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Preparing your conference abstract

What is an abstract?

A conference abstract is a brief summary of the session you want to present. It provides information for delegates to help them choose which sessions to attend. Importantly, it’s also the way that the conference programme team will decide which presentations are included in the conference programme and which aren’t. Think of the abstract like a sales tool or elevator pitch. It gives you the opportunity to demonstrate what you can offer to the conference. So, while it may be a short summary, it’s worth taking the time to craft an abstract that’s interesting, enticing and that stands out from the crowd.

Preparing your abstract

The following steps include some tips about how to go about your preparation.

1. Test your topic

You need to start by making sure that the topic you want to build a session around is relevant for the programme. For the next ARMA Conference, the theme is on building prosperity and resilience in the face of significant challenge and change in research management. This theme can be explored at different scales:

  • Personal or individual
  • Professional
  • Institutional
  • National
  • International

Within this broad theme, we’ll be organising the programme across eight strands:

  1. Policy & strategy
  2. Funding & development
  3. Project & portfolio management
  4. Culture, environment & people
  5. Impact & public engagement
  6. Governance

So, you’ll need to test your topic (or build your ideas) around the theme and strands. Not all abstracts need to specifically address prosperity and resilience, but we do want to include a significant proportion that do. So, get your thinking caps on!

2. Identify your target audience

Once you’ve decided on your topic, you then need to think which delegates you want to attend your session, and who will get most value from it. There are two main areas to consider:

  • Career level: Is your presentation open to all? Or is it aimed specifically at leaders?
  • Focus: is your presentation a broad introduction or overview to a topic or challenge? Is it focused on the technical detail? Or do you want participants to think more strategically?

You’ll be asked to specify these two aspects when you submit your abstract, so take time to identify who your key audience will be.

3. Choose your session type

We like to keep our delegates engaged in the topics on offer, so we’re building in different types of session to the 2019 Conference. You can deliver any of the following:

  • Interactive workshop: short (30 minutes, including time for interactive exercises, feedback and discussion).
  • Interactive workshop: long (60-75 minutes, including time for interactive exercises, feedback and discussion).
  • Speed presentations. 20 slides of 20 seconds each, followed by questions.
  • Panel discussion. A range of perspectives on the same topic. You’ll be responsible for identifying and organising all presenters involved. (60-75 minutes including time for Q&A).
  • Poster. A visual representation of your ideas.

Once you know your topic, think about how you want to share those ideas. If you’ve done lots of conference presentations, you might want to push yourself to design a long interactive workshop, where the onus will be on finding ways to get the delegates involved in the session. If you’re new to conferences, you might want to dip your toe in with a poster, as part of a panel or a short interactive workshop. Thinking about how you’ll deliver your session is as important as what you’re going to deliver. You’ll find descriptions of each of the presentation types on the abstract submission web page.

4. Capture attention with your title

The title is the first thing your audience will see, so make sure it captures their attention! At the same time, you’ll also need your title to give delegates an idea of what the session will hold. We’ve suggested this as step 4, but you might want to come back to it when you’ve completed your abstract. Be creative!

5. Read the guidelines

We use a system to collate all the abstracts, so you’ll need to make sure you read the guidelines. They set out the information you’ll need to submit along with your abstracts, including word limits and deadlines. Study them carefully and stick to them!

6. Write your abstract

Now it’s time to put your abstract together. As a short summary that needs to stand out, you’ll need to be as concise as you can, whilst not being too modest! Tell the reviewer what you’re trying to achieve with your session, what benefits the delegates will get from attending your session, any background research or practice that your session is based on, and how you’ll present the information. Are you addressing a gap in knowledge or practice? What are the key points you want to get across? Are you demonstrating your learning from a particular project or change programme? Are you asking your audience to help you answer questions or solve challenges? You’ll all have different approaches to putting a session idea together – you might jot down your ideas with bullet points, or create a mind map, or stick post-its over the walls. Moving from there to your written abstract is a key step in the process, so take time to hone the language and really make it stand out.

7. Finalise and submit!

Your abstract is written, so you’re nearly there! At this point, it’s worth asking for a second – or third – opinion on your abstract, to make sure it achieves what you want. And make sure you read it over in detail at least a couple of times. When you’re ready, go ahead and submit. Simply follow the process on the abstract submission web page and submit ahead of the deadline: 14 January 2019. You’ll receive an email to confirm that your abstract has been submitted correctly.


  • Check the topic
  • Identify your target audience
  • Decide on the session type
  • Craft your title
  • Read the guidelines
  • Draft your abstract
  • Edit to meet the word limits
  • Review your abstract
  • Finalise and submit

Does your abstract explain how your session will be…

  • Relevant to the research management community?
  • Useful for participants, providing them with useful learning points?
  • Interesting and engaging for your audience, giving them opportunities to participate?


If you have any questions, please check our Submissions FAQ page: Submission FAQ

Good luck!