The CTBUH annual conference usually receives many hundreds of abstracts from its members around the world for consideration of presentation. It is a complex task organizing these into the final program, considering aspects such as how the presentation relates to the overall conference theme, its quality and uniqueness, how it can be positioned with others to make a meaningful stand-alone session, fairness of representation among CTBUH member companies, sponsors, etc. Although the annual conference aims to embrace all aspects of tall buildings and sustainable cities, the reality is that it is impossible to embrace all disciplines and subjects every year. For that reason, the main theme of the conference changes each year, with the overall theme relating also to the choice of host city.

In 2020, the Conference focuses on the essential questions of how high-density can support equity in housing, making better social spaces at multiple horizons, mitigating the effects of climate change, and developing architecture and urban designs that are appropriate for local environmental and cultural conditions—hence the title of the event: Humanizing High Density—People, Nature & the Urban Realm. This year, the Council has specified specific tracks and topics that prospective speakers must adhere to in order to increase their chances of being accepted into the final program. That is not to say that other subjects will not be embraced, but the majority of presentations will focus on these predetermined topics.

Presentations go through a number of review steps. The first step involves the submission of an abstract by the intended presenter, which is then reviewed by the Conference Program Committee, whose primary purpose is not to evaluate the detailed technical content of the proposed presentation, but instead to weigh up the factors as described above, i.e., appropriateness to overall Conference theme, its qualities/uniqueness, a balance of subjects and companies represented, the overall program, etc. The abstract is then either accepted for oral presentation at the Conference or rejected. Such is the popularity of the annual Conference that is not unusual to have several hundred abstracts rejected each year. The possible reasons for rejection are outlined below (not all factors will relate to all submissions):

  1. There was a very high volume of abstracts submitted
  2. Some abstracts did not sufficiently address the Conference theme (or stated subtopics), which is Humanizing High Density—People, Nature & the Urban Realm
  3. The particular field/topic of some abstracts was over-subscribed, with many submissions on a similar theme
  4. The particular field/topic of some abstracts was under-subscribed, with not enough submissions to constitute a meaningful session
  5. Numerous abstracts from within the same company were received and, in the interest of fairness to all CTBUH members, the number of presentations from any one company needed to be limited
  6. The author of the abstract spoke at another CTBUH Conference recently
  7. The author of the abstract has presented a similar topic at another CTBUH Conference recently
  8. The submitter was not a CTBUH member at either the organizational or individual level
  9. Some abstracts were received after the 31 January submission deadline

The abstracts accepted for oral presentation are then reviewed in detail, for technical content and accuracy, by the CTBUH International Expert Peer Review Committee. This is a committee of approximately 40 individuals, drawn from the CTBUH membership, who represent all disciplines and backgrounds. The peer review committee either accepts the presentation with suggested minor or major amendments, with these comments communicated back to the author for amendment or, in some cases, the presentation content is not considered appropriate for inclusion in the Conference and the author informed accordingly.