Every organization that runs a conference has their own approach to collecting abstracts and sessions. Over time, OpenWater staff have seen three main patterns emerge. We will detail each approach below and suggest the best method for configuration.
Collect abstracts only. Once abstracts have been collected, you may review those abstracts and simply determine who will speak at the conference. You then schedule those speakers as needed. If this is your approach, a standard OpenWater program is sufficient.
Collect sessions only. In this second scenario, your applicants propose a session. A session generally contains a topic to be discussed at the conference and the applicant has already chosen which speakers will be participating in the session. Those sessions may be reviewed and placed on the calendar for your conference. Again, this scenario can use a standard OpenWater program for configuration purposes.
Assemble sessions from submitted abstracts. This approach is most complex and is common for large academic conferences. How to configure OpenWater for this setup will be the primary focus for this section of training articles.
The Common Workflow for Large Conferences
The most common pattern we have found for conferences that assemble sessions out of submitted abstracts is the following:
Phase I - Proposed Sessions
This phase can be treated like a typical stand alone program in OpenWater - a form to accept submitted sessions and a review of those sessions (optional).
Open call for proposed sessions. An announcement is sent out that a call for sessions is open. Individuals will then submit ideas that they wish will ultimately become session topics at the conference. This individual is known as the Session Chair. They are the primary point of contact for this session and may have responsibilities for assembling abstracts into their session at a later time.
Review and select sessions for conference. In some cases, you may assign reviewers to score the submitted sessions. The scores and results are treated like any typical OpenWater program and you can mark which submitted sessions will actually make the conference schedule.
Phase II - Proposed Abstracts / Presentations
Typically, once the sessions have been reviewed and selected for the conference, your team will open the call for abstracts and presentations. This will be setup as a separate program in OpenWater. Additional configuration will be done on this program to actually assemble the abstracts into sessions.
Open call for abstracts. Those individuals who wish to submit an abstract will open your submission form and submit the required information.
Review and approve abstracts for conference. This is optional, but we have seen some customers have a specific step for reviewing and scoring the submitted abstracts at this stage as well - prior to assembling sessions.
Phase III - Assemble Sessions from Abstracts
Once the abstracts are in, you are ready to assemble sessions. Either the administrators are completely responsible for building the sessions out, or they add the session and assign the Session Chair to build the session. In the case of a Session Chair, that individual will choose which abstracts will become part of their session, instead of the administrator.
Phase IV - Schedule the Sessions
After sessions are finalized, the administrative staff now need to schedule the sessions into rooms and time slots, avoid conflicts, etc.
Phase V - Online Program Book
The resulting schedule should automatically be generated for browsing online.
This was a high level overview of how abstracts and sessions are completed through the OpenWater platform. The next set of articles will go into greater detail in how to actually set each phase up in the best way possible.