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Online and hybrid events have become the new norm

World Conferences 25 January 2021

Dr. Verena Burk, FISU Senior Executive Committee Member and Chair of the FISU Education Committee speaks about the FISU World Conference on Innovation – Education – Sport that will take place in Lucerne, Switzerland, in December 2021

FISU Senior Executive Committee Member and Chair of the FISU Education Committee Dr. Verena Burk (picture below) was interviewed by the Union of International Associations (UIA) about the potential changes made to the FISU World Conference, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Excerpts from the interview:

Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the FISU World Conference on Innovation – Education – Sport in Lucerne, Switzerland, will now be held in December 2021. How has this decision affected FISU as an organisation, and the World Conference?

It is important to understand that the FISU World Conference is always hosted during the FISU World University Games. Due to the postponement of the Lucerne 2021 edition of the Winter Games, the World Conference has also been moved to take place in December 2021. For FISU it is a relief to see that the event will take place, and we will now work on the new process and timeline for the different stakeholders.

Will there be any drastic changes made to the Conference next year?  

The main changes will be related to the timeline. While we were close to finalising the lineup of speakers as well as the selection of the papers submitted by scholars from all around the world, we will now have a chance to reopen and give more time for more communications to be proposed. Besides that, the format of the FISU World Conference will remain almost the same.

Would you consider hosting a virtual event?

Last year, FISU hosted its FISU World Forum entirely online, so as an organisation, we are open to those new formats. Nevertheless, since by definition the FISU World Conference is an event that is always hosted during the FISU World University Games, there is little chance to host it digitally, since it depends on the organisation of a major sport event.

If the sport event can take place, the conference can certainly take place. It is only in the scenario that the Games cannot be hosted, that a possible digital version would first have to be discussed within FISU and with the Local Organising Committee of Lucerne 2021. Until now we never had to face such a situation and we deeply hope we will not have to.

Going back to large in-person events will take some time to get used to. Are you concerned this may affect the number of attendees at your Conference?

This is a question we do not have an answer to. The FISU World Conference always attracts a large number of participants from around the world, but we are also noticing more and more local (national) attendance in the recent editions. With the FISU World Conference being hosted in central Switzerland, and so central Europe, we do hope to have many participants from the region and, of course, we sincerely hope that the pandemic will quickly end and that we will be able to welcome all the attendees that would like to take part.

The MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferencing, Exhibitions) industry has been heavily affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. How do you think this will change our industry, and what measures can be taken, in your opinion?

Firstly, I believe that all fields have been impacted and this calls for more adaptability and flexibility for all the stakeholders involved. The development of online and hybrid events has become the new norm and we will have to assess whether this norm will remain temporary or become permanent. A lot of us who are used to organising conferences or other in-person events are used to solving problems, but when the entire world has been hit by the same dramatic shock, it forces us to be humble and to note that we have to keep learning and be open to innovation which is one of the themes of our FISU World Conference.