What Makes a Good CMEpalooza Abstract?

We work in a strange industry.

Where else can you spend days/weeks slaving over an intricate document (ie, the dreaded grant proposal) with a total inability to talk to the party that will receive your work and get a sense of their general expectations? And then have absolutely no idea whether the “denied” request was “good, but not enough,” “just OK,” or “absolutely dreadful”?

Take the following scenario for example:

Little Derek W. (I have de-identified our “fictional” subject to protect his identity) is assigned a book report by his 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Mathewson. He is allowed to pick a book of his choosing and then must write about the topic of “I would/would not recommend this book to a friend because…”

Derek W. is an avid Nancy Drew fan, so chooses the classic, The Secret of the Old Clock. But Derek W. is confused. He goes up to Mrs. Mathewson to ask for her help.

“Is my ‘friend’ supposed to be a kid or an adult? And what if there are some reasons I would recommend the book, but other reasons why I wouldn’t? How long is this report supposed to be? Does it need to be handwritten or can I type out my response?”

Mrs. Mathewson completely stonewalls him. She ignores him as if he doesn’t exist (just like the girls on the playground). Derek W. asks his parents if they can help. “Sorry son. This whole book report thing is a mystery to us, too.”

So Derek W. does his best, trying to figure out what Mrs. Mathewson is looking for. A few weeks later, he gets a crumpled up note passed to him after class.

“You failed.”

Derek W. is apoplectic. Tears are streaming down his face. He goes up to Mrs. Mathewson, asks her, “Why did I fail? What was wrong with my book report?”

She said, “Sorry. I can’t tell you. It could be that we had too many reports on the same book, it could be that your report didn’t align to the criteria of our grading committee, it could be that we had already given out too many other passing grades.” That’s all I can really say.

Seems rather familiar to many of us, right?

Today though, you are in luck my friend, because I am about to unlock every secret to a successful abstract submission for CMEpalooza Spring. Perhaps you noticed last week’s Call for Abstracts where we provided basic information on how to submit an abstract for our upcoming Spring event (Wednesday, April 17) and you are noodling over an idea or two.

Well, just so you don’t waste too much time, I am going to tell you exactly what you need to do to guarantee* that your abstract gets accepted by our esteemed abstract review committee (* – not guaranteed):

DO – Read the guidelines carefully before you submit and follow all of the instructions
DON’T – Think to yourself, “Eh, they probably don’t mean this. I’m just going to submit for a boring, 60-minute, PowerPoint heavy presentation on a topic that is pretty dull and drab.”

DO – Recruit colleagues from a variety of professional settings. We love having a variety of viewpoints for our sessions. CMEpalooza veterans, CMEpalooza rookies – doesn’t matter.
DON’T – Only include your friend in the cube next to yours as a co-presenter. You certainly can only include people from your own organization, but there should be a reason for that beyond, “I am feeling lazy.”

DO – Submit a fresh idea that has never been presented before.
DON’T – Recycle a session that you have presented in the past at another venue. If you give it a fresh twist, great. But if you are simply submitting the same idea to us that you are presenting at another venue before CMEpalooza Spring, we can usually tell.

DO – Pay attention to the February 1 submission deadline
DON’T – Submit something on February 2. We don’t look kindly upon tardiness.

DO – Check your spelling and grammar before you submit your abstract.
DON’T – Submit an abstract written in a foreign language. Por favor.

DO – Take a chance. “I don’t know if this is going to work, but we’re willing to try” is good for CMEpalooza
DO – Think about the nuts and bolts of your session before you submit. “We think this is going to work and it’s going to be really cool” is even better
DO – Propose some sort of wacky format that is going to be fun for you, your co-presenters, and our audience. “We are super excited about this. It’s weird, but it’s going to be awesome” is even better still!

There, that should do it. A guaranteed* acceptance (* – not guaranteed).

Perhaps you have other questions for us. Great! We can answer every single one. If you are going to the Alliance next week, feel free to corner Derek and fire away. He loves talking to people for hours! (note from Derek: I do not.) Here are some topics he loves discussing to help you break the ice: fashion, tennis, Asian cuisine, dominoes, the Punic Wars, crocheting. And, of course, the Nancy Drew series.

Whoops, I just de-de-identified our “fictional” student, didn’t I? Oh well.

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