EARMA Conference Oslo


What to expect when organising a conference?

Experience gathered over years of conference organisation


EARMA Conference Oslo

Format: Fifteen-Minute Discussion Tables

Topic: EARMA and professional associations


EARMA organises a professional conference every year and the main actor on the substance of the conference is the Annual Conference Programme Committee (ACPC). Both Zuolo and Maunula have been long standing members of this committee and have years of experience in organising international and national live and digital conferences. Maunula is the current Chair of the ACPC. The Annual Conference aims at bringing together the most relevant and informative speakers in research management and administration, sharing their knowledge with the largest community of Research Managers and Administrators (RMAs) in Europe. Over the last years, we have gathered close to 1,000 people in different locations and close to 700 people fully online in 2021.

Each year, the members of the ACPC work on the programme and the overall organisation of the conference, assisted by the EARMA office and Board as well as by an events organiser. Through collecting extensive feedback from the delegates, we learn to avoid some pitfalls and better the conference each year. These aspects are improved in different ways, but sometimes boosting networking leaves less place to enhance quality and vice versa. For example, a larger conference with a big and diversified audience leaves less place to interactivity or makes it more complex to handle.

In this session, both Zuolo and Maunula will introduce two examples of issues any conference organiser will have to solve. We will open up how these conflicts were mitigated and solved in the ACPC and what were the aspects taken into consideration while making these decisions. The limiting issues are for example the budget, time slots available, content of the abstracts received, venue limitations and (RMA) community expectations, to name a few. We will also introduce some of the feedback from hundreds of RMAs that have attended EARMA conference since 2017 to 2019. This will unveil who EARMA delegates are, what we appreciate in presentations and why we attend these conferences.

We are aiming to share, but also learn from the attendees in this session. After each case, we will open the floor for views from the audience. The conference is about sharing our practices and our views about our job because this helps our community in everyday work and learning. RMAs like any other professional want to belong to a professional community. Sometimes this is not possible at local or national level. Therefore, inclusion and targeted content as well as networking possibilities are essential.

We will discuss issues like: 1) How to keep a balance and the right mix of content between operational and strategic level in the programme? 2) How to keep old EARMA members and senior RMAs interested and, at the same time, involve less experienced RMAs? 3) How to measure the quality and decide the formats with information based on very short abstracts? 4) How to take into account gender, diversity as well as geographical representation of speakers?

Overall, how to make the conference an experience offering the best quality, interactivity, variety and networking for all.