Good conference abstracts are concise, interesting, informative, understandable, and well written. Most importantly, they tell a good story. The NWA Annual meeting has attendees with different backgrounds (all sectors of meteorology, social science, emergency management, etc.). Make sure to have at least one statement in general terms to help the audience identify and understand the importance of the work (e.g., this method resulted in an extra 12 hours of notice for partners to prepare for flash flooding).
There are two types of abstracts, a descriptive abstract, and an informative abstract.
- Descriptive abstracts describe the major points of the issue/project/work to the reader. They include background information, purpose, and scope of the issue/project/work; however, it does not discuss methods/approach, results and conclusions. Simply put, a descriptive abstract describes the work to be presented.
- Informative abstracts describe all essential points of the issue/project/work. An informative abstract includes the information that can be found in a descriptive abstract, but also includes the results and conclusions of the issue/project/work and the recommendations of the author.
Not all NWA presentations are research based, but an effective conference abstract writing should answer four main questions:
- What is the subject of the project or work and why it is important to the theme of the conference? (~25%)
- Which methods or approaches were chosen to address or investigate the problem(s)? (~25%)
- What are the main results? (~35%)
- What conclusions can be gleaned from your project or work? (~15%)
Don’t be afraid of being creative and innovative with your abstract. It is refreshing to find new ways to address common topics. When the program committee is making decisions between talks and posters, the quality and uniqueness of your conference abstract is usually the deciding factor. It is important to make sure your topic is relevant to a wide audience. The abstract also will determine which people set aside time in their conference schedule to learn about your work.
Abstracts for NWA submissions are 2000 characters which is about 300 words. Here are additional guidelines for a developing a successful conference abstract within the 2000 character abstract limit:
- Emphasize the most important part of the work upfront to draw people into the abstract. Don’t bury the lead.
- Define all abbreviations, acronyms, mathematical expressions, or special symbols in the text.
- Do not cite references in the abstract text.
- Avoid passive voice
- Avoid vague statements like, “results will be discussed” by providing results directly in the abstract.
Generating the perfect abstract on the first try is not very common. Use coauthors, colleagues, and mentors to help you pare down content into concise statements. This type of preparation now will make it easier in making the final presentation or poster. Most of all, remember you are the expert. Let your work shine.