The Conference Exchange, Confex for short, is the system that we use to organize all of our meetings. We’ve used them since 2001, and feel we have a great system in place for organizing abstracts and sessions. This system handles all information from abstracts submittals to publication of the abstracts online to the meeting app.
Technical Program - The Core of Your Meeting
- Primary reason people to come to your meeting.
- A well-rounded technical program allows you to reach out to a more diverse audience.
- Builds (or hurts) GSA’s reputation for quality scientific meetings.
- Never too early to start planning.
Creating Your Technical Program
- Approximately a year before your meeting, you will put out a call for session proposals. Session proposals will then be submitted and approved, and your preliminary announcement will be created with that information.
- Get your entire committee involved in brainstorming a well-rounded program because the number, diversity and quality of sessions will directly affect meeting attendance and success.
- If you find something missing from your program (like Quaternary or Planetary, etc.), solicit ideas and beat the bushes for someone who is willing to pull together a theme session (including finding authors, being a session chair, and otherwise organizing the session).
- Think about pairing up theme sessions with field trips. Take advantage of local geology and expertise (which probably dovetails with section members’ interests).
- The online abstracts form is built based on information from your preliminary announcement. After printing, any additional sessions can be added to the end of the current listing. From time to time, late breaking sessions are added to the program after the preliminary announcement is printed.
The Technical Program Process
- Sessions are created within the Conference Exchange (“ConfEx”) online database.
- Two to three weeks before the abstracts deadline, GSA staff will arrange a time to conference call with the technical program chairs (TPCs) to go through database operations and some processing tasks for which they will be responsible. TPCs will be trained to use the ConfEx system in detail at that time. The timeline for organizing sessions will also be discussed, as well as the distribution of responsibilities between TPCs and session chairs.
- The abstract deadline will not be extended. It’s a hard deadline because:
- You need the program books to arrive in time for the meeting.
- We’ve found that extending the deadline doesn’t produce many more abstracts.
- If the weather is a factor, we’ll jointly decide what to do at that point.
- After the abstracts deadline, the session chairs and the technical program chair have two to three weeks to fully organize the technical program. This includes deciding which sessions will be combined, deleted or added, and finalizing the technical program schedule. GSA staff will help with this process.
- The three weeks after the abstracts deadline is when TPCs should be prepared to be available to focus on organizing the technical program. TPCs should be available to address any questions or concerns from session chairs quickly in order for the process to stay on track and run smoothly. Session chairs should be available to be contacted during those three weeks, and expect to be engaged in doing the work of organizing their sessions during the second and third week after the abstracts deadline.
- It is critical that all abstracts be peer-reviewed by session chairs. The reputation of the organization, and the section, as reflected through the technical program rests on your shoulders, so please encourage your session chairs to review carefully.
- For GSA’s annual meeting, one oral abstract and one poster can be presented by each person (not including invited abstracts); for your section meeting, you should decide how many oral presentations to allow each speaker. Keep in mind the possibility of speaker conflicts increases with each additional oral presentation.
- Once the abstracts and sessions have all been given a timeslot, GSA staff will send acceptance notices out to authors. Absolutely no changes to the tech program (this means changes to scheduling or individual abstracts) can be made after this time.
- GSA then begins the process of creating and publishing the program book, and putting the program info up online.
|1.||Pick a topic that is specialized, but not TOO specialized. If your topic is still too specialized after thinking about it you can expand it by: 1) adding a somewhat similar topic or topics to the title, combing the topics with “and,” as in “stratigraphy, sedimentology, and paleontology of the Appalachian Basin," or, 2) you can add to the title, “and other topics in [pick a word] geology.”
Your topic should, of course, be a topic you know something about. And it goes without saying that you should have a topic in mind for your own abstract for your session.
|2.||Consider tying your topic to something else at the conference, especially a field trip, but also a workshop or other event. That will help to fill both your session and the field trip or workshop.|
|3.||Strongly consider asking someone to be a co-chair of your session. Be sure to explain to that person that you expect them to submit an abstract of their own to your session (with your abstract that makes two!), and that you expect her or him to recruit several other speakers. Having a co-chair is highly recommended, not only to help build the session, but also to help introduce speakers, etc. You never know when there could be a snafu that requires a second person.|
|4.||Ask everybody you know who works on the topic you have chosen to give a talk at the session. You can call them on the phone, e-mail them, write them a snail-mail letter, go visit them, etc. Such personal contact is, by far, the best way to fill a session. People will not generally volunteer to give a talk in a specialized session just because it is on the conference list of sessions. Building a successful session takes work but if you pace yourself it is very doable.|
|5.||Ask everybody you ask if they know of anyone else who may be interested in submitting a talk. This can be a great source of leads.|
|6.||Ask students to participate.|
|7.||Go to other conferences, field trips, geological meetings, etc., and ask individuals with an interest in your topic to give a talk in your session. You can also invite non-geologists who have something new to say about your topic.|
|8.||Post a call for papers wherever you can, especially on relevant blogs, websites, and in discipline-related newsletters. Paleontology-related sessions, for instance, could utilize PaleoNet. Be sure to get your session description, deadlines for abstract submittals and registration, etc., noted on relevant blogs, websites, newsletters, etc.|
|9.||If your session topic is related to the subject of any of GSA’s Divisions, write, as soon as possible, to the Division chair and ask the Division to sponsor and advertise your session in their newsletters, e-mails to members of the Division, etc. Once you get official sponsorship be sure that this is noted in the conference listings for your session.|
|10.||If you are an expert on a topic, it is likely that people will e-mail, call you, or visit you concerning your area of expertise. Ask these people if they might want to give a talk at your session. They may be delighted to receive such a request.|
|11.||Most of the people you contact will know they will still have to pay the conference fee, etc., but it is a good idea to let everybody know this early to avoid any possible hard feelings later. It is a good idea to remind everybody who has promised you to submit an abstract to actually submit an abstract. You should also keep them cognizant of all relevant deadlines, including the earlier registration deadline to save them money.|
|12.||It is a good idea to stay in regular contact with the technical program chair(s).|
|13.||Finally, it is a nice idea to send each speaker a thank-you note after the conference.|
|Submitted by: Joe Hannibal, Secretary, North-Central Section of the Geological Society of America, October, 2011 version|