1. Galarowicz, LeaRae MS, RNC

Article Content

You've developed an area of expertise that you can truly claim as your own. Excited to share your insights, you quickly submit a proposal to a "Call for Abstracts." But wait! Give some thought to the fact that you are about to enter into a contract with the conference sponsors. Described in the abstract call are the initial conditions of the sponsor's contract with presenters. Submitting your offer to present indicates acceptance of these terms. Before responding to an abstract call, take time to determine if you're both able and willing to abide by the listed parameters and participate in the learning experience.


Begin by examining the timetable of dates. Deadlines are deliberately organized for the sequential unfolding of all the necessary phases of program development. Don't assume that late proposals will be honored. If your timeframe is tight, try negotiating an extension. Or, use eleventh-hour life-savers such as overnight delivery services or electronic modes.


It's easy to dismiss the actual conference dates set far off in the future and assume that your calendar is free. Making the effort to research the dates of prospective professional meetings, family events, and other important activities will help you avoid predicaments down the road. Failing to do so may later create dilemmas requiring you to choose between competing priorities. And, as you are planning, consider the rewards that can accrue by attending the total conference, i.e., opportunities for consultation, networking links, and recruitment possibilities. Participating as a learner and teacher allows you to informally share your expertise and foster a sense of camaraderie.


Once you have ascertained that the dates are workable, explore your funding options. Conferences that are not grant supported typically require presenters to pay at least a portion of their fees and/or travel. Weigh your needed investment of time and money before deciding to submit your abstract and attend the conference. Investigate sources of support now, such as personnel benefits, grants, special funds, and professional development monies rather than waiting until later to find out that you can not afford the conference.


If you decide it's time to prepare your abstract, carefully follow the directions for abstract submission as they facilitate the evaluation process. Reviewers will be looking for the link between your presentation and the central conference theme. Failing to clearly spell out this connection can lead to rejection of your proposal. It is also critical to adhere to deadlines, especially concerning the completion of forms and submission of teaching materials. Given the vast amount of work required, be aware that the smooth evolution of a program depends upon the timely cooperation of presenters. Finally, honor your commitment. Withdrawals and cancellations significantly affect the quality, flow, reputation of the conference sponsor, and the cost of a conference, as well as your reputation as a reliable and truthful presenter. All too often, speaker withdrawal from a conference contract is the result of failure to plan or think ahead.


Few experiences compare to that of being a conference presenter and seeing, hearing, and feeling your colleagues' validation of your work. Instead of impulsively responding to an abstract call, make it a deliberate and thoughtful process. In the end, it will be a win-win situation for everyone.