Photo Credit: Natascha Ringerthaler/Salzburg Convention Bureau

For 55 years the Austrian Society for Labor Law and Social Law has held its annual scientific conference in Zell am See in the Salzburg region. But in 2020 everything will be different.

55 years is a long time. This is how long the Austrian Society for Labour Law and Social Law has held its annual scientific conference in Zell am See in the state of Salzburg.

“Networking plays a big role; the participants meet in the evening and in between events. There is a lot of discussion regarding professional, but also personal topics.”

Digital conference as an alternative?

The traditional date in March/April could not be kept this year due to the lockdown. What to do?

Alternative concepts were discussed by the board of the Austrian Society for Labour Law and Social Law: “We thought about a virtual version but rejected the idea relatively quickly. When done in person and without recording it, people speak freely and sometimes make an off-the-cuff remark. 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,” says Univ. Prof. Dr. Rudolf Mosler.

So, the decision was made in favour of postponing the conference to 1-2 October 2020. How did our partners on the ground react? “The shift to October was completely unproblematic for 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 a satisfied Prof. Mosler.

Necessary adjustments and hygiene concept

Prof. Mosler and his team had to adapt many aspects of the conference without changing the character of the event too much: “The biggest challenge is to do everything possible to prevent a cluster from occurring due to the event. I am, therefore, glad that we received a sophisticated hygiene concept. We will also somewhat restrict the activities around the conference.”

“We will go through the entire program on one day without a break – the Salzburg Festival inspired me in this regard – which, by the way, was organized very professionally. The participants must wear masks while walking and can take them off once they arrive at their seat. We must also ensure that this is implemented consistently. The fact that we have fewer participants this year is somewhat helpful in that regard.”

Even the evening program must be 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,” explains Prof. Mosler.

Photo Credit: Natascha Ringerthaler/Salzburg Convention Bureau

Classic conferences in the real world – a discontinued model?

Many business events – and business meetings in general – are currently being pushed into the virtual world or are being held in a hybrid manner, i.e. as an in-person event with a digital component.

This will have a lasting impact on the conference sector. Even the Austrian Society for Labour Law and Social Law has considered what these developments could mean strategically for its conferences.

“Regardless of Corona, we have talked to the board about whether large conferences have a future at all. To our surprise, we have had a record number of participants every year in recent years. The more technical it is, the more the participants feel the need to attend a conference once a year – perhaps precisely because so much is already done via digital media,” says Prof. Mosler.

“You will no longer fly to New York for a two-hour meeting. This ecological nonsense is being massively rejected. From a social and economic point of view, this is wise in the long run,” he adds.