Is Your Abstract Collection System Speaker-Friendly?

Published by Sean Lawler | Topics: Online Collection Systems

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Do you make your presenters pull their hair out for you?

When you put out a call for presentations or abstracts for your annual meeting, chances are you’re tapping into busy professionals in your industry who have discovered something that their peers would love to know. But these busy professionals who want to apply to speak at your conference are just that – busy professionals! They want to be able to push a few buttons to submit their proposal. If your system to accept abstracts is confusing, your presenter pool is either going to get frustrated and quit or call you to ask a million questions.

That’s why we’re so surprised when we see abstract collection systems that are confusing, complicated and just plain clumsy. When your system doesn’t work for your authors and submitters, you create more work for yourself because you have to deal with unnecessary questions about the process as well as unneeded headaches from inaccurate or incomplete submissions. The same problem happens for reviewers and site administrators who can’t figure an online content collection system out. By not focusing on the user experiences for each person in your call for presentations/abstracts process, you’re adding to your own workload.

Is Your Online Collection System What It Should Be?

Here are three questions you should ask to determine if your online collection system is user-friendly enough for your speakers, presenters, authors, reviewers and other users:

  1. Could your mom submit a proposal in your online collection system?
    There’s a little bit of a stereotype there that an older computer user might be less computer-savvy than a younger one, but it’s a good question to ask anyway. Would a non-techy person be able to easily follow the directions to submit or review a presentation online without having to call you for a walk through?
  2. Do your submitters regularly skip any fields or sections?
    If half of the presentation proposals are missing the information you’re trying to collect about AV needs for the sessions, chances are your users are unclear about what information you need and when. Your online collection system should carefully walk the speakers and reviewers through every step they need to complete.
  3. Does the look and feel of the site represent your organization’s professionalism?
    Your abstract collection system or call for presentations site is a representation of your organization, and the overall user experience visitors take away from the page will reflect on you. Does your submission page have clumsy buttons, fuzzy text or inconsistent graphic elements? Do your members and speakers consider this a system that’s commensurate with your brand, or does it seem like you’re taking a step backwards?
Free Download: Abstract Collection Systems


About Sean Lawler

Sean is the Product Director of Digital Services here at Omnipress... handling their online abstract management/speaker file collection, digital publishing platforms, mobile event apps, and other digital media delivery. He understands technology very well, but can relate it to non-technical people better than most. more

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February 22nd, 2011Dave Lutz says:

Sean, great post! I love the Mom test. My favorite litmus test for ease of use.

Some of the challenges that I’ve experienced with abstract submission sites include:

1) Redundant requests. Just ask for the session title, description and learner objectives. Don’t make me break the content into more areas than that.

2) Email me a confirmation of what I submitted. Most don’t.

3) Make it easy for me to add co-presenters.

4) Make sure that the submission link is sharable. I recently tweeted one out and the link was not one that you could navigate directly to.

Twitter: velchain


February 22nd, 2011Christopher Uschan says:

Sean, I agree with Dave, the “my mom” test (no offense mom) is a must for any online system that collects data.

We have to assume authors and presenters are so immersed with their presentation or the content of their submission, the last thing they want to deal with is a clumsy system. In the end, the organization who uses a unintuitive system will pay for it in bad data collected and support calls from frustrated users.

Twitter: chrisuschan


February 22nd, 2011Sean Lawler says:

Hi Dave,

Thanks for your feedback.

Regarding your first point, I’ve noticed that moving to an online collection system from the low-tech email/fax approach often reduces redundancy on it’s own through the virtue of being a database solution. You have no idea how many customers have shown me the 7 PDF forms they collected that require much of the same information on 4 of those forms. I don’t always mind if you’re collecting a lot of information (especially if you warn me before I start my submission) but you’re right that redundant information can get really tedious.

And to clarify your point #4 – you mean being able to share the link to the call so that someone can submit their own abstract, correct? The only reason I ask is that customers also sometimes want submitters to be able to share their own submissions with others.

Twitter: SeanMLawler


February 22nd, 2011Dave Lutz says:

Sean, on #4, I’m referring to allowing your community to spread the word with a link directly to the submission site. I tried to do that recently for one of our industry major conferences and the link failed. Bazaar!

Twitter: velchain


February 22nd, 2011Sean Lawler says:

Thanks Dave, that’s what I thought, thanks for explaining.

On a related note, if anyone else is also interested in ways to advertise your open call, check out my blog article “10 Tips to Spread the Word About Your ‘Call for Papers’” here:

Twitter: SeanMLawler


[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by christopher uschan, Tony Veroeven. Tony Veroeven said: Is Your Call for Speakers – Abstract Collection System actually Speaker-Friendly? […]

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