Friday, June 18, 2010

Why your conference needs an official Twitter #hashtag

Attendees are going to tweet about your conference. You can either let them self-organize (bad idea) or you can help them in their efforts simply by creating and promoting an official hashtag (great idea).

Creating a conference hashtag is super simple. (So simple, in fact, you might want to take it a step further and create hashtags for individual sessions.) The best part? Hashtags are free and can be created without ever having to log in to—or even have—a Twitter account.

Attendees will benefit from an official hashtag by:

  • Having an easy way to collect and organize notes. (See our post about TweetNotes for a tool that makes organizing conference tweets even easier.)
  • Having access to everyone's tweets in one convenient location.
  • Continuing discussions after the conference (or session).
  • Being able to report problems in real time.
  • Receiving conference announcements in real time.
  • Receiving promotions or other announcements from exhibitors in real time.

Creating an official hashtag is a big help for your attendees, but to get the most out of it, you also need to promote it. So be sure to place it on the conference website, on signage at the venue, and on slides before presentations. Your attendees will thank you.

Thursday, June 10, 2010

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.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

New Feature: Test Mode

Call administrators now have the option of testing a call in ProposalSpace before making it live.

Here's how it works:

  1. Once your call is complete (has all the information required for activation), you simply click a button to place it in "test mode".
  2. The system automatically generates a special URL, which you and your testers use to create and submit test proposals.
  3. Administrators, review chairs and reviewers have full access to the call—as if it were active—for three days.
  4. After three days, the call is automatically taken out of test mode. If you need more time, just let us know. We'll be glad to extend the test period.
  5. Any data entered during the testing period is automatically deleted when you activate the call.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Word's Hidden Costs

You should never distribute your call as a Word file for people to fill out and send back to you. It might seem like a fast, easy solution—especially for smaller calls—but it will end up costing you more than you think.

Here are just some of the challenges you face using Word:

  • Although Word is ubiquitous, different versions and platforms mean you can't be certain everyone who downloads your file is going to be able to open it, edit it and send it back to you without compatibility issues.
  • You can include pages of instructions and use highlighting and colorful text to draw attention to required fields, but you're still going to have to review every submission to make sure it was filled out properly.
  • You'll need an iron-clad organizational plan to track every submission you receive, including revisions.
  • Most authors expect an acknowledgment that their submission made it safely into your hands. You'll need to send a confirmation email for every submission you receive.
  • Any file you get back could be carrying something you don't want on your computer. You'll need to make sure you scan every submission for viruses and other malware.
  • You'll need to back up every file you receive on a regular basis in case something bad happens to your computer or network.

Using Word to distribute your call might make sense because it's easy to use, readily available and basically free (if you've already got a license). But once you start to receive submissions, the costs—especially time costs—really start to add up.