First Impressions  

How many times have you heard someone say (or have said yourself): “This food is terrible. Try it.”?

Well, that’s the impression we got when we came across a recent call for abstracts that included 25 pages of instructions explaining how to use their online submission system.

Think about the message that sends to potential submitters. How many are going to look forward to submitting an abstract when they’re being told—quite clearly—that not only is the first bite going to be hard to swallow, but that if they’re selected, the rest of the process is probably going to be just as bad?

No submission process should require reams of instructions. But that’s beside the point. The real point is this: Your call is often your first impression with potential submitters. Don’t waste it turning people off.

4 Tips for Getting Announcement Emails Noticed  

The most important part of any email is the subject line. Think of it as the “packaging” for your message. Not only should it summarize the contents, it must also pique the recipient’s interest enough to make him want to open the message to find out more.

So why do so many conferences send out call notices with uninteresting subject lines like “Annual Meeting Call for Speakers Now Open” or “Call for Speakers – Annual Meeting”? Are call announcements an exception to the rule? Of course not. While it may be easy to get people who are already excited about speaking at your conference to open up an email from you, those aren’t the people you need to worry about. They’ve already committed to action. Instead, you should be focused on people who don’t know about your conference or who might be on the fence about responding to your call.

Here are some tips for engaging those people:

  • Keep it short. The more words you use, the more likely your message will be muddled. Keep the details for the body of the message.
  • Define value. Tell the recipient up front what he gets out of opening the message.
  • Convey urgency. People are far more likely to act when there’s a deadline.
  • Personalize. Keep the focus on the recipient.

How Not to Write a Call for Papers

Dr. Jody Byrne has received quite a few calls for papers over the years. One he received recently, however, really caught his attention… for all the wrong reasons.

As Dr. Byrne points out, “Calls for papers are supposed to inspire, encourage and explain. All this one does is bombard you with jargon, vague descriptions and non-explanations and then give you a bit of a headache.”

Have you ever received a particularly bad call for papers? What stood out about it? What could have made it better?

Tweet Archive  

For anyone who wants to capture and archive tweets from a conference, you might want to check out TweetNotes.

What makes the app so special? For one thing, it’s free. It also lets you:

  • Add context by incorporating content, like slides and handouts.
  • Organize multiple sessions under one meeting space.
  • Visualize participants.
  • Embed in blogs, Web sites, etc.
  • Archive activity for future reference.

The developers say they’re planning a lot more features, including additional collaboration tools. We’re not sure how they plan to monetize it, so it might not be the best option for mission-critical applications, but definitely worth looking into.

*Edit 7/26/15: It appears TweetNotes is no longer online. If this is either not the case or you wish to share other applications to assist with organizing, engaging, or managing twitter, than please feel free to use the comments section.

New Feature: Grouped Checkboxes

Our drag-and-drop form builder now allows multiple checkbox items in a single form element.

Why is this important? Let’s say you want to collect A/V requirements from your speakers. Before, you had to create a separate question on the form for each requirement:

Now, you can include all of those checkboxes in one element:

We’ve also added new requirement options for grouped checkboxes: You can make the checkboxes optional, you can require that at least one box be checked, or you can require all the boxes to be checked.

Usability Enhancements

We’ve just released two enhancements that make the site a little easier to use…

For call administrators: We’ve made it easier—and faster—to view submission details from the Submissions page. Previously, when you clicked on a submission’s title, you were taken to a new page. Now, the same information is displayed in an overlay.

For authors: We’ve added a tab to the top of the proposal screens that links to the call’s submission instructions. Now you have access to that information throughout the entire submission process. (Previously, the instructions were only displayed when you first created the proposal.)

Let us know what you think!

New Feature: Late Submissions  

ProposalSpace now allows you to accept late submissions for a call without having to change the call’s official submission deadline. The new setting (named “Late Submissions”) is on the Submission Settings page right below the Submission Deadline field.

If you enter anything other than zero in the field, ProposalSpace will continue to allow submissions for that number of days without altering the official submission deadline. We’ll also display a notice to users letting them know that although the submission deadline has passed, late submissions are still being accepted.

Standardized Guidelines

We recently came across an article by Dr. Stuart J. Salasche in the June, 1997 issue of Dermatologic Surgery in which he suggested eight steps reviewers should take when reviewing journal manuscripts. We’ve modified them slightly to come up with what we think are valuable guidelines that should be at the core of any review process:

  1. Read the material once through to gain a general familiarity with it.
  2. Identify the author’s main objective or hypothesis.
  3. Reread the material as many times as necessary to gain a full understanding of it.
  4. Determine if the main objective was satisfied or the hypothesis proven.
  5. Determine if new or valid information was provided or if older material was successfully assimilated and clarified.
  6. Decide whether the material should be accepted or rejected.
  7. Suggest ways the material could be improved.

Are these guidelines sufficient? Are they too specific? Are they just right? Let us know your thoughts.

The Reviewer’s Golden Rule

Here at ProposalSpace we not only want to make peer review easier, we also want to provide a venue where best practices for peer review can be developed and promoted. As a first step, we want to pass along Dr. Stanley S. Siegelman’s “Golden Rule” for reviewers from the February 1988 issue of Radiology:

“Most reviewers are also active authors. Referee the manuscript as you would like to have your own papers treated. Be thoughtful and helpful. Offer fair, thorough, and constructive criticism. The reviewer’s tone should be friendly and supportive, never harsh or adversarial. Avoid derogatory, potentially offensive, or demeaning comments. We don’t want to dampen the enthusiasm of budding young academicians. Test your critique for fairness and objectivity by asking yourself if you would be willing to sign it and send it to the author.”

Reviewers in ProposalSpace are not only able to score proposals, they can also attach comments to them. The call administrator determines whether those comments are restricted (made available only to review chairs and administrators) or revealed to the proposal’s authors. Regardless of how comments are handled, Dr. Siegelman’s advice provides valuable guidance for making the most of every reviewer’s effort.