Useful Tips to Improve the Management of Abstract Submissions At An Academic Event
Of course, there are many solutions out there which can simplify the whole process of gathering and managing online abstract submissions, as well as helping reviewers assess these submissions quickly with little hassle. These automated platforms can help conference managers build abstract submission forms, modify submission topics, select expert reviewers to assess the merit of abstracts, as well as invite select people to present their abstracts and papers. But, to make yourself sure you get the process right with abstract management we advice you to keep in mind the following tips.
Make Sure You Know What You Really Need?
One of the most frustrating oversights in managing abstracts is kicking off the process, receiving submissions and realizing later on that there is information you need but haven't asked. You can add missing fields to online forms pretty quickly these days but getting in touch with those who have already completed their submission forms can be a timely and frustrating process. Finalise all the information you need at the planning stage – talk to experienced colleagues and get other stakeholders involved from the very start. Everyone should agree on what you're trying to achieve and why – this way, you'll be in a better position to identify gaps and won't need to make as many last-minute changes to your submission forms.
Do Not Neglect Instructing Submitters
You do need to provide a detailed guide for authors so that they can understand the submission process clearly. Make use of the instructions section of your call for abstracts page to communicate clearly and concisely exactly what information you need from the author or potential speaker so that they know what they are expected to provide. This can cut down on a lot of confusion and wasted time for both submitters and reviewers. You could also publish a timeline that outlines important dates, including the deadline for abstract submissions, when authors need to be available, when submissions will be approved and when places in the conference programme will be confirmed.
Provide Clear Guidance But Do Not Overwhelm Submitters
It's important to provide clear guidance on abstract submissions but be careful not to overwhelm people. We've seen some conferences use five pages of highly structured forms giving instructions on how to submit abstracts on one topic! Will your academic really read through all those pages? Probably not. The reality is that most academics submit their papers to multiple conferences and they'll submit the same abstract to each one. So, don't over-complicate things as you may risk losing potential speakers. And remember, it may be someone other than the author filling in the submission form and they may not have the technical expertise to edit the text or reformat it in a way that meets the criteria of an overly cumbersome submission process.
Make sure that your submitters have a clear idea on the format you want them to use when filling in particular fields on your form. Using predefined formats on fields that require numbers, for example, will reduce the probability of error. It will also make sure that the data is captured in the same way as it is captured in the databases of some of the other systems you use around your conference (registration, CRM, membership and so on). You can also structure the abstract content into different sections (introduction, main content, summary) which can be useful for typesetting. This way, you'll save time in exporting that information when creating abstract journals or posters as all your content is structured in one standardised format.
Ask Relevant Questions
As a general rule, the more clicks it takes to complete a submission form, the more excuse your abstract authors have to walk away and look elsewhere. Make sure that the information you're asking for will either help them or help you get the content you need for a successful conference programme. For example, you may ask if their paper has already been published in an industry journal and if a particular publication keeps coming up, then perhaps that's somewhere you need to be targeting to get the abstract submissions you're looking for.
You want to make the process of submitting abstracts as simple as possible. So, it's a good idea to allow authors and speakers the choice to edit or amend their abstract submissions prior to the deadline date. Equally, make room in your planning on extending the deadline as most people leave these things to the last minute and it's an opportunity for you to get more interesting content for your conference programme.
Stay on top of how many abstracts are coming in, which submissions are incomplete and what topic/category/stream areas are doing better than others – if you use an abstract management solution, then it will monitor this information for you in real-time. This will identify potential problem areas and help you assess the best way of addressing them. For example, an overwhelming number of submissions in one topic area (over others) may indicate that the topic description is too broad and that it's not being interpreted by authors and submitters in the correct way. So, you may decide to sub-categorise and create new sub-topics instead.