How to write a successful conference abstract

Presenting on the big stage at a conference can be a major moment in your career. It will expose your work to a national and international audience, and help others learn from what you’ve done. Getting there all starts with writing an engaging abstract submission which captures your work and gets the abstract selection panel and conference audiences excited.

Submitting an abstract doesn’t need to be stressful – particularly when you know what to include and how to present it. This article contains tips and resources to help you to feel confident writing an abstract to present at an ASHM-run conference.


Coming up with an abstract idea

The first – and possibly hardest – part of the process is choosing which project, case study, or research to turn into an abstract submission. This is where the conference guidelines come in! It is vital to carefully read the abstract guidelines for the conference you are submitting to. Each conference has different guidelines, which typically outline the conference themes, topics, and presentation types being accepted.

Make sure your abstract aligns with the conference themes and topics.

More guidance on how to understand conference abstract guidelines, abstract types, and choosing the right conference for your abstract is covered in the video below.

Types of abstracts and presentations

The next step in writing your abstract submission is to choose your presentation format. There is a submission format to suit everyone – depending on the work you’d like to share, and how confident you feel presenting to an audience. Typically, abstracts can be submitted for:

  • Research-based oral presentations: Presentations on original research findings, case studies, completed projects and theoretical analyses.
  • Practice-based oral presentations: Presentations analysing issues and solutions to problems in clinical practice, community engagement, education, health promotion and policy.
  • Models of Care and Programs presentations: Present on real-world examples of innovative models of care, programs, or interventions to enhance health care delivery.
  • Multi-media presentations: Presentations delivered via multi-media, typically video, which showcase models of care, case studies, or other activities which improve health promotion, policy, advocacy, or delivery.
  • Poster presentations: Posters will be displayed within the exhibition and catering area. Poster presentations can be a great choice for early-stage or preliminary research, or for those who are not confident presenting an oral presentation.

Depending on the conference guidelines, oral presentations can often be presented as either a 10+ minute presentation, or five minute rapid-fire presentation with a Q&A component.

Recently, ASHM has introduced new types of presentations to make conference sessions even more accessible and interactive. These include:

  • Tabletop presentations: In small rotating groups, share how you implemented a solution or initiative in-community, and explore how this initiative can be improved upon or expanded further through discussion.
  • Case presentations: Present a clinical case report relevant to the conference theme which showcases innovation or practical advice.
  • Storytelling sessions: Come together with delegates from across the sector to give an informal short five minute talk on your work or program which relates to the conference theme.
  • Lessons learned: Share and reflect on your experiences through a standard oral presentation or rapid-fire presentation and Q&A session.

Think carefully about which type of presentation best suits the work you want to present. For example, a case study video on how you delivered a program in-community might be best suited to a multi-media presentation. Meanwhile, findings from academic research may work best as a research-based oral presentation.

The types of presentations and abstracts accepted vary by conference and are being updated all the time – make sure to check the ‘Abstract Submission’ page of each conference before starting your submission.

What is an abstract and what does it include?

An abstract is typically a short, stand-alone document which concisely summarises the work you wish to present. When submitting an abstract for an ASHM conference, you can download an abstract template for your type of presentation outlining everything you need to include.

Depending on the type of presentation you are hoping to give, the abstract requirements, guidelines, and template may vary. Below are some general tips – make sure to read and abide by the appropriate guidelines and use the most recent template when submitting your abstract.

Always consult the abstract guidelines for the conference you are submitting to! Make sure to follow any formatting instructions and word limits.

Research-based abstracts: What to include

For research-based abstracts, you will need to include:

  • Abstract title
  • Authors: The principal author must appear first, and any authors presenting the paper underlined. Include affiliations/organisation for each author.
  • Background: Any relevant contextual information, the research problem or rationale, and why this research is important.
  • Methods: The methods taken to undertake research.
  • Results: A summary of the most significant results of the research related to the conference themes.
  • Conclusion: Discuss further any of the outcomes of the research, how it adds to the existing body of knowledge, and any implications for future research and practice.
  • Disclosure of Interest Statement: Declare any potential conflicts of interest and/or relevant funding sources or organisational funding in this section. If you have no interests to declare, you can write ‘Nothing to disclose’.

While data should be included in your results section, tables, figures and references should not be included in the abstract.

One approach to adapting a published research article to the abstract template is to condense each section of your article down to one or two sentences each, while ensuring they cover all the major points and that the information flows and is easy to read.

More information on what to include in your abstract and examples of good research-based abstracts can be seen in the video below.

Practice-based abstracts: What to include

For practice-based abstracts, you will need to include:

  • Abstract title
  • Authors: The principal author must appear first, and any authors presenting the paper underlined. Include affiliations/organisation for each author.
  • Background/Purpose: Outline any relevant background information, including the need for this practice/project.
  • Approach: A brief description of your practice design and approach including any methodologies used, the population researched/impacted, the type of data collected and how it was analysed.
  • Outcomes/Impact: A summary of the most significant results related to the conference themes.
  • Innovation and Significance: Describe how your practice has contributed to the sector’s body of knowledge, any novelty or innovations it has made, and any implications for future advancements in this area.
  • Disclosure of Interest Statement: Declare any potential conflicts of interest and/or relevant funding sources or organisational funding in this section. If you have no interests to declare, you can write ‘Nothing to disclose’.

Spend most of your attention and word limit on your outcomes and impact.

More information on how to create an effective and engaging practice-based abstract, including examples, can be seen in the video below.

Important tips for writing an abstract submission

1. Create a catchy title!

Stand out from other submissions by coming up with a catchy and memorable abstract title. Choose something that would make you want to engage with your presentation. Is there a surprising statistic, or standout quote that would grab people’s attention?

2. Assume that the audience has no previous knowledge on your topic

While it can be easy to rely on acronyms and sector-specific terminology, not everyone who reads your abstract or attends your presentation may know these terms. Assume the reader has no previous knowledge and improve the readability of your abstract by avoiding acronyms where possible (and expanding when included), explaining topic-specific terminology, and only including information related to your presentation.

Who knows – maybe your presentation will be the gateway for an audience member to pursue a new area!

Use the right language in your submission

When submitting an abstract and writing a presentation for an ASHM conference, it is encouraged that you use person-centred language. Putting the person first in your presentation is vital for combating stigma and respecting the dignity of all people.

To make sure your abstract and presentation is using person-centred language, we recommend consulting these helpful language guides:

Submitting your abstract online

Once you’ve written your abstract using the template and made sure it follows the guidelines, it’s time to submit. The video below gives a general overview of how to submit your abstract online – depending on the conference this process may differ.

Further questions?

If you have any questions about abstract requirements or submissions, contact ASHM’s Conference and Events team using the enquiry form at the bottom of our Conference and Event Management page.

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