This year I was honoured to be invited as a reviewer for the Stanford Medicine X conference, that Helle and I presented at last year. I was naturally very curious to see how different folks write submissions, especially when coming from a mix of backgrounds – designers, scientists, entrepreneurs and healthcare professionals.
Medicine X is a catalyst for new ideas about the future of medicine and health care. The initiative explores how emerging technologies will advance the practice of medicine, improve health, and empower patients to be active participants in their own care. The “X” is meant to encourage thinking beyond numbers and trends—it represents the infinite possibilities for current and future information technologies to improve health.
After reviewing my allocated set, I noted down some of the key learnings I took from the process. Here they are:
1. Cut the jargon.
When writing a conference submission it’s natural you want to sound interesting and that you have a point of view. However, this doesn’t mean your submission has to be laden with jargon. In many cases you have no idea who will be reviewing your abstract, so make sure it can be understood by someone who isn’t in your industry.
My top tip for this is to do the ‘Mum Test’. Explain it to your mum, if she doesn’t understand it – go back to the drawing board.
2. Hook the reader in the first sentence.
In an ideal situation someone reviewing your abstract should get increasingly more excited about the topic as they read. So, by the end it’s a no brainer for them to click accept.
As in life, first impressions really count. In the first sentence you need to set the scene for your talk, tell the reviewer what the topic is and why it’s important. Engage them so they are excited to read on. When reading a submission, the reviewer will most likely read till the end anyway (because that’s their role), but if the first impression isn’t great it may be harder to rebuild the engagement you need to get that ‘accept’ stamp.
3. Let the reader know what the audience will take away.
People attend conferences to gain new knowledge and inspiration. There is nothing more frustrating than sitting through a talk and feeling like the speaker is there just to hear the sound of their own voice. When submitting an idea clearly communicate why the talk will be relevant to the audience and what they will be able to take away from it.
4. The title should reflect the talk.
Everybody loves to have a ‘catchy’ title, but it can only get you so far. You want something that makes the reader a little curious, but it shouldn’t be so abstract that makes someones question ‘what is this about?’. Linking back to the points above, it should reflect the content of the talk, get the reader excited and not contain too much confusing jargon.