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Four Ways to Improve Your Abstract Review Process

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As a conference planner you know you’ve got to find the most excellent speakers possible. Strong speakers mean strong conference content—and compelling event content increases registrations and the overall success of the conference. It’s the dream of all dedicated conference managers. However, managing the abstract submission and review process can be challenging. We’re here to help you get it right. After managing the abstract review process for dozens of clients and events, we’ve learned a few things that, when implemented, can greatly improve your results.

Here are four tips for improving your review of speaker abstract submissions:

Define your vision

Think about what you want the ideal conference content to look like. Ask yourself the following questions:

  • What are your goals for the conference?
  • How many rooms/time slots will I need to fill?
  • What are the themes or main ideas of the conference?

Consider your event structure in order to make sure you are collecting the right information to get the most relevant and engaging content you can. Think critically about what motivates your attendees—is it the session on Business Excellence or is it the nitty-gritty hands-on-lab sessions that they raved about last year? Understanding your event and your ideal attendee will help you determine what content best suites your vision.

Keep it simple

Once you’re clear on what kind of sessions and topics you’re looking for, make sure your submission form reflects that. Keep it simple—only gather the information that you need to make a decision. You can gather additional profile information later. Remember, if it doesn’t help you and your abstract review committee decide on your speakers or sessions, leave it off the submission form.

Don’t neglect instructions! Make use of the instructions section of your call for papers page to communicate clearly and concisely exactly what information you need from the potential presenter or moderator 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 graders.

Determine your grading process

Next, consider what process you will use to review the submissions—will you ask the reviewers multiple specific questions to rate the session or are you asking reviewers just one question in order to evaluate the session? Take some time to think through what kind of evaluation process will work best.

Prepare your abstract reviewers

The people reviewing the abstract submissions are helping you out and this probably isn’t their day job. You want to set them up for success and make the process as easy for them as possible. First, carefully think through their areas of expertise and ensure you’re assigning the right reviewers to the right topics. Second, spell it all out for them. Do this by clearly defining goals, deadlines and expectations, and offer them guidance as they wade through the materials. If someone can’t commit to your timeframe, consider choosing an alternate grader.

You may also want to consider grading in two rounds to lighten their workload. Weed out the submissions that you know won’t be a fit right away and then have your reviewers grade the rest of the sessions.

A thoughtful abstract review process is one of the first steps in getting high quality speakers and session topics. Combining that with a well-designed content management system can further streamline your call for papers and abstract review process to help get your conference out to market faster and drive increased registrations.

Here’s to starting out right so you can enjoy a successful conference that delivers results!

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