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CASE HISTORY: Managing expectations: Euram in Reykjavik

It was a blast!” That was the effusive summary of the EURAM conference, held at the University of Iceland, in Reykjavik, from its Icelandic-born conference chair Eythor Ivar Jonsson. He was not only full of pride and praise for the hosts, but also heaped gratitude on his audience.

“Thank you for your papers and your presentations. Thank you for reviewing papers and commenting on presentations. Thank you for participating in the dialogue for research and action. Thank you for enjoying the experience and having fun. And, for the woman who decided to bite one of the whales at the Whale Museum at the gala dinner, thank you for not eating the whole whale!”

“Iceland was picked only after some hesitation, due to potentially high travel and accommodation costs,” said immediate past EURAM president Sibel Yamak, professor of Management at Wolverhampton University, England.

“However, it was also a very interesting offer for EURAM that had never organised a conference in Iceland before. We were also very much impressed by the enthusiasm of the team and the support they had from both the university and government.”

EURAM is a learned society founded in 2001. With members from 49 countries, it aims to advance the academic discipline of management in Europe. Organiser DEKON, based in Istanbul, Turkey, has been running the European Academy of Management’s annual meeting since 2013.

“Iceland was a premier destination for us,” revealed Michael Kern, the organiser‘s executive director. “And the number of attendees turned out excellently, far more than expected.”


The choice of organiser was a wise one.

“The logistics of a conference with more than 1,000 participants are complex and demanding,” declared Yamak. “About five years ago EURAM decided to focus on the academic dimension of the conference and DEKON was chosen to take care of the logistics. Since then it has been supporting EURAM annual conferences with its excellent competence and impressive experience.”

EURAM is a paper-based gathering, and in Iceland there were around 2,000 submissions and more than 1,700 participants. “Each submission was reviewed by at least two reviewers which meant a huge collaboration between the organising team, executive officer, Strategic Interest Groups and volunteer reviewers,” explained Yamak. Accepted papers were presented in 293 sessions.

There were also plenary sessions with keynote speakers, SIG plenaries and social events.

Mehmet Eldegez, director of Congress for DEKON, was responsible for handling all registration, logistics and operations at the University and was also the paper submission software provider.

“We began by organising the EURAM Annual conference in 2013 in Istanbul,” he explained. “After this we were appointed as the Core PCO starting from 2015. Up to now, we have organised EURAM in Istanbul, Warsaw, Paris, Glasgow and now Reykjavik.

“We will be organising EURAM 2019 in Lisbon, Portugal and the year after that in Dublin, Ireland.

“We have been in the PCO business for almost 30 years now, so we think we know how to run conferences pretty well. Of course every client is different, with its own special way of doing things.”

The special challenge this year was to co-ordinate seven slots with around 45-50 sessions in each slot, running in parallel. Consequently a large number of rooms were needed – and promptly found – at the University of Iceland. “Even with such facilities available, it needed very meticulous planning to avoid any clashes on topics and presenters,” Eldegez recalled.

“Luckily we had no volcano eruptions,” he quipped, “Just two days of rain!”
For Sibel Yamak, paper screening was nerve-wracking. “The requirement of screening approximately 2,000 submissions in terms of compliance to the rules in a very short period of time necessitated the collaboration of the local organising committee and EURAM executive officer with a large number of PhD students.”

DEKON Congress & Tourism usually relies on a local service provider, such as an INCON partner or fellow IAPCO member for on-site help, but in the absence of either in Reykjavik chose a company suggested by the Iceland CVB.

As ever, the highlight of the gathering was the gala dinner.

Staged at the ‘absolutely charming and attractive’ Whale Museum – a very different location for any congress gala – the party finished around one am, but probably nobody noticed since it was still broad daylight outside.

Even when the EURAM gathering had ended, it wasn’t over. Keeping the theme: ‘Research in Action – Accelerating Knowledge Creation in Management’ alive was the continuing aim. “It is not just a theme, it is a movement,” declared Jonsson. Delegates were invited to be part of the movement, which aims to meet bi-annually in Iceland in future.

In fact both country and association seem to have really taken to each other.

“We had the former president of Iceland as a keynote speaker,” said delighted new EURAM president Thomas Durand. “We also had a stimulating kick off panel with a combination of academics and practitioners. We had a record-breaking number of participants. We had the Doctoral colloquium. We had very interesting discussions with presidents from academic management societies from other countries/regions.”

And the legacy?

“EURAM came out as a much stronger academic society,” declared the professor. “For each participant, the legacy was the new ideas and projects that stemmed from the conference, helping to expand and develop their research as well as their discovery of Iceland.”

President’s highlight:

“The organising committee coming up with the innovative practice to facilitate networking by creating meeting points in different places in Reykjavik.”

How it’s done?

Every two years a call for expression of interest to organise and host the EURAM conference is launched. Candidates are evaluated by the EURAM executive committee and rated on factors like the capacity and enthusiasm, the relevance of the theme proposed etc. Universities with the highest score are shortlisted. EURAM vice president in charge of conferences, the executive officer and the PCO conduct site visits. Based on their reports, the board makes the final decision.