hasn’t. But in a virtual setting, that definition of “quality” extends beyond the subject matter. The presentation style of the speaker and the technical quality matter too. Pre-recorded videos can help you minimize issues for your virtual attendees before the event begins. They can also provide opportunities to create a better experience for your speakers, sponsors, and exhibitors.

Tips for Designing an Inspiring Conference Program Book

The conference program book is more than an information piece for conference attendees. It provides the first impression of your event. Here are some tips to design a book that inspires and energizes your attendees before the first session starts.

The Role of the Conference Program Book

The most common purpose of the program book is to provide important event information for attendees, including the schedule, speakers, sponsors, floorplan, and may even include presentation abstracts or papers.

It also sets the tone for your meeting and the expectations for your attendees.  Do you want them to actively participate in sessions and interact with the content and each other? Will this conference challenge them or pull them outside their comfort zone?

The design of your program book can help promote and facilitate these objectives

What Inspired Program Book Design Looks Like: An Example from ASAE

asae xdp program book 360 live media
Photo credit: 360 Live Media, www.360livemedia.com

We’d like to give a shout-out to the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and their Xperience Design Project.

This event for meeting planners provided new and innovative ways to deliver conferences.

The branding and promotion of the event certainly communicated this objective. But as an attendee, I didn’t fully understand it until I started paging through the program book. I could tell immediately this was meant to be a fun, energizing meeting.

This extraordinary conference booklet included design elements such as non-linear text, bold typography, graphic cues, and on-page interactive elements. Together, they made it clear I was expected to actively participate in my own learning.

I was excited to be there even before the first speaker took the podium.

The takeaway: All program books provide basically the same information. Challenge yourself to think about how you can present key event information in a way that makes a lasting impact on attendees.

 

Five Design Pro Tips for Your Conference Program 

First and foremost, your program book needs to be easy for any attendee to navigate. Think of it as user experience (UX) for printed materials. Beyond that, here are six aspects of your booklet design to consider.

1. Choose fonts and typography that match the personality of your event.

There is a documented psychology behind font choices and how they trigger ideas and emotions.

Serif fonts, such as Times New Roman, convey a feeling of class and heritage, making them appear formal.

Sans serif fonts, like Arial and Helvetica, convey a straight-forward, simple and no-nonsense attitude.

Modern fonts, like Futura, convey feelings of intelligence and chic style.

If your event were a person, how would you describe them? Are they trendy and chic? Funky and unconventional? Formal and traditional? The font choice you make throughout your program book should support the overall “vibe” of your meeting.

Don’t be afraid to go big and bold with font size in unexpected places. This is a great way to provide an assertion of key ideas and themes.

And it’s okay to mashup 2-3 fonts or typeface styles. It helps to make your book feel more dynamic and less monotonous. Just make sure that how you use these fonts has a purpose and is consistent throughout the book.

2. Use color and graphics in unexpected ways

Most organizations have an established brand identity that includes a primary color palette. Too often, this primary color palette dominates the program book design. The problem with this approach is that for the reader, the content tends to blend together.

Instead, use your primary color palette simply as a base. Incorporate splashers of contracting colors throughout your program book to highlight important content, make a bold statement, or break up large blocks of content.

To choose appropriate colors, the rule of thumb is to use a color wheel, selecting colors that sit directly opposite from each other.

Graphics such as images, vector art, or iconography can be used several ways, including:

  • To make a bold point
  • To help guide and direct the reader
  • To add texture and dimension to your book design

3. Leave space for interactive content 

One of the top trends in meeting design for the past several years has been providing a more interactive and collaborative approach to the learning process. Conferences are no longer a place for attendees to simply consume learning; they are active participants.

Your conference booklet can help facilitate and promote this approach as well. Sure, providing dedicated pages to take notes is always handy, but can you take it a step further?

  • Provide thought-provoking questions and space to answer them.
  • Include short workbook-like activities in your program book.
  • Give attendees space to draw and doodle as they work through new ideas.
  • Include QR codes that link to other resources like a short video

4. Maximize Branding Opportunities Wherever You Can

cesse conference program bookletOne of our own fan-favorite program books features a simple, but impactful change from the previous year.

The Council of Engineering and Scientific Society Executives (CESSE) incorporated tabs in their program book to make it easy for users to navigate.

Taking it a step further, they used what is often blank space to extend their event branding. The flood of bold color and graphics on what is traditionally a blank page helped to reinforce the perception that this is a high-quality, professional conference.

5. Find Inspiration Outside of Your Industry

Some of the most cutting-edge event designs come from cutting-edge conferences, such as Adobe’s 99U and the Facebook Developer Conference. Take a look at how they are presenting program information and then see how you might be able to scale the execution to fit your audience.

Your conference program book can—and should—do more than simply provide logistical information. By incorporating a more inspirational design you can help shape the attendee experience well before the opening session begins.

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.

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.

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.

Book Binding 101 for Educational Materials

When printing educational materials like a conference program book or training manual, it’s important to choose the right type of book binding. Not only does the binding literally hold the book together, it affects its quality, usability, Selecting the best one starts with knowing your options.

We’ve put together this brief overview of each binding type.

Four Common Types of Book Binding

1. Plastic Coil Bindingplasticoil-binding

How it looks:

Remember the silver coil notebooks we bought as kids at the beginning of each school year? That’s plastic coil binding. The only difference is instead of the metal coil, the coils are now plastic.

Why we love it:

It lays flat and allows the user to flip the book in half for easy note taking. They also ship well as the plastic coil is more forgiving than the metal coil. It comes in over 40 colors so you can easily match or compliment your branding. Even better, our black plastic coil is 80% post-consumer waste!

When to use it:

For workbooks, training manuals, and conference program books where users will be taking notes within the piece. Also, if your room configuration does not have tables, or has theater-style seats with the pull-up half desks, users can easily fold the book in half.

Works best with:

Books up to 750 pages (375 sheets) of 60# offset stock or 1,000 pages (500 sheets) of 50# offset stock.

Can also accommodate books with tabs and dividers.

2. Perfect Bindingperfect-bound-binding

How it looks:

Perfect bound books are the soft-cover books from our college days, or the ones we find at our favorite bookstore.

Why we love it:

They have a professional look for an affordable price. A perfect bound cover provides a space for text on the spine, turning your book into a shelf-worthy piece.

When to use it:

Best for reference pieces with a longer shelf life such as proceedings, manuals, and educational publications.

Works best with:

Books between 32 and 1,420 pages.

Can also accommodate books with tabs and dividers.

3. Saddle Stitchsaddle-stitch-binding

How it looks:

Saddle stitch resembles a magazine with two center staples on the spine.

Why we love it:

It’s a budget-friendly option with a faster production time.

When to use it:

Conference programs, journals, conference marketing brochures, or other booklets that have a smaller page count.

Works best with:

Books up to 64 pages (32 sheets) of 60# offset stock or 88 pages (44 sheets) of 50# offset stock.

4. Case Bindingcase-binding

How it looks:

A case bound book looks like a hardcover textbook.

Why we love it:

It’s extremely durable and creates a high-value appearance.

When to use it:

Best for text books, standards, and other high-value books with a longer shelf life.

Works best with:

Books between 48 pages (24 sheets) and 1,600 pages (800 sheets).

Other Book Binding Types Available (But We Don’t Recommend)

Tape Binding:

It’s a lower quality version of perfect binding with a high risk for pages falling out.

Plastic Comb Binding:

This is the budget version of plastic coil spiral binding. It doesn’t allow the pages to flip all the way around and lay back-to-back. It can be perfectly suitable It for college papers, printed PowerPoint slide decks, or other free or lower-value materials. But for educational books with high-value content, a plastic comb binding will cheapen its look, feel, and durability.

You’ll find more information on binding, tabs, and other finishing options for your print materials on our website.

Skip to content Top