The Event Planner’s Guide to Testing Your Abstract Management System

 

Planning an event where you will have speakers is no easy task. Even just thinking about the hundreds of “hidden” tasks that need to be completed may cause your pulse to quicken. Luckily, you’ve had a tremendous response to your call for papers, and submissions from potential speakers are coming in from around the country (or around the globe!). Now with the success of your event hanging in the balance, you start to review the submissions, only to realize their presentation didn’t upload correctly! You will need to contact each submitter individually and ask them to re-submit. Looks like your list of tasks just got a lot longer…

The Importance of Testing Your Abstract Management System

Nothing is more frustrating to a submitter (or those volunteering their time to review submissions) than having to deal with technical issues. A poorly set up submission process can deter great speakers, and incomplete or garbled information can be a headache for association staff to fix later. By thoroughly testing your abstract management system before you open up your call for papers, you can minimize any of these complications.

Advice to “test your site” may sound obvious, but do you know the specific things you should be looking for during your test? Follow the steps in this whitepaper before your abstract management system goes live to ensure a smooth launch. A checklist is included at the end of the document to help you organize and conduct a thorough collection site review.

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Event planners have a multitude of tasks to manage as they prepare for their event. If your event prep includes accepting submissions from potential speakers, testing your abstract management system needs to be on your to-do list. Make the testing process efficient (and painless!) by following the recommendations included in the whitepaper, “The Event Planner’s Guide to Testing an Abstract Management System.”

Best of the Blog 2016: Using Conference Content Effectively

If there is one topic you can expect to learn about by reading the Omnipress blog, it’s how important content is to a successful conference. Articles this year focused on effectively using conference content before, during and after your event. Whether you are looking for information on planning for a future conference—or a future generation—these seven articles will point you in the right direction to offer the most worthwhile materials to your attendees.

 


Millennials & Print: Voice of an Association Millennial

All the data we’ve seen paints a nice high-level synopsis of how and when Millennials want their educational content; but, if a Millennial were to read the results, could they reaffirm our findings? To answer that question, we contacted a Millennial that is very active in the association industry.

 

Read her interview


iStock_000061878734_SmallIs Your Annual Conference Ready for Generation Z?

Just when you thought you had figured out Millennials, here comes Gen Z! Gen Z (children born from the mid-90s through 2010) will soon begin joining the workforce. Associations that provide education and networking will be of tremendous value to this generation—as long as you can adapt to their needs and meet them on their terms.

 

Learn about Gen Z


Marketing With Conference Content Part 2Marketing with Conference Content: Part 2 – 3 Ways to Stand Out From the Crowd by Using Images

Adding images to your posts is one of the most effective ways to increase the impact of your messaging. Learn the tools to use, so you can easily add some visual interest to your online profile.

 

See how to use images


Avoid Disaster with these 3 Conference Planning TipsAvoid Disaster with These 3 Conference Planning Tips

Planning a live event like a conference means leaving the “undo” button at home. Last-minute issues are bound to arise, but you can avoid some common worst case scenarios by following these three conference planning tips.

Plan to avoid disaster

 


Conference Learning5 Ways to Continue the Learning After Your Conference

The learning we experience at conferences does not have to end when the conference does. By re-using the content you spent months collecting and reviewing, you can help attendees retain what they’ve learned, energize future attendees, and increase the ROI of your conference materials over the course of the entire year.

Use content in new ways

 


3 Myth-Busting Facts about USBs3 Myth-Busting Facts to Challenge How you Think About USB Drives

You know everything there is to know about USB drives, right? Don’t be so sure! USB drives have been a conference staple for years but there are some common misconceptions about them. See if you can separate myth from fact in this list.

Test your USB knowledge

 


Provide value during a conference3 Ways to Provide Value During Your Next Event

Are you constantly looking for ways to provide more value at your next conference? Here are 3 basic ways to ensure you’re engaging your attendees.

 

Get inspired

 


 

Why You Need to Recruit Others to Help in Your Conference Planning

No detail is too small when it comes to planning your conference, and that attention to detail includes your abstract management system. One of the benefits that an abstract management system provides is that it can be configured to match your conference’s needs. This flexibility allows you to create an easy submission process for your conference, a review system based on your own criteria, and the ability to build reports that track your submitters’ progress. But before you can open your call for papers, there is one final step you need to plan on: testing the site.

When you test your collection site, the goal is to discover any trouble spots in your process before you begin accepting live submissions. Fixing issues before your site opens is much easier than addressing them after you’ve received submissions.

It’s a safe bet that a submitter will manage to use the system in a way that you wouldn’t have guessed. So rather than try to imagine every possibility on your own, it’s a good idea to recruit others to help you go through the site, step-by-step. You’ll want to enlist the help of a diverse set of people that match the age range and technical skill level of your typical submitter.

Here are three things to keep in mind when pulling together a diverse team of collection site testers:

Recruit some testers from within your association

The easiest place to find people willing to help test your collection process is from within your organization. Your co-workers have a built-in incentive to make sure your conference attracts the best educational materials possible. Choosing testers that are invested in the outcome can help ensure a thorough run through of your site.

There is another benefit to choosing people from within the organization: these staff members will become familiar with the process and can teach other co-workers how to use the system. Some may even be comfortable offering technical support once the site opens to submitters.

Recruit some testers from outside of your association

It’s important that some portion of your testing takes place outside of your association’s building, so don’t be afraid to enroll people from outside of your organization in the testing process, as well. Not only will this expand your testers’ demographics, it will also expand the geography of your tests. Asking friends and family to help test the site using their home internet connection provides a real-life user scenario that can point out any issues that arise.

Recruit some testers that are unfamiliar with your industry

Another important reason to pick someone from outside of your association is to make sure your submission process is intuitive. If someone with no experience with abstracts or paper collection can figure out what they need to do, and in which order, you can feel confident that your process will run smoothly.

Conclusion

Be sure your testing team represents a variety of ages and technical know-how. An easy way to incorporate diversity in your site testers is to choose them from diverse sources. While you definitely want to include some of your co-workers in the process, there is an advantage to also including people that do not work for your association. Taking these extra steps to build a diverse testing team before your site opens will help ensure a good experience when your call for papers opens.

 

Avoid Disaster with These 3 Conference Planning Tips

 

Putting together a live event like a conference means there is no “undo” button to fall back on. You’ve only got one chance to make sure everything at your event goes off without a hitch. Not every obstacle is avoidable, but there are safeguards you can incorporate into your planning process to limit the common pitfalls that plague meeting planners.

As you plan your next conference, try to work in these three strategic maneuvers to keep some common scenarios from impacting your conference.

Scenario #1: The last-minute submitter and the secret deadline

Regardless of how long your collection site is open, it never fails that the bulk of your submissions are going to arrive in the last few days (or potentially even hours). Despite the steps you took to create an easy, “Seriously, a five-year-old could do this” submission process, there are bound to be last-minute issues that prevent submitters from having their material to you before your site closes.

Don’t let something simple like a submitter forgetting their password derail your timetable or stop a presenter from speaking at your conference! (Although, if there ever was a Darwinian way of eliminating your presenters, a missed deadline due to a forgotten password would be a good one.) Instead, set two deadlines for your call for papers. The one you advertise on your site… and the real one.

Having a second deadline means you can accommodate presenters who find themselves in this position, while at the same time allowing you to stay on track with the rest of your conference planning. A three-day buffer is good for most situations.

Scenario #2: The last-minute RSVPs and the second print run

Just like presenters, attendees love to wait until the last minute to commit to your conference. The realities of conference planning timelines don’t always allow for such late decision-making on your part. Coordinating with multiple vendors may have forced you to already submit final counts for materials like printed programs, customized USBs or bundled “welcome” packets. Avoid running out of supplies! Make sure you order plenty of extra to accommodate the influx of RSVPs that tend to come right before the deadline.

Scenario #3: The last-minute speaker cancellation and the concurrent session

Despite all your best-laid plans, confirmations and double checking, if you plan conferences for long enough, the inevitable speaker cancellation will happen to you, too. Missed flights, illnesses or sometimes just plain ol’ double booking can leave your conference one speaker short of a full day. A sure-fire way to avoid the dreaded “session gap” in your conference day is to always schedule at least one session that runs concurrently with another. If you are presented with a situation where you need to fill an unexpected hole in the schedule, this extra presentation can be moved to fill the gap with minimal disturbance to the rest of the conference.

Conclusion

A few simple precautions can go a long way in helping you plan and produce a smooth-running conference. It’s no surprise that the things that add the most value to your conference are the same ones that can cause the biggest headache when they get sidetracked. Be sure to take steps during the planning phase to let you handle any issues that arise. Doing so can be just the thing that leads to scenario #4: The meeting planner and the well-run conference.

Are there any other conference planning tips that you use to limit last-minute issues? What are some other obstacles that are easily prevented? Or, do you have any examples of issues that weren’t prevented (but could have been)? Let us know in the comments!

How to Measure Success of Mobile Event Apps

One of the greatest mistakes you can make when providing a mobile event app for your annual conference is waiting until the event is over to try and figure out if your app was successful or not.

Instead, prior to launching a mobile event app, you should take the time to consider what success will look like for your app. Start by reviewing the objective for your mobile event app and then determine how you can measure if your objective was met.

2 Ways to Measure Success of Mobile Event Apps

Here are two simple ways you can determine if your mobile event app objective was met:

  • Ask for Attendee Feedback.
    Include a survey for attendees to take in the app allowing them to share feedback on the functionality and usefulness of your mobile app.
  • Utilize Analytics.
    Track how many attendees download your mobile event app, the most viewed content, the number of visitors to the sponsor module and other important data.

Please note: It is important to talk to your mobile event app provider to understand what data will be available to you.

Using Analytics for Mobile Event Apps

If you collect data, be sure you think about how it can be used. For example, if you have a sponsor list in your app, you can use the data to help gain more sponsors in the future.

mobile-event-app-sponsor-listing

 

Also, if you know that speaker information was a frequently visited module, you can think about how to add or change the information to get the most value, encouraging attendees to check out other modules of the conference app.

mobile-event-app-speaker-listing

The key to determining success is to have the data available to so you can make intelligent decisions on how to improve mobile event apps for upcoming conferences.

How are you measuring the success of your mobile event apps?

 

 

3 Must-Have Tools for Conferences

As you may have heard, CareerCast.com named “Event Coordinator” the 6th most stressful job of 2012.

As a person who coordinates meetings and annual conferences for associations, you understand the stress of speakers not hitting their call for final presentations deadline, getting the most current information in the printed conference programs, ensuring those programs arrive on time, making sure your attendees can find their handouts online and offering a website that professionalizes your conference…and all of this is just work-related stress!

While there are a lot of details you need to be concerned about when planning an annual meeting, there are certainly some you SHOULDN’T be worried about. Here are 3 tools you can use to help ease the stress of event planning.

3 Tools to Improve Conferences

  1. Collect, Manage and Review Presentations Using an Online System.
    Stop using email as your tool for collecting your final presentations and start using a system that keeps you organized. Collecting final presentations via email may be better than Fed Ex deliveries, but it certainly doesn’t mean you have a cutting edge collection process. As busy professionals, we understand how easy it is for emails to disappear, sometimes even before we get to see them. (The love/hate relationship with our spam filters is never ending.) Creating one online location for ALL submitters and reviewers streamlines the entire process from your initial call for abstracts to collecting and reviewing speakers’ final presentations.
  2. Provide a Conference Program and Speaker Materials in a Condensed Learning Journal and Flash Drive. More conference materials mean more worry about which conference materials are going to arrive on which day from which vendor at what location. This is completely unnecessary. Instead of having your conference final program, session materials and notepads, try a conference learning journal that includes both your final program and extra note pages in one spiral bound book. Then, attach your flash drive of conference proceedings to the inside cover. And finally, right under that flash drive, include a link or QR code which will lead attendees right to your conference’s online event community where they can download the speaker handouts.
  3. Publishing Your Conference Handouts and Proceedings in a Digital Publishing Platform. Don’t leave it to your presenters to take business cards and send their handouts in a link to session attendees. This is crazy, but it still happens. Start publishing your conference proceedings and session handouts in a consistent online location (better known as a digital publishing platform). Then, keep publishing year after year in this same knowledge center under the same URL… for example, “conferencehandouts.yourassociations.com.” Market this website everywhere (in emails, on the program cover, on session starter slides, etc.). And, if you’re publishing your materials through this digital publishing platform, attendees should just be able to Google it and find it easily.

Spending less time worrying about conference materials will give you more time to focus on more important aspects of planning a meeting or conference.

What are some other resources that would help make your conference planning job less stressful?