Getting Started – Main Modules and Basic Concepts of ConfTool

It might be your first conference you organize with ConfTool, and our software has a variety of features and many settings to give you the customized support you need. But where to start? This introduction will familiarize you with the main concepts and modules of ConfTool, give you a general guideline on how to set up the system for your conference and how to test to see if the settings meet your requirements. 

Most settings can be updated once the registration for users is open, but we strongly advise to finish the set-up of a module before you start using it in a productive manner, as late updates might cause extra work for users or organizers. We will explain in detail what has to be considered later.

Principally, the set-up process consists of three main parts: Basic settings, the submission and reviewing module and the participant registration and management module. ConfTool Pro can be installed with either the submission and reviewing module, or the participant registration and management module, or with both. The basic settings are part of all installations of ConfTool Pro.

ConfTool Pro is mostly straightforward to configure. We advise to go through each section on the "settings" screen from top to bottom and in each section make the necessary changes for the options sequentially. If you do not understand the purpose of an option, it's usually safe to keep the default value.

Please note that images, logos and colors of the system cannot be changed in "settings", as this is done during the installation process. Contact the person who installed the system if you require changes to these parts of the system (e.g. a new logo for the invoices).

We offer a one hour short online introductory course (an extra fee applies). It covers the basic features and functions of ConfTool. You can find more information about this seminar here: ConfTool Introductory Course.

Image: Structure of the Settings screen of ConfTool Pro - Click on image to enlarge

1.   Basic Settings

First, you will have to define the main parameters for the conference. In the section "Parameters of your Conference", the first option "Main Setup" will guide you through a number of input fields that require filling out. These include the name, location and date of the conference, imprint address, your main e-mail contact address and time zone. Usually, most of these parameters are set during the installation process.

The section "E-Mail Settings" allows defining e-mail sender names and addresses, ‘Reply-To’ address and entering additional texts for confirmation e-mails sent by the system. You can also define which confirmation e-mails are to be sent and which are not and if you want to receive copies of these confirmations. These settings can be updated at any time.

In "Conference Phases and Deadlines" you determine during which period of time which functions of ConfTool are enabled (cf. Organizer Documentation: The Phases of Conference Preparation). "Wording and Phrases" gives you the opportunity to edit all default wording and also labels in ConfTool (cf. Configuration Documentation: Edit Wording and Phrases: HTML Basics).

The section "Settings for Users Registration and User Options" deals with a number of basic options for users creating a new account. You can define which of the standard fields for user registration are mandatory or optional and update salutations, countries and nationalities. Further options include giving specific user rights to front desk users and (track) chairs and enabling registrations for people interested in the event (prospective participants).

2.   Settings for the Submission and Reviewing Module

Good presentations are the backbone of a successful conference. The submission and reviewing module allows you to support the selection process of the most suitable presentations for your event. During the set-up of this module, you decide how the submissions are to be supplied (e.g. what types of submissions, what format etc.) and how they are to be evaluated by reviewers or program committee members. The configuration consists of two sections.

First, in the section "Conference Tracks, Contribution Types and Topics" you can define how submissions are to be provided by authors. The first subsection "Main Settings for Paper and Abstract Submission" deals with conditions you might want to impose on users for submissions, e.g. the maximum number of submissions per user and the default settings for uploads of papers. The subsection "Manage Topics" might bear special importance for several aspects of your conference – topics can be used to match submissions with reviewers and for easy reference in the conference proceedings. In the subsection "Manage Submission Types / Conference Tracks" you define submission types (e.g. Poster, Full Paper, Round Table Proposals) or conference tracks (if the track-chair-module has been installed) and their specifications (e.g. how to enter abstracts, number and type of uploads, special deadlines).

The second section "Parameters for the Reviewing Functions of ConfTool" will define the parameters for the review process. In the subsection "Main Setting for Paper Reviewing" you can specify how the system identifies conflict of interest, define if meta-reviewers are required, enable different methods for discussion among reviewers and you can define if authors can submit a rebuttal on their review. "Factors for Reviews" is one part of the set-up process for the categories, weighting factors and calculating factors for the review form (cf. Configuration of the Review Forms in ConfTool Pro). In the subsection “Manage Acceptance Status” you define, edit and delete the statuses (accepted, rejected etc.) that are assigned by conference or track chairs to submissions based on the results of the reviews.

It is advisable to set up and test both submission and reviewing functions before the submission process starts, as the review process might require specific options for the submission forms, too. Not considering the review requirements in time might cause extra work for the organizers or can even pose certain limitations. An example is the selection of topics: You might not bother to define topics for the submission process, but later you realize that they are very important for reviewer assignments. Defining them after authors have submitted papers will require contacting all authors so that they can update their submissions and enter this data.

The "Track-Chair-Module" is an optional module for ConfTool Pro (there is an extra charge for it). It allows you to assign chairs, reviewers and topics to submission types / conference tracks. If it is installed, you will find corresponding extra options in this section of the ConfTool configuration (cf. Track-Chair-Module: Assigning Persons to Tracks).

Please refer to "Submission Module Configuration" an "Configuration of the Reviewing Functions" for detailed manuals.

3.   Settings for the Participant Registration and Management Module

The "Settings for the Participant Management of ConfTool" deal with the options for the participant registration and payment process. The settings in this section translate into participant registration pages that will ask for all details that are important to carry out participant registration. The main parts of these settings pertain to payment options (credit card, PayPal, etc.), specific participant groups (e.g. members, non-members, students, others), time discounts (early bird registration, late registration), prices (including VAT rates, where applicable) and the events or items that the participants can select (e.g. conference participation, social events and printed proceedings).

We strongly recommend to complete the configuration of the participant registration module before you open participant registration, as every registration is a (kind of) contract the organizers conclude with the participant. As changes on the settings can also have effect on the existing registrations, the system blocks most settings after people have registered for consistency reasons. If the organizers realize later that they need to change options or prices retroactively, this might require contacting every registered person to get an agreement from them.

Please refer to "Configuration of the Participant Registration" for details and examples on the set-up of this module.

4.   Testing the ConfTool Configuration

As with every computing system, it is required to test the settings before using it in a productive manner. We advise to make a full check and – depending on the modules chosen – register as a new user (without administrative rights), submit proposals for every track / submission type as this user, assign reviewers as chair of the program committee and enter reviews as a reviewer. Before opening participant registration, also do some test registrations for participation. 
When you have finished your tests, simply delete, withdraw or cancel your entries and purge the deleted entries in order for the database to be pristine before the system goes live. (cf. ConfTool Forum for further entries regarding cancellation of entries).

Hints for testing your ConfTool configuration:

  • Administrative users can always log-in as another user to see their perspective of the system. Please go to: 
    Overview => User and Participant Management => List of All Users 
    ... and click on “Login as” in the right-hand column.
  • You can open several browser windows or tabs at any time you use the system. During your tests one window can show the settings page, the other one for instance the submission page. Please note that two windows of one browser always relate to the same user, so you cannot log in as admin in one window and as author in another, as current browsers do not support this.
  • However, if you use two different browsers, e.g. Firefox and Internet Explorer, both will have a different user session and you can now log in as two different users simultaneously. Nevertheless, if you use two browsers at the same time, some changes require to log out and in again to see the updates in the second browser (ConfTool stores many settings for performance reasons).
  • We recommend using the “service mode” of ConfTool Pro to (temporarily) disable access to the system for normal users (without administrative rights). Please go to: 
    Overview => Settings => Main Setup 
    ...to access the service mode setting.