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Organizing virtual academic meetings in the wake of COVID-19

COVID-19 has forced academia to rethink the ways we work and connect with peers across the world. So, what are the best formats and approaches to virtual academic meetings that keep the research – as well as the interpersonal connections – going? The Center for Sports and Business at the Stockholm School of Economics has some insights to share.

Academic conferences, symposiums and workshops are essential features of how researchers connect with one another and together develop and improve each other’s research. Just as many other sectors of society, COVID-19 has forced academia to rethink the ways in which these kinds of meetings take place.

In mid-April, researchers at the Center for Sports and Business at the Stockholm School of Economics together with colleagues from Imperial College London and Rennes School of Business planned to organize a workshop in Stockholm with international researchers from different part of the world.

”In November last year, we invited our international colleagues to submit their work to our two-day workshop on ’Leveraging sports contexts to advance management research’ in Stockholm. At that time, we could not have envisioned what would unfold in the following months,” says Martin Carlsson-Wall, Associate Professor at the Department of Accounting and Director for the Center for Sports and Business.

"Virtual workshops will become a permanent feature"

After discussing whether to postpone the workshop or canceling it altogether, the organizing committee decided to try to organize it virtually instead.

”Organizing virtual workshops comes with a lot of new challenges. How do you create interactivity between participants and how do you deal with participants joining in from a lot of different time zones around the world? These are some of the many questions that we needed to deal with during the planning of the virtual workshop,” continues Martin Carlsson-Wall.

The virtual workshop was organized via Zoom on April 17, 2020. The workshop attracted around 50 participants from different universities around the world, from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ESMT Berlin to Hong Kong University of Science and Technology. The workshop created numerous insights into what kind of formats that works virtually as well as how the future of academic meetings might look like. 

”We believe that virtual workshops will become a permanent feature in how we interact as researchers post COVID-19. When it comes to emerging and critical topics, virtual workshops are easy to organize quickly. They cost considerably less than physical conferences, which means that they make it possible for us to meet our international colleagues more frequently to discuss our different research projects”, concludes Christofer Laurell, Docent at the Center for Sports and Business.

The video below shows some key lessons related to how virtual academic meetings can be successfully organized. 

For more information, please contact: 

Martin Carlsson-Wall 
Associate Professor at the Department of Accounting
Director of the Center for Sports and Business
Email: martin.carlsson-wall@hhs.se
Phone: +46 730 440 900

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