When you’ve settled on a list of conference abstracts that are going to make it to the conference as papers / topics to be presented, you know you aren’t out of the weeds yet. In many academic conferences there might be a lead presenter and a co-presenter. Some scientific conferences can have 15 or 20 co-presenters who are all part of a large panel.
These presenters can then also be primary presenters or co-presenters on other topics. Slowly but surely the list of final presentations can become a tangled web, where if you fill one slot with one presentation, you just created conflicts with three other ones.
This task can seem like a never-ending game of cat and mouse. For sure abstract software can help with this, but as with any software it’s important you collect the data you need upfront, ideally in the initial call for papers.
- Find out all presenters name + role, especially if someone can have a role as being optional
- Find out what needs the presentation has (e.g. projector, internet)
- Find out the estimated capacity of the presentation
The last two pieces will help you determine specific room requirements for each presentation.
Based on this we suggest taking an iterative approach to scheduling:
- Put every presentation in a room that fits it, regardless of conflicts
- Clear any conflicts related to space needs first
- Once all presentations have a room they can fit in and time slot, then focus on conflicts related to co-presenters
- Move mandatory co-presenters into their own slots
- After you have at most 10 new conflicts, start over from step 1
- The cat and mouse will continue but it will remain at most 10 conflicts away from what is ideal
At the end of all these steps you might still end up in an impossible scenario. At that point it might be time to communicate with the primary presenters to work out a plan B.