CATALYST® Abstract Management Software Updates and Exciting New Features

 

In 2016 Omnipress launched CATALYST® abstract and speaker management software, an extremely flexible, highly configurable and user-friendly event content collection tool.  Designed to remove the most common challenges and frustrations of managing a call for papers, CATALYST 1.0 combined customer input with decades of our own experiences and observations working with associations and meeting planners.  Since its initial launch, we have maintained an aggressive investment in product development to ensure that CATALYST continues to exceed the expectations of today’s conference planner.  We are excited to announce some of our latest enhancements.

CATALYST is now three event tools in one: Abstract Management, Project Management and Content Management

Simplify your workload. CATALYST offers meeting planners more than abstract management—it helps you manage all conference content—from your initial call for submissions to your final, attendee-facing materials. Newest software updates include:

  • A built-in content management system to serve as the central hub for all final digital and print conference materials. Your accepted digital content and event schedule can be directly published to your website, to offline digital materials such as a downloadable file or USB, or to your Attendify® mobile event app. Make real-time updates on-site if your schedule changes
  • Improvements to the scheduling tool, with an improved interface and enhanced conflict detection parameters
  • Payment collection, to generate additional revenue and ensure you’re receiving only the highest-quality submissions

Event Schedule Software

More software integrations and partnerships connect CATALYST to the growing event tech world

Each year we continue to build an ever-expanding network of cross-platform integrations and industry partnerships designed to enhance the value you get from CATALYST.  We now integrate with many of the major association management systems, as well as other third-party tools such as Authorize.net, Bluepay and iThenticate plagiarism detection software.

We have also formed partnerships with several industry-leading event tech companies to make CATALYST more accessible to organizations, including:

  • Community Brands: Tech Partner
  • ACGI/Association Anywhere: Gold Partner
  • Fuzion: Network Member
  • Conference Direct: Preferred Supplier

Continuous improvement is our standard

In addition to these enhancements, we are continually making improvements and updates to CATALYST based on customer input and new technology developments. Our investment in ongoing development supports our commitment to ensuring that CATALYST continues to provide an easy experience for submitters and reviewers, while simplifying your workload.

Interested in seeing what’s new? Schedule a personalized tour of CATALYST.

Event Technology Software Integration: Is It Really Needed?

 

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

Integrating Your Event Technology Planning Tools

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

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

CATALYST® Abstract Management Software AMS Integration Instances

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

Single sign-on

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

Access and content control

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

Data consistency

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

Co-author data entry

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

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

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

Is Event Technology Software Integration Important to Your Organization? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Pro Tips: Call For Papers and Abstract Management

 

As a follow-up to our newest whitepaper, Best Practices for High-Quality Content, which outlines simple changes organizations can make to streamline call for papers processes and mitigate problems, we asked our abstract management project managers to weigh in even further. Our panel of five field experts each work on hundreds of conference every year. While every conference is different, they often find themselves providing the same advice to new customers—advice that can save a tremendous amount of time and frustration.

Call For Papers and Abstract Management Expert Q&A

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

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

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

Ashley: 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 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 to access reporting for several months, providing all data sets upfront helps streamline the process.

Q: What about data quality? How can we ensure an author provides a completed, high-quality 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?

Ashley: 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 you 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.

Ashely: 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.

Do you have a question about your current submission and review process that you’d like to run by an abstract management expert? We’d love to help!

Now Available: Best Practices Guide for High-Quality Conference Content

 

By far the #1 reason individuals choose to attend a conference is the quality of the educational programming. Sourcing that content is consistently reported to be a top challenge for meeting planners—from setting up and advertising the open call for abstract submissions, to chasing down submitters and reviewers, to manually re-working and cleaning-up back-end data and reports. These barriers not only take up a disproportionate amount of time for meeting planners, but they can also affect the quantity and quality of submissions. Making seemingly small changes to your abstract management and review process can help you mitigate problems, save time and simplify the development of your conference materials.

Download the guide to learn:

  • How to collect the right amount of data, at the right time
  • How to test your system to avoid unforeseen technical issues
  • Why you should consider including steps to authenticate each submitter’s content
  • Why it’s important to create a “database of record”

Featured Recommendation: Collect data in small pieces

The information you collect from submitters will eventually be pushed to a variety of conference materials, from a printed program book, to online conference materials and perhaps even a conference app—each of which has different formatting requirements. To give you the greatest amount of flexibility without having to manually cleanup and re-format data, set up your submission fields to collect data in the smallest pieces possible. For instance, break out the Name field into First Name, Last Name, Suffix and Credentials.

Read the full guide for more tips on how to better collect and manage high-quality content.

Improve Conference Performance: Harnessing Data from Your Abstract Management System

 

Over the past several years, the event technology landscape has continued to expand and become more complex. Meeting planners are using this to their advantage, opting for separate tools that meet their specialized needs rather than trying to shoehorn their organization into a larger, all-in-one solution that may not do everything as well as they need it to. The downside, however, is that as their event technology stack grows, so does the need for integration.

Meeting planners are increasingly looking to technology providers that can connect their event planning tools to help simplify the planning process, reduce data errors and provide a better user experience. For instance, by providing single sign-on (SSO) between the abstract management system and the association management system, a user does not have to re-enter their data. This saves time for the submitter while helping to ensure the data entered into the abstract management system is correct and clean. It also allows the meeting planner to enforce any specific requirements for submitters such as membership or registration status.

Abstract Management: Consolidating Data Into One Central Location

The advantages of system connectivity go beyond workflow and process, however. As we learned at ASAE’s MM&C Conference this past May, integration is also about bringing key data points together that associations may not be fully leveraging.  In particular, the abstract management system holds a tremendous amount of under-utilized data that can provide important insights:

  • Member engagement information: If you are tracking member engagement levels or scores in your AMS, then whether or not they submit an abstract or proposal to a particular conference can serve as a contributor to this score.
  • Early conference performance: Abstract and speaker submissions to a conference can serve as one of the leading indicators of conference performance; specifically, how well current marketing and promotional activities are performing, and how much interest is being generated in the industry.
  • Program progress: Your submission data can also provide insight into how strong your program will be, giving you ample time to make adjustments early on. For instance, are the number of submissions up or down versus the same time period last year? Are you receiving the diversity of content you need to create a well-rounded, high-quality program? If not, how can you use your member data to pinpoint and invite specific thought-leaders to fill those gaps?

As you evaluate the KPIs of your association and your conference, don’t forget to look to your abstract management system as a key source of data. If you can connect it to other data points within your association through integration, you’ll be able to better leverage this data to improve conference performance and direct organizational strategy.

Abstract Management Doesn’t Have to be a Pain

 

If there was one thing I wish everyone knew, it’s that abstract management doesn’t have to be a pain point for meeting planners.

We conducted market research to understand how meeting planners are managing their call for papers, and where some of the biggest pain points are coming from.  Most are not happy with their current solution, but are more afraid to switch than to deal with the known pain. As a result, they maintain status quo simply because it seems easier. In actuality, it often results in more (and unnecessary) work for the meeting planner.

Many organizations have legacy collection and review processes in place, and continue to maintain them because that’s how they’ve always done it. Or, they simply don’t realize there is a better way. When we start working with a new customer, the first thing we do is understand your current process, your ultimate goals and objectives, and then provide recommendations that deliver even better results.

Here are just a few examples of how we help improve your abstract management workflow:

  • Reverse-engineer your collection process so that you’re collecting exactly what you’ll need, in the way you’ll need it for your eventual conference materials. This ensures you are getting the cleanest data possible, saving a tremendous amount of time on the back-end.
  • Build your forms to collect your data in the smallest pieces possible, making it flexible enough to meet the requirements of all your outputs: mobile app, online, print, etc.
  • Conduct the appropriate abstract management system testing (including a thorough review of your instructions) to minimize submitter questions and issues
  • Have processes to validate and authenticate content before it passes on to the peer review stage
  • Maintain a database of record after your collection is complete so everyone knows which data is correct and current

We are lucky enough to have worked on thousands of conferences, and use that perspective to your advantage. We can configure CATALYST® in a way that facilitates cleaner, better and more complete submissions and reviews, while reducing your workload so you can focus on other aspects of your conference.

As you start thinking ahead to your next call for papers, know that abstract management doesn’t have to be your biggest pain. If you’re interested in exploring whether there are opportunities to simplify your collection and review process, we’d love to share some of our own experiences, as well as what others are doing. Making just a few, simple changes could make a world of difference for your next conference.

The Benefits of an Integrated Abstract Management System

Software integrations extend the functionality of the systems we rely on every day. If your association uses an AMS to manage your member data, you know the benefits of having the most up-to-date information about your members, all in a single location. That’s why we’ve designed our CATALYST abstract management system to integrate with many of the most popular AMS providers.

Watch Omnipress General Manager Jonny Popp talk about the benefits this integration strategy provides for our customers, as well as those submitting information to CATALYST.

 

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

 

When your association is collecting abstracts for an upcoming event, you want the process to go as smoothly as possible for everyone involved. But naturally, things can get a little complicated, especially if you’re asking speakers to submit many pages of information and multiple file types. Without clear instructions for your submission process, submitters will likely have some questions or problems that can leave them frustrated (and on the phone with tech support instead of finishing their submission).

Nobody likes working with a system that isn’t easy or intuitive. Writing instructions that are clear and concise can help submitters along the way. It’s very important that your instructions are effective. There’s no guarantee that users will read them in their entirety, but they’ll be there to guide them if they do get stuck.

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

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.

Keep it short

In the age of the internet, users shy away from reading long, complex paragraphs. To increase the chances that your users will read them through, use short, easy to understand sentences.

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.

Use contextual instructions

Supplement your instructions with tips that appear throughout the submission process. 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.

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.

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.”

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.

Anticipate the length of the 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.

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 difficult to understand. Ask a few coworkers or trusted contributors to go through the instructions and provide feedback before you open the collection site to everyone.

Don’t be afraid to change the 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 your instructions. Changing them late will still give 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!

Now that you have an effective set of instructions for your call for papers, it’s time to get the word out! Read our whitepaper for tips on how to Promote Your Event with Conference Content Marketing.

Do you have any other tips or experiences regarding communicating instructions to your submitters?

7 Creative Ways to Crowdsource Data With an Abstract Management System

 

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

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

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

Sponsor or exhibitor information

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

Scholarship or grant applications

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

Directories

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

Board nominations

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

Survey or feedback

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

Call for bids

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

Competitions

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

 

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

3 Simple Steps to Save Time During Your Collection Process (Video)

Conference content begins with the collection and review process. Before your content website is built or your app is approved, association staff, submitters, and reviewers begin the work of determining what content will be included in the annual meeting. This process is important because choosing the highest quality content, vetted by industry experts, sets your association apart.

But collection and review can be challenging. In fact, in our 2016 State of the Conference Industry survey, it was chosen as the single greatest challenge by 33% of respondents.

Why is collection and review so frustrating for meeting planners? Some things are just the nature of the beast: submitters will always want an extension, and last-minute schedule changes will happen, despite your best efforts to avoid them.

Other factors have more to do with the capabilities of the tool you use for abstract management. If you run up against your system’s limitations, you may find yourself spending a lot of time on manual work-arounds.

Thankfully, some issues can be addressed by making a few simple tweaks to your process. In our newest video, we outline three simple changes you should consider making to your collection process before your next call for papers:

  • When is the ideal time to think about your end outputs (printed materials, website, app, etc.)?
  • How can you set up optimal deadlines to keep your event planning moving forward?
  • What more can you do with your abstract management system that you might not be doing today?

View the video to learn more!

Have you found ways to save time and stress during your collection process? Leave a comment to share them with others!

 

Groundhog Day: Abstract Management, Repetition, & Abstract Management

For many people, Groundhog Day conjures up memories of the popular Bill Murray/Andie MacDowell movie. A recap for those who have forgotten the plot: Phil is a weatherman reporting from Puxatawney, Pennsylvania. Because of a freak blizzard that he (ironically enough) didn’t forecast, Phil gets stuck in a time warp, living the same day over and over again. After Phil works past the crushing agony of repetition, he begins to use it as an opportunity to improve himself and—at long last—move forward into a better future.

Do you find yourself reliving the same process again and again? Some meeting planners feel that way about abstract management. Every year, they open a call for papers, go through the same motions (many of them manual and tedious), and hope for different results.

The truth is, the best way to escape from the endless repetition is to change the way you approach the task, like Murray’s weatherman Phil did. Once he changed the way he faced each day, positive changes and forward momentum broke the pattern.

Whether your abstract management process is manual or just a system that hasn’t kept up with your association’s needs, you can find an alternative to help you break free of a vicious cycle. Perhaps it’s time to take a close look at your abstract management system and whether it’s helping or hindering your collection process.

We’ve compiled an easy five-step test that every abstract management system should pass. For example: Can the system be configured to match your submission process? And do you need it to? This step helps you determine which type of system will work best for your association: out-of-the-box, custom-built, or configurable.

Does your abstract management system make the grade? Download our new white paper to find out!

Wishing you a happy February and an early spring!

10 Things You Can Do to Make Your Abstract Management System Easier for Everyone—Including You!—to Use

Choosing presenters for your association’s annual meeting is a crucial process that can have a significant impact on the success of the entire conference. It’s important to get it right.

But important doesn’t have to mean tedious. Everyone involved with abstract management—submitters, reviewers, and association staff—is busy. They understand the importance of the process and their part in getting it done. But this task is a mere sliver of their days and anything that can make the process smoother is appreciated.

How can you make abstract management easier for everyone, yourself included?

For submitters:

  1. Offer more submission formats—Go beyond the PDF and Word doc! Your submitters can upload audio and visual content, too. Rich content will help make a stronger case for a presentation and provide a more complete picture of the submission.
  2. Outsource support services—Make questions like “What’s my username?” the dominion of your abstract management provider—not you. Your packed schedule probably doesn’t allow you to respond as quickly to these requests as you’d like, so it helps to have someone else handle them.
  3. Allow them to save a draft—Your submitters, especially those who are younger and less experienced, may feel nervous about sending in an abstract. They may want to be able to put together their submission, sleep on it, revise, and then click SEND. Make sure your system gives them that option.

For reviewers:

  1. Provide clearly-defined scoring criteria—Develop concrete, numeric criteria (instead of rank-based criteria) to steer reviewers in the right direction and foster consistency. This will make it easier to decide who’s in and who’s out when the time comes.
  2. Ask for reviewer information up front—Have reviewers to fill out a form for each submission, including the scoring criteria, a text box for comments, and other information. When you ask for this at the beginning of the process, you don’t have to follow up with (and potentially annoy) reviewers later.
  3. Implement lockbox/rolling review—With this option, submitters can’t go back and revise a submission; they send it in and then throw away the key. That allows reviewers to get a head start—they can read and score submissions as they come in, rather than wait until the submission deadline to begin the review process.

For you:

  1. Account for all information you will need for conference materials ahead of time—Add custom fields to your submission process that ask for the information you need, even if it’s not built into the system. This step will save you a lot of time and aggravation in the long run.
  2. Separate your collection communications—Use your abstract management system as the place where information you need is stored, including emails to groups of submitters and reviewers. Separate these communications from your office email inbox to avoid losing messages in the shuffle.
  3. Use reports to manage compliance—Keep tabs on the process and follow up with submitters who haven’t completed the process or reviewers who have a few abstracts to finish.
  4. Leverage the scheduling tool—Plan ahead by using a user-friendly, drag-and-drop scheduling tool to give shape to your conferences as sessions are accepted. The tool helps you visualize how everything will fit together.

Abstract management is everything as you begin to plan your conference. It may be your primary focus for a matter of weeks or months.

But think about it—abstract management isn’t a full-time job for anyone. Not the submitters, not the reviewers (many of whom volunteer their time), and not even you. Take a few steps to make it easier for everyone involved and you’ll get the job done without letting it take over your life or anyone else’s.

Reach out to us to schedule a customized demo!