The Phases of Conference Preparation
The preparation of a conference can be divided into several sections („phases“). With the help of the following sample organizational plan of a conference, we would like to help you understand the capabilities and functionalities of VSIS ConfTool and ConfTool Pro respectively.
Below, you will find a short guideline of the possible phases during the preparation of the conference, and the tasks that arise for the organizers. The phases are supported by ConfTool in a number of ways. Moreover, the software offers specific settings, user rights and access possibilities that will also be shortly introduced here.
Generally, the preparation of a conference should begin at least one year before the event starts. Please also have a look at the “Guidelines for Local Conference Organizers” with general information of what local organizers should consider during planning.
Today, for almost all conferences, the website is certainly one of the most important sources of information for potential authors and participants. Therefore, it should be put online as early as possible, have an appealing design and contain all relevant information presented in a clear and structured way.
ConfTool Pro does not replace your conference website with the information about the conference, as for this purpose countless excellent open-source content management systems are available, e.g. Joomla!, Drupal, and Typo3, as well as free of charge online services like Google Sites.
Tips for your Conference Website
Your website should provide all relevant information about the conference and we think that it is a good idea to always keep it up-to-date. Your website promotes your event and at the same time it helps you to avoid unnecessary inquiries and misunderstandings. In order for the website to make a professional impression we recommend consulting a designer who will set it up for you.
You should include at least the following information on your website:
- General information about the conference: What is the event about, what is the special focus this year, who is hosting the conference, where will it take place, and why should people submit a contribution and participate?
- Information for authors: This includes the “Call for Papers”, details on where the contributions will be published (by which publishing house, in which series), and which deadlines are to be considered. Also provide templates here (for example MS Word templates) for the submission. The more precisely the templates are defined, the less work you will have later when compiling the conference booklet. If prizes will be given out, such as a „Best Paper Award“, it is worth indicating this.
- Location of the conference: You should not only list information of the actual conference location but also give information about the city and the region in which the conference will take place. Write why the region is worth the journey and which sights it has to offer. Furthermore, participants appreciate details on how to get to and from the conference venue and how to find good and reasonably priced overnight accommodation options.
- Participant registration: Please list the registration options here, the incurring fees (is VAT charged?) and what the fees include. Furthermore, the deadlines for the registrations and the early-bird rate should be put here, as well as the accepted methods of payment (see "Receiving Credit Card Payments").
- Conference program: Although ConfTool Pro supports you with the scheduling of the conference program from the accepted contributions, it makes sense to list the most important program points on the conference website early and to present them in a tailored format. In addition, information on the keynote speakers, social events and the awards show should be provided. It is advisable to create a “conference flyer” with an overview of the conference and to make it also available here as a downloadable PDF file. If you plan on using a conference mobile app for the agenda, then include this information here.
- Contact, "about us": These pages are essential for all websites.
Tips for the Installation of ConfTool
For the setting-up of ConfTool, numerous pieces of information are required. Of course, you do not need to configure all modules at the same time: For example, if conference registration will be activated at a later date (which makes sense as hardly anyone will register before the conference program has been fixed), you can set up the registration for participation later.
The following data is required for installation:
- The address of the conference website and of your ConfTool installation (we will make a suggestion).
- Which logos and which colors should be used for the ConfTool pages?
- Which logos should appear on the invoices and letters of confirmation?
- What is the standard contact e-mail address? It serves the users to establish contact with the organizers and is shown in the footer of the ConfTool systems. It is a good idea to create a specific conference e-mail address so that multiple people can access the incoming mails (i.e. in case of absence).
For the configuration of ConfTool you will have to enter more information and specify the settings, amongst others:
- General data such as name, place and date of the conference.
- What are the deadlines for the different phases? These can of course be updated later.
- What is the e-mail address of the sender for the automatically sent confirmation e-mails from the ConfTool system?
- The types of submissions that are supported. What are the requirements for the submission types and review forms?
- Which payment options will be offered? Is an online payment system required? For this, an additional contract with an accordant “acquirer” is usually needed (see “Receiving Credit Card Payments”).
- If you want to support direct money transfer: What are the details of your bank account, which reason for payment should participants provide?
- What is the address and tax number of the issuer of invoices?
- What options (events and products) do you want to offer on the registration form and what are the rates for the different groups of participants and periods of registration (e.g. early bird rate).
- Who is responsible for which tasks of the organization of the conference? As a result of this, who needs which access rights to the ConfTool system?
The Call for Papers should be published at an early stage – preferably already at the previous year’s conference. The general conditions and deadlines must be pointed out in time to the authors to leave them enough time to write their contributions. A successful conference stems from the contributions of the authors, and therefore you should allocate enough attention to your Call for Papers.
The Call for Papers should of course also be found on your conference website. The following information is important:
- When are the deadlines for submission, when will the authors be informed about the decisions, and until when must the final version be handed in (if necessary)?
- Which length should, or rather are, the contributions allowed to be?
- Templates for the submission should be available, provided that the contributions are submitted as PDF or DOC files.
- When and where (through which publisher, in which series) will the accepted contributions be published?
- Will a Best Paper Prize be awarded?
In addition, previous participants should be contacted by e-mail, press information should be released, and the event should be indicated on other websites (i.e. your institution, associated organizations and alliances).
Once a user has registered, she can post her contribution in ConfTool. During the entire submission phase, authors are able to access, revise or withdraw their submission.
In this phase, the reviewers are not yet active, but their accounts can already be set up. They can then already choose their preferred topics and, where applicable, use their account to submit their own contributions.
During this phase, reviewers and members of the program committee are able to indicate which contributions they would like to review or which contributions (based on grounds of a conflict of interests) they are unable to review. The Chairs of the program committee try to consider these preferences when allocating contributions to the reviewers.
This phase can be skipped if contributions are assigned based on topics or other criteria. However, the bidding phase normally increases the quality of the reviews as it reduces the risk of reviewers having to review unsuitable or (for the individual reviewer) uninteresting contributions.
In this phase, the Chairs decide which contributions will be assigned to which reviewers for assessment.
After the assignment, a bulk e-mail must be sent to the reviewers to provide them with the details of the review process, as well as deadlines.
At this stage Phase 1 is usually closed, authors must not update or submit new contributions any more.
During this phase, the contributions will be reviewed by the assigned reviewers. The reviewers get access to the contributions through ConfTool and can also give their evaluations online via a web form.
In this phase, the program committee discusses and decides on the acceptance or rejection of contributions for the conference. The online forum of ConfTool can serve as a discussion platform.
The planning of the program begins here: Which contribution is suited for which topic area and which session of the conference.
Based on the discussion of the program committee, the Chairs decide which submissions will be accepted and which will be rejected. It is also possible to define different formats of acceptance, e.g. "Accepted as Oral Presentation", "Poster" or "Work-in-Progress Paper".
The planning of the program should now be carried out and contributions should be allocated to the sessions of the conference. The event will now be scheduled and structured. Rooms will be reserved and sessions, workshops and events planned.
After all decisions for or against acceptance have been made, authors will receive access to the results.
They will receive a bulk e-mail with the decisions and feedback of the reviewers (ConfTool Pro).
On the basis of the comments of the reviewers, authors are now able to revise their contributions and subsequently submit the final version for the conference.
Administrators can export the revised contributions and use them for publication on the Internet, for the printed conference booklet or transfer to a memory stick.
Participants can now register online for the event via ConfTool. Further information for the preparation and implementation of this phase can be found in the document “Configuration of the Participant Registration”.