Don't send proposals at the last moment

From time to time people ask me for advice on submitting conference proposals and I usually have a few to give.

Since most people submit their proposals at the last moment, one piece of advice I give is to submit as early as possible. I've been rating WebCamp Zagreb proposals for a couple of years, so here's some insight.

Okay, so why is it bad to send a proposal at the last moment?

Lots of submissions come at the last moment and you don't want to be in that group. Except for the fact that you leave the impression that you're not taking the CFP seriously, the organizers will probably review your submission among the last ones, since proposals are usually sorted chronologically.

What's the problem in being reviewed last?

From personal experience, if I have to review over 300 proposals, after 150 of them I'm already tired. I go through the abstracts really quickly and I react much worse to any kind of mistakes, basically rating the proposal lower. Don't think this behavior is just specific to me, we all work that way and there's an official term for that behavior: decision fatigue.

To quote Wikipedia: "Decision fatigue refers to the deteriorating quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making." Also: "For instance, judges in court have been shown to make less favorable decisions later in the day than early in the day."

If you submit your talk early on, the organizers will be focused while reviewing your proposal, approaching it ambitiously, while if you submit your talk at the end, you're really going to need a killer title and a phenomenal abstract to hype up a tired person.

Also, a lot of conferences do a rolling CFP, which means that although there is a deadline to submit your proposal, the organizers will take a look at the proposals before the deadline and possibly already select a few talks early on. If you submit when the call for papers opens up, you may be competing with 20 speakers in the beginning, while at the end you'll be doing the same with 300.

Everybody loves graphs so let's take a look at a graph of proposals from last year's WebCamp Zagreb.

My advice is to submit your talk at the moment you see the call for papers open, or at most a few days later. I know people often set reminders to send their proposals, but please, don't set it on the day of the deadline, set it as early as possible, especially if you already have title and abstract of your talk written.

This is definitely not the only advice I like to give, but it's one of the easiest to fix and implement. So, have you already submitted your talk to Webcamp? The deadline is near - July 4th, 2017. Hurry up!

Damir Svrtan

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