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How to get started with Conference Management Software: Part One – Choosing Your Speakers

Navigating through the myriad of event technology choices can be one of the toughest assignments a meeting professional can face. Just breaking down the possibilities into categories can be a daunting assignment itself. A helpful way to approach this problem is to see how software can be utilized at the various stages of the event lifecycle. Many activities for next year’s show begin right after the current one ends. To keep things simple, we will look at the lifecycle from the point of view of an association’s annual conference.

This week we will look at choosing your speakers.

Opening Up Your Call for Papers and Abstract Submission


The Call for Papers (CFP) for next year’s show is often opened immediately after the current conference. It is not uncommon for the CFP to be issued via a free survey tool. Unfortunately, this system saves little time as the survey results typically need to be dumped to Excel and then manually continuously updated through the later stages of CFP review, managing speakers and creation of the conference program. Surveys are also ill-suited to the CFP process as they do not lend themselves to frequent updates.

Call for Papers and Abstract Submission software solves this problem by giving presenters a portal page where they can start, submit and update their proposals. The portal page is also great for breaking submissions into series of “bite-sized” forms, making for a better user experience. With this software, everything goes into a unified speaker database so meeting planners can view submissions in detail or via reports. CFP software also provides tools for Email communication with the presenters.

Managing Peer Reviews


Typically, the CFP is closed at some point and the peer review process begins. If the review is conducted in the classical way, the planners will find themselves buried in a bewildering collection of PDFs, Word docs and spreadsheets. Hours upon hours can be spent communicating with the review team, collating information and somehow trying to make sense of it all. In between all of this manual work is the need to give proper consideration to all of the submissions.

Peer Review software cuts tremendous manual labor out of the process by providing reviewers with a single portal page. This page shows the reviewers the submission and abstract information they need to see, while providing an easy way to “score” and evaluate each presentation. The software also allows the review committee chairs to compare the reviews while also viewing aggregate scores. Presentations can be divided into accepted, declined and tentative categories, with people being notified with easy-to-send Email messages.