In recent years I have participated in the organisation of the congresses held by CCC and have seen many recurring problems with talk submissions. Here are some hints how to reduce future frustration when great talks are rejected due to bad abstracts.
Always assume nobody knows you.
Each one of the many submissions is reviewed by one of many volunteers, who sometimes were small children twenty years ago and just don't know who you are.
If your CV does not explain why YOU should be the one to hold this talk, they will have to google for recordings of your presentations, some of which may not represent your best work.
The same applies to the abstract. Assume that the reviewer has about the same level of intimacy with the topic as potential congress participants. If title and abstract don't feel inviting, nobody is going to attend. Why then should you be part of the program?
Choose the track carefully.
Sometimes we correct the choice of track if a mismatch is apparent, but very likely this will take some time and the wrong review team will analyse the submission and won't know what to do about it.
Competition is fierce within a track. Time slots are scarce and maybe your talk will have better chances in a different track.
Finally, keep in mind that the audience also chooses its talks according to tracks.
What kind of reaction time can I expect?
Submissions are reviewed from the very beginning of the CfP period, and sometimes there is immediate feedback.
Some teams work continuously, others in bursts. The communicated deadlines are there to help you. Try to be reachable at the acceptance deadline, because we need your confirmation to accept you into the Fahrplan (schedule).
The later you confirm, the later you will be visible in halfnarp – that's our tool to reduce conflict in people's talk choices.
If you want to present something confidential, contact the leader of a track team or firstname.lastname@example.org via PGP. Submission in the conference system can be seen by many reviewers.
ALWAYS communicate your availability early on.
Writing the Fahrplan (schedule) is incredibly complex. We have software to help us, but in the end many constraints need to be considered. If you won't say when you can be there, your talk simply won't happen.
Somebody who is only available during the prime slots, or just on one day or even just a few hours will have to accept that we may not be able to choose their presentation or will have to give it a lower priority.
Be prepared to shorten your presentation.
Half-hour presentations are not second class presentations. You should see the offer of an half-hour slot as a rescue from rejection due to time constraints. Quite often a talk will also benefit from being made more concise.
It is totally fine to answer "no, it won't work". We will not be angry about that, but we will have to see what we can do to best accomodate everybody. It might turn out that unfortunately things won't work between us and your submission.
Explain the prerequisites for the audience.
Submissions with a focus "For absolute beginners" are not necessarily non-starters, however we do try to strike a balance between demanding and entry level talks.
"Already presented" also is no deal breaker. Not every audience member participates in all security and socio-economic conferences – nevertheless, please don't just present your one canned standard talk.
Present in a language in which you feel comfortable with
The best presentation is wasted if the way of presenting it makes it impossible to follow. If we see a submission with terrible English grammar or one that just smells like Google Translate, we will have to assume that the presentation is going to be similar.
We know that you might still be well prepared, even in a foreign language. You can demonstrate this by having a well translated submission or links to recordings of other talks you have given in English.
No need to get angry – the average nerd is very proud of their English and we have received a lot of cold reactions upon inquiring about language changes. However, struggling for words in front of a crowd of 3000 is different from watching Star Trek in the original English. Believe me – been there, done that. For native German speakers: if in doubt, present in German – we have good live translations for every German talk.
For those not sure about their English (and no German knowledge): get a co-presenter to help you. I did the same for the opening ceremony last year, in order to accurately communicate all of the points important to me to the audience.
Have a basic understanding of what the congress is about.
Boasting that you have a history in in the secret service or in the military will not be well received by either your reviewers or the audience.
The high number of attendees may suggest that we make a lot of money, but the truth is that we always try to run the event with no profit. Every Euro you don't need in travel advances can be used for decoration or cheaper entrance fees. Please be considerate.
Congress is a giant advertisement-free zone. This is our goal, at least. If your company logo is too large on your T-shirt or presentation sildes, expect to be booed by the audience. Please be considerate about this, too.
None of the coordinators or content organisation team are paid. Many have day jobs, noisy children and a whole bunch of other stuff to do for the congress. Please be polite, especially to the volunteers at the venue.
If you receive a "sorry, conference schedule full", this is not an excuse: in some tracks, only one out of five entries are accepted. Before you reply "but that other boring talk was accepted and mine wasn't", consider: different participants = different interests, which is why there are different tracks with independent curators, who may thus accept entries that are of no interest to you.
We really have to reject a lot of good submissions. Before you get angry, think hard about your submission and whether or not there may just be a valid reason for the rejection.
If you really think your submission has been misunderstood and believe it may have just been a problem with the abstract, you may be able to fix the abstract and reply to the rejection email. However, in most cases, the content teams know what they are doing.
Despite rumours to the contrary, the content teams do not make decisions arbitrarily, but primarily decide based on the quality of the entry, and to a lesser extent on whether it fits the program and a balanced Fahrplan. Nevertheless, we are only human, so publishing a harsh reaction to your rejection – especially if done on social media – may lead to an encounter with an offended reviewer in the next year.