New Feature: Scheduling Module

One of the most critical tasks for any conference organizer is building the session schedule. Not only do you have to figure out how to arrange the sessions so they tell a story, you also have to make sure you don’t put someone in two places at the same time.

Unfortunately, we can’t help you with the story-telling part (at least not yet). We can, however, help you easily check for scheduling conflicts with our new drag-and-drop Scheduling Module.

All you have to do is create a scheduling “grid” with your available dates/times and locations. Once the grid is built, you just drag and drop sessions onto it. If the system detects a conflict, it gives you the option to schedule the session anyway (ignoring the conflict) or to cancel the assignment. You can even move sessions around on the grid and the module will continue to warn you of any conflicts.

Where Is My Logout Button?  

Some of you may have noticed some changes to the design of the site. We’ve been working on new features and needed a little extra “real estate” in order to keep things from becoming overcrowded. Plus, the average size of monitors (even on laptops) has continued to increase, so why leave all that extra white space unused?

Crowdsource, Curate, or Combo?

The most common model for selecting presenters for educational conferences is pretty straightforward:

  1. Announce a call for proposals (or call for papers, call for abstracts, call for speakers, etc.)
  2. Collect proposals
  3. Have a committee of volunteers review the proposals
  4. Select presentations based on the reviews
  5. Build a session program that accommodates the selections

Although the process works for the vast majority of meetings, it’s hard to argue that it can’t be improved.

One suggestion we’ve noticed recently is to open the process up to crowdsourcing. Basically, the idea is to leverage the power of social media by turning over the selection (and possibly scheduling) tasks to attendees. For a more detailed explanation, see Michelle Bruno’s post at TSNN.

Another suggestion, seemingly at odds with crowdsourcing, is to have a curator manage the selection and scheduling tasks. The idea here is that conferences, like museum exhibits or other curated collections, are far more effective if the content is carefully selected and organized to “tell a story” to attendees. For more information, see Jeff Hurt’s post on Velvet Chainsaw’s Midcourse Corrections blog.

So which is it? Crowdsourcing obviously works for larger conferences, like SXSW, but does it also work for smaller meetings with more focused content? And how about curating? Does it work for every type of conference or only for those that can be organized around a clear theme? How about a hybrid? Is it possible (or even desirable) to combine the two into a single model?

Review Groups Are Here!

A lot of conferences—especially larger ones—need to split up their review tasks among different groups of reviewers. Up to now, the only way to do that in ProposalSpace was to set up multiple calls, each with its own set of reviewers. Now, call administrators can manage multiple sets of reviewers in a single call!

Our new Review Groups feature lets call administrators set up an unlimited number of groups and assign an unlimited number of submissions, review chairs, and reviewers to each one.

Say, for instance, that your call asks each author to select one of five topic areas. Previously, if you wanted to assign a different set of reviewers to each topic area that meant you had to set up five calls. Now, you can just create five review groups within a single call (one for each topic area), then assign submissions, review chairs and reviewers to one or more of the groups. Permissions are based on the review group, so a review chair may only work within his/her assigned group. Call administrators, of course, can work within any group.

New Feature: Session Publishing  

Our new Publishing Module lets you publish your conference’s session information—including supporting materials—on any website.

Conference organizers can:

  • Assign dates, times and locations to sessions.
  • Select which information gets displayed for each session and for each person in the session.
  • Embed the session information in any website with a single line of code.

Authors can:

  • Attach documents to their sessions for attendees to download.

Attendees can:

  • Search for sessions by keyword.
  • Sort sessions by title, date/time, and location.

The best part? Any change you make in ProposalSpace shows up immediately on your website.

New Feature: Profile Photo

User profiles can now include photos!

To add a photo to your profile, just sign in to the site, click the “My Account” tab, then click the “Change My Photo” link. You can upload any standard image file (JPEG, GIF, PNG or TIFF) and even scale and crop your photo without the need for photo-editing software.

Custom Role Forms

ProposalSpace has always allowed call admins to customize the terminology used for roles people play in a proposal. You can configure your call to use whatever terms you want… “speakers”, “presenters”, “authors”, “collaborators”, etc.

Now, you can also configure what information you collect about each of those people. Using our drag-and-drop form builder, you can create a custom form to collect information like qualifications, disclosure statements, membership status, favorite football team… whatever you want! Questions can be optional or required and are unique to each role you’ve established.

To access the feature, just go to your call’s configuration page and click on “Roles”. You’ll see a link there (under each role you’ve created) to “Customize Form”. If you have an active call in place, don’t worry. We’ve carefully moved the previous questions—name, organization and disclosure—over to the new feature.

Oh, and we’ve included this new feature in our core modules, so there’s no need to ask for an upgrade or to pay extra to use it. It’s available to everyone right away!

New Reviewer Assignment Feature  

We’ve just introduced a new feature in ProposalSpace that allows call administrators to assign submissions to individual reviewers.

Before now, every reviewer had access to every submission. If a call admin wanted to spread out the workload, the admin would have to contact reviewers outside of the system to let them know which submissions to review and which to ignore.

Now, admins can make individual assignments, either from the Submissions page (where reviewers can be assigned to a submission) or from the Reviewers page (where submissions can be assigned to a reviewer).

We designed the feature with a lot of valuable input from our users, but we never stop wanting feedback. So check it out and let us know what you think!

New Layout for the Tracker  

We’ve changed the layout of the Submission Tracker slightly to make navigation a little clearer.

Before, the navigation items for the three categories of submissions (Draft, Awaiting Approval, and Approved) were displayed at the very top of the page and were somewhat removed from the main content. Thanks to feedback from one of our users, we’ve moved the three categories closer to the content, making it much clearer that they are navigation elements.

We think it’s a huge improvement. We hope you do, too.

What to Include in Every Call

Wondering what information you should include in your call? Here’s our checklist of the key pieces of information every call should have. (You can really never have too much information, though, so consider these the minimum.)

  • Submission deadline (Yes, we have seen numerous calls that neglect to mention the date submissions are due. If you don’t have one, set one. People need to know how much time they have or they may never even begin to work on their proposals.)
  • Purpose / theme (Don’t assume everyone knows exactly what the call is about. Assume instead that this is their first time to hear about it. At a minimum, give them a general description of what you’re looking for. If possible, provide a list of specific topics.)
  • Qualifications (Let people know up front if there are any requirements they must meet—like being a member of your association—in order to respond to your call. If the call is open, be sure to mention that, too.)
  • Contact information (There will be questions. Don’t make it difficult for people to get answers. Always include contact information so they can easily reach you with questions, comments, or concerns.)
  • Examples (This isn’t absolutely necessary, but examples of previous submissions are a terrific way to show people what works—or doesn’t work.)

For conferences, you should also include the conference dates and location. That way, people can determine whether they can attend.

Lastly, if the information for your call is on your Web site (which it should be), try to keep it all on one page. Not only does it make it easier to find information, it also makes it easier for people to print it all out.