Abstract Management: A New Approach

Managing abstracts and academic conferences has never been easy.

Event organizers have always faced huge challenges.

And those challenges keep evolving.  

Let’s take a look through the last few eras of event management to see what challenges we have overcome, what challenges we still face in 2019  , and how we create a tool that finally delivers a truly friction-free event and abstract management experience. 

Stone Age

Remember The Stone Age of Abstract Management?

If you feel abstract management is a pain right now, just think back a few decades…

In the early days, you would have handled every step of abstract management manually. 

You would have typed up, published, and distributed your call for papers. You would have received an avalanche of paper abstract submissions. You would have gone back to the typewriter every time you needed to produce, process, and send out every individual acceptance and rejection letter

Clearly, this was not an efficient submission management system.

The whole process would have wasted a lot of time, filled your office with a ton of paper, and been highly inflexible. Add in common delays from sending and receiving all that snail mail, and it’s surprising that any Stone Age event manager ever hit their tight conference management deadlines.

Overall, the Stone Age revealed the first big problem in abstract and event management… it can be just plain slow. Abstract and event management has many steps to complete, and each step can take a long time to check off the list— especially when each task needs to be handled manually. 

This slow, time wasting nature of most abstract management tasks dominated throughout the entire Stone Age, until the next era emerged, with the rapid arrival and adoption of a critical new tool.

Middle Ages

A New Technology Arrives, and Creates The Middle Ages of Abstract Management

When you got your first computer, you could immediately shred the mounds of paperwork accumulating in your office. You could rapidly produce, edit, and duplicate documents en masse. And—best of all—you could ditch those daily trips to the post office and instead make the inbox the home of your abstract management activities. 

In short, the computer accelerated most steps in the abstract management process. It reduced, replaced, or outright removed most of the biggest time-wasting activities that event managers faced. 

Digital tools like Microsoft Word, PDFs, and email began to solve the first big problem of event and abstract management. They dramatically streamlined and sped up the entire endeavour.

But even as they began to solve the speed issue, they soon revealed the second big problem of event and abstract management… collaboration can be near impossible without the right tools. 

In the Stone Age, every submitter sent their abstract via the same format: a printed letter. In the Middle Ages, submitters could now send their abstract through a variety of digital formats that event managers suddenly had to juggle and try to work with. Email allowed more submissions, but those submissions still only landed in the event manager’s inbox, set apart from the rest of the event planning team. 

And even though email made it faster to send, receive, and reply to an abstract submission, it did not open the process to much greater cooperation. Email is not an inherently collaborative tool. Any collaboration occurs one-way—from the sender to the receiver. It cannot occur in real-time, or in the same open document. Event managers continued to operate in a silo, and often had to make every decision on their own, without open, easy, effective input from others.  

Renaissance

The Renaissance of Abstract Management Lifts Off

But, like the Stone Age before it, the Middle Ages of Abstract Management were overturned by an evolution in technology— through an evolution that was not quite as seismic, that produced a somewhat subtler transformation. 

The Cloud did not overturn decades of abstract management process. Instead, it produced two smaller changes.

First, it accelerated many of the trends started during the Middle Ages, with the arrival of the Computer. The Cloud further streamlined many of the fundamental tasks of abstract and event management, further solving its speed problem.

Second, it created greater connection between submitters and event managers, that began to solve some of the big collaboration problems revealed during the Middle Ages. 

Cloud-based services like Google Forms standardized many steps in the abstract management process. It formalized your submission guidelines, information collection, and file requirements, ensuring you received more or less the same “package” from everyone who submitted. It funnelled every collected abstract out of your siloed inbox and into a centralized workspace. And it allowed multiple team members to collaborate on the same submissions and workflows in real-time

But at the same time these Cloud-based abstract management services opened up collaboration, they revealed the third, and final, big challenge of abstract and event management — quality control

These Cloud-based services removed a lot of barriers to submission. They replaced vetted submission channels with unrestricted, unfiltered public forms. Data duplication problems exploded, and event managers faced many more abstracts to process, from many more submitters — most of whom were unknown individuals. 

All submitted abstracts had to be reviewed manually. And now that abstracts were often evaluated in a more open, collaborative manner among multiple team members, quality guidelines were harder to define, agree upon, and stick to

And Then… You Know What Happens Next

A new tool arrives, and brings with it a new era, that solves the previous problems, but just reveals a new big issue. Only to open the door for a new tool, and a new era, and a new set of problems. And on and on.

We remained mindful of this pattern when we began to design our own abstract and event management tool— Slayte. We wanted to consciously, intentionally solve all three of the big, inherent problems in abstract and event management from the ground up (and to do so without creating any new issues).

Here’s how we began to design a solution to each of the three inherent problems:

  1. Abstract and Event Management is Filled with Slow, Time-Wasting Activities… so we knew our tool had to do more than just streamline and accelerate these activities. It would have to completely eliminate as many of these time-wasting activities as possible. It would have to take the remaining manual activities out of your hands. It would have to completely automate the two biggest remaining time-wasting activities—communication and review of submissions.

  2. Abstract and Event Management is Inherently Uncollaborative… so we knew we had to open up many of the decisions, review processes, and feedback channels. We had to make it easy for event managers to hear their submitters and their attendees—not just the other members of their company who had access to their shared workspace. We needed to create a tool where the people who actually attended the conference had a much bigger say in what they saw.

  3. Abstract and Event Management is Hard to Quality Control… so we knew our tool needed to create an efficient process for scoring, comparing, and selecting high-quality abstracts from a flood of submissions. We couldn’t let individuals or internal committees bottleneck the process or corrupt it with their biases. Our tool needed to provide a simple, quantified, objective measure of which submissions most deserved to become sessions. 

We kept this list of requirements top-of-mind the entire time we developed our new abstract and event management tool

And now, we believe we have done our part to help usher in a new era of abstract and event management— one where the field’s biggest problems are solved at the root, and event managers can put on the highest-quality events quickly, easily, collaboratively. 

Modern Era

Welcome to the Modern Era of Abstract and Event Management— Driven by Slayte

We loaded Slayte with features that let you:

  • Customize, optimize, and automate much of your workflow
  • Leverage high-quality, objective, crowdsourced submission reviews
  • Quickly curate your conference program around top-rated abstracts

We re-designed the core features of abstract and event management from the ground up to give you all of the benefits of previous eras, with no new issues:

  • Create Calls for Content: Build flexible, custom submission forms that collect the exact information you need, uploaded to private Cloud storage.
  • Manage Submissions Hands-Free: Give submitters self-service and administrative options to submit and withdraw their own individual submissions.
  • Create Bespoke Reviews: Define granular, automatic formulas that give submissions a clear 0-100% score according to how well they meet your requirements.
  • Use Accepted Submissions to Create Speaker Sessions: Automatically convert submissions to sessions for your event program.
  • Organize Networking Events: Make it easy for attendees to connect, communicate, and schedule individual meetings at your event.
  • Effortlessly Communicate with Submitters: Bring your event’s most important assets—your speakers and session leaders—onto the team to share their ideas.

We’ll explore each of Slayte’s solutions—and how Slayte can work as a complete conference management system—in greater detail in our next blog article. 

But for today, step out of obsolete eras in event and abstract management.

Take a few minutes to schedule your demo of Slayte’s solution suite and gain hands-on experience with the next-generation of event management

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