Never Managed Abstracts Before? A Beginner’s Guide

Whether you’re in a new role at an organization or newly tasked with abstract management, it can seem like a daunting challenge to start the process. How should you project manage? Which communications tools should you use? Is there any better method than spreadsheets to track submissions and their status?

No matter how big or small your campaign, you’ll want to be sure to not only be organized but organized well. The fewer the steps, the fewer the bottlenecks, and you definitely want to be sure to not only have records of everything but where to find them. 

Get Advice from Knowledgeable Experts

Before you get started, it’s advisable to reach out to people who have experience with the abstract collection process. This person could be a colleague or a peer in your industry, which you can connect with on forums such as MPI’s community forum or ASAE’s. If your organization is not a member of these meeting communities, consider asking it to join one or both, so that you can benefit from the knowledge base of its members.

Why is getting advice so important before you start the process? Setting up an abstract collection program is specialized to your industry, subject matter, and event goals. Anyone who has done it well will recommend a software to help you. If the software you choose also has dedicated project managers, you can certainly reach out to them for advice as well before you launch your campaign. 

Start Early, Finish Successfully

As the saying goes, the early bird gets the worm and in the abstract management world, the prepared project leader gets the best submissions. After your fact finding, you should know what you don’t know and should. On average, calls for abstracts are usually 8-9 months before the event, which means that you should probably start the process 12 months in advance. 

Where to start? The first step involves nailing down the venue or location for the event. Once that’s finalized, you should then confer with your team about the deadlines for publishing or promoting the work, which should be at least a month before the event occurs. If you are having different types of submissions–speakers, posters, trade show booths, etc.–you should also decide when it would be optimal to have final decisions for all of your participants. 

Most importantly, any date you choose should allow you ample time to follow-up or more time to decision-makers. An extremely tight deadline schedule will only cause unnecessary stress.

Decide on Themes, Topics, and Points of Discussion Before You Call for Papers

One of the biggest mistakes an event organizer can make is to not clearly state the intent of the event to the people interested in participating. 

Which conference do you think will have better, more specialized participants?

  1. “The 2021 Skin Cancer Summit”
  2. “The 2021 Patient Care and New Modalities in Skin Cancer Summit”

If you guessed the second one, you’re already thinking like an abstract management specialist. By pinpointing key themes that are narrow enough to attract innovators but broad enough to appeal to a wide range of participants, you can shape a conference’s effectiveness before you even receive your first submission. 

Create Your Abstract Management System–But Not From Scratch

One of the most important steps in the abstract management process is to create an infrastructure that allows you to manage submissions, communications, templates, etc. with as much automation as possible. A robust abstract management software can help you identify what elements you need and help reduce the complexity of tracking, communicating, and selecting top speakers and participants. 

How many touchpoints will there be in the process? Which communications can be templated? How should submissions be tracked, organized, and ranked?

The right abstract collections management software should allow you to customize as much as you’d like. It should also have a team of experts behind it to help you decide which customizations are necessary and which are not. 

Decide How to Score Submissions

There are two key steps to the scoring process. The first is deciding what type of scoring system to use and the second is communicating that process clearly to your participants. 

Do you want reviewers to grade submissions or rank them? Will there be multiple rounds of scoring or will final decisions be made after the initial call for papers? There are pluses and minuses to different types of voting and scoring, so you’ll need to decide what makes the most sense for the type of symposium or conference you’re planning. 

Finally, no matter how simple or complex the scoring method, you’ll need to communicate how it works, deadlines, follow-ups, etc. to your reviewers and applicants. Using software that helps you automate and track as much of these communications as possible. It also allows you to identify people who are slow to respond or non-communicative. 

Allow for as Many Integrations as Possible

Ultimately, you’ll want to have the flexibility to have as many integrations as possible so that you can optimally present the work no matter what the circumstances. Also, if you are hybrid conferencing, you’ll need to be sure that your event has virtual conferencing capabilities that can accomodate the papers and presentations that you’ve collected. 

Most organizations have CRMs, conferencing platforms, project management tools, and more that they use daily. Being able to integrate those platforms with the software you choose to collect your abstracts will allow you meet the needs of your participants. It will also save you time and money in the long run because you can anticipate instead of react to any changes in those needs. 

Learn from Your Mistakes

Ultimately, how to best collect abstracts will be a learning curve. But if you can plan and prepare yourself, you’ll have success. You may encounter some hiccups (“Ack! I forgot to send a reminder!”) and unexpected surprises (“Oh no, I didn’t realize that everyone hasn’t responded!”), but even for the novice abstract management organizer, you can avoid most problems and mistakes if you use a software that supports you.

Abstract collection software is designed to help anyone–including beginners–plan the event they envisioned, not the one they stressed over.



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