Ensure Students Present If Accepted

Students who submit abstracts to an academic conference (usually set in the spring) will likely spend most of the academic year on their project. They will prepare their research projects in Fall and submit an abstract, and then prepare their presentation in Spring before presenting at the conference. Each year, there are KSU students who are accepted to present at academic conferences but who withdraw at the last minute. There are several reasons for the withdrawals -- for example:

  1. Students submit their abstracts as a requirement for a Fall course, and because the conference isn't until the next semester, some students do not feel compelled to follow through with the presentation as they are no longer earning a grade for the project. 
  2. Students underestimate the amount of time required to complete the project or procrastinate, and they withdraw because they haven't finished their project in time.
  3. Students do not see the conference presentation as important as other duties, such as working, studying for finals, etc. When they feel overwhelmed, they sometimes prioritize these other responsibilities over their presentations. 
  4. Students experience genuine emergencies that prevent them from presenting (e.g., sickness, death in the family). 

We as faculty mentors can't do anything about true emergencies that prevent students from presenting at a conference, but there are things we can do to reduce the likelihood of our students withdrawing for other reasons. Here are some suggestions (feel free to email us at our@kennesaw.edu if you have others):

  1. If students are submitting abstracts for an academic conference as part of a Fall course:
    • Consider making the abstract submission optional rather than required (students who opt in are more likely to follow through compared to students who are forced in).
    • You could consider creating a contract with the student(s) detailing the work that will be done in the spring or enrolling those students in Directed Studies if there is significant work to do in the spring. 
    • Try to accomplish as much work on the project in the Fall semester as possible. If students submit abstracts and finish a poster before grades are due in December, they are more likely to present that poster in the spring compared to students who must work on their posters in the Spring semester.
  2. Help your students create a schedule of the work that must be accomplished before the presentation. Encourage students to create their own deadlines with feedback from you; research suggests that this is more effective than imposing a schedule and deadlines on them.
  3. Check in often with your students. Are they making satisfactory progress? What do they need to do to finish on time? How can you help them achieve their milestones?
  4. Stress the importance of conference presentations to your students. There are many benefits:
    • Students become socialized into their discipline; they learn what it means to engage in scholarship in their major.
    • Conference presentations are associated with improvements in public speaking, writing, thinking critically, and a whole host of other benefits.
    • Conference presentations look great on a resume or curriculum vita; students who have presented at a conference are more likely to get into grad school and get jobs after graduation compared to students who have not. 
  5. Stress the importance of following through on professional commitments. It is irresponsible to submit to a conference, get accepted, and then not show up for the presentation; it reflects badly on the student, the faculty mentor, and Kennesaw State University as a whole.