Presenting at the 2021 ISS
Part 1: University of Pittsburgh Will Be Calling for Abstracts Soon. What Will Your Response Be?
LAPTOP USER: DEPOSITPHOTOS/EDZBARZHYVETSKY
Not long after the 2020 International Seating Symposium
(ISS) closes in Vancouver, the University of Pittsburgh will
call for abstracts for the next symposium. Beginning in
May 2020, presenters can submit abstracts for the 37th
ISS, March 18-20, 2021, in Pittsburgh, Pa., U.S.A.
If you’d like to do a presentation there, you’re not
alone. The ISS is one of the premier events in seating and
wheeled mobility, and to get accepted to present, you
need more than just a great idea.
Richard Schein, Ph.D., MPH, is a Research Scientist in
the Department of Rehabilitation Science & Technology
at the University of Pittsburgh. He joins Meghan Wander,
MPA Ed., Education and Training Manager and ISS
Symposium Manager, in the planning and administration
of the U.S.-based seating symposiums. Schein and
Wander oversee the call for abstracts and offered these
tips on making your submission as effective as possible.
What Should You Talk About?
The range of possible topics is large, Wander said. “I
don’t think they all need to be clinical, but they all need
to have relevancy to the field,” she explained. Don’t
forget that this is an international event: “It’s hard for us
to accept topics that might only be pertinent to one
country or one region of a certain country. Pick a topic
that can be applicable to a clinical setting, an educational
setting [and/or] an administrative setting.”
“What we’ve seen over the last two ISS’s in the States is
growth in anything pediatric,” Schein said. “Evaluations
are saying, ‘We want more pediatric mobility and
advanced workshops.’ We also want to see funding
scenarios like Meghan described, because it is an
international conference. We want scenarios that involve
case-based learning, policy and funding situations,
administrative solutions, and seating solutions from individuals’
respective countries and clinics.”
What Presentation Format Should You Choose?
Poster presentations are large printouts displayed for
attendees to read. Presenters are available at pre-determined
times to discuss their work and answer questions.
“This is usually reserved for students or people who
have done research on a topic,” Wander said. “It’s our
smallest area right now, but we’d love to grow it as much
as we can.”
Papers, the shortest type of presentation formally
delivered to an audience, are 15 minutes long, with five
more minutes for Q&A. “Your paper should at least be
submitted to a professional journal, if it has not yet been
accepted,” Wander said. “This is ideal for people who
might not want to spend an hour talking. Or this is a very
focused research project that you are able to conduct in
a 15-minute overview and then further discuss questions
that people might have.
“The two other sessions are one-hour and pre-conference sessions. A pre-conference session varies between
four and eight hours. Topics are a miniature deep-dive or
provide some sort of hands-on element. The majority of
courses are clinically focused, because this is an opportunity
for people working in clinics to physically show how
they’re able to accomplish something. When you want to
provide in-depth knowledge on a specific operation or
task, this is a good place to do it.”
The one-hour session format “is more of a theoretical
overview,” Wander said. “You don’t have as much time to
do a demonstration because of time restraints.”
What Level Is Your Presentation?
Except for posters, sessions are rated Beginner,
Intermediate or Advanced to indicate the level of
content attendees can expect.
“I think what sometimes discourages people from
submitting abstracts is they might not think they’re at a
certain stature in the field,” Wander said. “What we’re
looking for, though, is someone who is passionate about
the topic. No one wants to sit in a session and have 25
slides read to them. But if the presenter uses those slides as a baseline and then presents the material in a way
that shows their passion, their love, their drive for the field,
that’s what really brings attendees into a session.”
Schein agreed: “One of the things we look for is a
passion for spreading knowledge. Look at yourself and
how versed you are in that specific topic. If it’s something
that’s brand new and something you’re a novice
at, you’re seeking to build foundational knowledge.
With intermediate, you’re looking to refine or hone in on
certain skills or advancing knowledge on that topic. And
then for advanced — our committee in Pittsburgh and
our outside advisory committee helps us review [submissions]
and when doing so can identify that this specific
person has the highest degree of technical competence
and mastery of a topic to be able to relay that information
to an advanced audience.”
Wander added, “We always get requests for more
Time to Submit Your Abstract
When you’re ready to submit your abstract, go to www.seatingsymposium.us for instructions, including how
many words/characters allowed, and sample abstracts.
“We look at the abstract as a short document intended
to capture the interest of an attendee,” Schein said. “It
should tell what your topic is about and why they should
come hear it. The title is very important. It should be
short: attention-catching titles are the most effective.”
“A lot of our attendees are not going to read through
our program line by line,” Wander said. “They’re going
to base their selections on the titles itself. That’s a vital
portion of the abstract.
“On the technical side, what is your aim or your objective?
You’re going to have a method of data collection
or just your methods in general, and then a conclusion
of what you were able to find out. It can be based on
research; it can be based on clinical application.”
Presentations must include references. “This is a little
scary for first-time presenters,” Wander acknowledged.
But committees aren’t just expecting references from
professional journals that contain the exact information
that will be presented. Wander suggested “manuals that
have been developed in wheelchair skills and training,
or manuals presented by a supplier, if you’re doing a
specific overview of a type of accessory. The only thing
we ask is that you do use a reference. Sometimes people
will say, ‘ATP for 20+ years.’ We appreciate your hands-on
experience and dedication, but because we are an
accredited university, we need [references] to make sure
our attendees are getting the best-possible education.”
Wander said many questions relate to the learning
objectives: “When attendees leave, what are they going
to walk away with the ability to do? We try to break it
down to action verbs: They’re going to be able to tell me
three ideas about this specific topic, or give me three
examples that could be used as a solution to x, y and z.”
The Finishing Touches
Before you click Submit, spell-check and proofread your
abstract. And if you have questions, reach out to the
RSTCE team. It’s better to have questions answered on
the front end, before the deadline passes and the team
is reviewing the abstracts of 150+ hopeful presenters.
This is the first in a series of articles in partnership with the
University of Pittsburgh, which produces and hosts the ISS
in odd-numbered years.
This article originally appeared in the Jan/Feb 2020 issue of Mobility Management.