Why virtual was never an option for Austria’s Labour Law Conference

For 55 years, the Austrian Society for Labour Law and Social Law has held its annual conference in Salzburg and this year proved no different.

On 1-2 October, the Society held the conference at the Ferry Porsche Congress Centre. “Everything was already prepared, from the hygiene concept to the registration with the district commission. It was highly professional,” said Society president, Prof. Dr. Rudolf Mosler.

Rudolf Mosler

The decision was made to postpone the conference from April until October and a focus was put on ensuring it would be a live event because “when done in person and without recording it, people speak freely and sometimes make an off-the-cuff remark,” explained Mosler.

“This does a lot to enliven a scientific conference. An online event would be a different format that does not suit us. Even the speakers would not have been happy with this.”

Although the decision to host a live event was unanimous, the Society knew it would be different from the previous 55 years with stricter safety procedures.

The main worry for organisers was the risk that clusters of people would form during the event. To reduce this risk, some activities were restricted at the conference. Delegates were also required to wear masks while walking around.

This year’s conference saw a reduced number of delegates from an average of 500 to 400. This, Mosler added, helped enforce safety protocol.

The evening program was also adjusted to the framework of the hygiene concept. “We moved the dinner with the board and speakers to another restaurant so that we could better keep our distance,” added Mosler.

 Mosler added that event planners in this “Corona year” should be prepared for cancellations.

“In times like these, you always have to anticipate the risk that participants will cancel at short notice. For us, a short-term cancellation is not much worse than if we had cancelled the conference half a year ago. The possibility that we could hold the conference again – albeit somewhat differently than usual – was much more important to us than to cancel it immediately. We accept the risk. When in doubt, I believe we should try.”