We argued previously that a soft deadline for submissions is better than a hard deadline. Now we’re going to argue the opposite: that a hard deadline can be preferable to a soft deadline. We’re not doing this to confuse you, we’re just trying to point out that each has its own benefits and that your choice should depend entirely on your own unique situation.
Unlike a soft deadline, which is nothing more than an initial target for authors to shoot for, a hard deadline is the absolute final date and time you will accept submissions. You always have the option of accepting late submissions on a case-by-case basis, but as a general rule, authors who miss a hard deadline are out of luck—at least until the next call.
A hard deadline is better than a soft deadline because:
- It avoids confusion. You can publish one deadline and authors won’t have to figure out if it has passed or been extended.
- It forces authors to budget their time for unforeseen problems, which can lead to earlier submissions.
- It shows you mean business. A hard deadline lets authors know that you are serious about the organization and planning of the conference.
- It lowers your stress. Once the deadline has passed you no longer have to worry about submissions.
The key to a hard deadline, of course, is that you never extend it. Otherwise, you’ve just created a soft deadline.
Also, when setting a hard deadline, be painfully precise about the exact date and time of the deadline. It’s true for any deadline, but especially true for hard deadlines: include a time—and time zone—along with the date. And if you’re going to set your deadline for noon or midnight, don’t use “a.m.” and “p.m.”.