Tips for Writing PASS Abstracts

I’ve really enjoyed reading the blog posts and tweets from people that are reviewing the PASS abstracts for the Summit this fall.  I was involved in that process for four years and still have fond memories of it.  It’s a tremendous amount of work to review each abstract and give it the attention it deserves.  And the process of actually selecting sessions was very painful.  There are always deserving abstracts that don’t get selected.  I commend the program committee volunteers for the time they take to read through the hundreds of abstracts and make the tough choices they do.

Jason posted some tips for writing PASS abstracts and that reminded me of a similar post I wrote a couple of years ago.  Some of the similarities are striking.  The biggest common denominator was that writing matters.  More than half his comments referred to the quality of the writing.  If I found two abstracts that were otherwise equal I was certainly going to give the nod to the person that took the time to write a good abstract.  If someone isn’t willing to expend the effort to proof read their own submission do I trust them to deliver a good presentation?

When I was running the program committee I wrote a little web application to help with the ratings.  We rated each abstract on a couple of attributes including quality of the abstract, quality of the speaker, etc.  After the conference I took our ratings and compared them to the actual scores the speakers received.  Back then we only had 400 abstracts submitted and we could only choose 60 for the Summit.  I could only test the results of the selected abstracts.  I did find a positive correlation between our ratings and the session scores so it seems we were able to identify the better sessions.

The other area that I feel strongly about is having a passion for the topics you end up submitting.  Many people are technically proficient enough to research a topic, write some good examples and deliver an adequate session.  But I think the best presentations, the ones people remember, the ones that make people change their behavior, come from something you feel strongly about.  Something where you have some experience – especially some pain that you’d keep to keep others from experiencing.  I know I struggled to identify which of multiple abstracts a person really wanted to present.

With all the great comments I’ve been reading I’m really looking forward to seeing the program get released and being able to attend some of the sessions.  See you in November!

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