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THE LEADERSHIP ACADEMY

Share your work at conferences

Perfect your abstract to secure an opportunity to present your initiative

Conferences are a great opportunity to share your work. I’m always struck by the innovative work in healthcare practice that makes a difference to patients, families and staff; yet all

too often, others do not hear about it.

If you have undertaken a piece of work that has made a difference to your practice, others will want to know about it, and conferences are one way of reaching a large number of people. The audience will be interested in what you’ve achieved and many will want to take your ideas and try them out where they work.

There are many conferences related to healthcare, but securing an opportunity to present can be competitive. There are, however, some tips that give you the best chance of being selected.

First, look for the right conference. A call for abstracts will tell you the focus or themes for an event and/or type of abstract required. It can be difficult to find a conference with an exact fit. So, think about the main aspects of your work you want to share and look at the focus of the conference and the audience it is targeting. Does your work fit and will it interest this audience? As a reviewer of abstracts, it’s usually the first thing I look for.

Key points to remember

● Make sure you fit the focus of the conference or themes identified
● Follow any guidelines for abstract submission and presentation
● Be clear and concise
● Draw out why your work is interesting and/or important for nurses
● Keep to the word limit (remember too short is as bad as too long)
● Proofread and ask another person to do it - sometimes friends won’t be the most objective at this, so think carefully about who you ask
● Submit it on time

Consider the content of the abstract. It is common for conference organisers to provide clear guidance on abstract submission and often a template. Look for these and fill them in. Conferences often receive large numbers of abstracts and if information is missing yours may be overlooked.

An abstract should be a summary of usually between 300 and 500 words. Writing a short version of something that you know a great deal about can be challenging. Start by making a list of the key points you want to share with the audience. Thinking about a practice development or improvement project, for example, you may want to include, where the project took place, the background of how it came about, including any supporting evidence, who was involved, what you did and what the outcomes were.

Once you’re clear about the content, turn this into short paragraphs and you have a draft abstract.

Refine the draft by getting others to read through your abstract and give you feedback. Finally, re-check the guidance and make sure you’ve included all the information needed and do submit on time.

There are lots of amazing initiatives being led by nurses, and if you are one of them don’t be afraid to shout about it.

Theresa Shaw is chief executive of the Foundation of Nursing Studies (fons.org) and has extensive experience of enabling and supporting the development of nurses and practice in healthcare

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