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?
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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