Nik Claesen, EAS 2019 Chairman shares his thoughts and observations

Nik Claesen, EAS 2019 Chairman shares his thoughts and observations

The 2019 edition of the European Association Summit (EAS) has had the official chairmanship of Nik Claesen, Managing Director of EARMA – the European Association of Research Managers and Administrators.

We asked some questions related to this experience.

How many EAS editions did you attend?

I have attended 3 editions of EAS.

What does make of EAS an appropriate event for associations?

Associations must find a forum to exchange best practices. With so many associations in Brussels, the best venue in Brussels and the support of the association Bureau of Visit Brussels, all the prerequisites are present at EAS to host the great conference it has grown to be. Moreover, the conference is non-commercial in nature allowing the EAS to have the sole focus of being useful to associations. In such an environment, association professionals can learn and network in the ideal environment.

How was your experience as EAS Chair?

My experience as the EAS chair was good due to the great support of the EAS staff, PCO and venue. I found it a great experience and hope to support the event in any way I can in the future. I was particularly happy with the engagement of the delegates within the many breakout sessions and round table sessions. The discussions and moderation was in many cases what we had hoped it to be.

What is your advice as Chairman of a conference committee? What are your wishes for future EAS editions?

I propose a number of things for the future. I find it important to have lighter sessions in the programme which we did partly achieve with some of the sustainability sessions and the closing session. However, I feel more sessions on the life of an association professional and testimonials would complement the more technical, practical, strategy oriented session that we have on the programme. I would look to have 3 parallel sessions running at all times when there is no plenary and thus expand the choices for people. My advice would also be not to change the logistics which were excellent. Moreover, we should keep improving and never be overly satisfied. The core of the summit should remain by associations for associations as has been the creed up to here.

What are your key takeaways of the 2019 edition?

The key takeaways for me are always the new contacts that I have made and a number of important points in legislation or operations/communications that I should keep a close eye on.

Do you have any anecdote related to EAS?

In my opening address I had a call to not answer to many e-mails during the conference but I was guilty myself of skipping a session to answer e-mails.

Where you consider should be the balance between education and networking?

I feel the balance should be determined by the individual delegate and the conference should allow for tailoring of the experience by different parallel sessions. More junior people and/or operational people often value the education part more while other look mostly to the networking. Interactive sessions including networking and more classic ex cathedra sessions should be presented as alternatives where possible to allow for this kind of tailoring of the experience. In any case, long breaks are of great importance to allow for the networking as well as avoiding sit down lunches.

What are your personal tips for a good conference organisation?

The onsite execution of EAS was great but there is room for improvement in the timing and presentation of the programme coupled with the registration process.

What are your suggestions for choosing a city for a conference? (in general; for Brussels I know those from the ambassadors video 😊 )

In order of importance: Price-quality ratio of the main venue, accessibility, engagement of the local actors, incentives, strategic considerations for membership recruitment, proximity to academic organisations or EU institutions, transaction costs in the country, trust in the public administration, fluent communication in English of all actors involved

What are the biggest assets for your association of being based in Brussels?

Proximity to the EU institutions, great accessibility from everywhere and to everywhere (Brussels Airport), proximity to other associations, beautiful multicultural international city.

Which are your biggest personal challenges as General manager of the association?

My biggest challenge as a general management of the association is keeping an organisations with so many activities and people thinking and acting with the same goals in mind. So many people see and contribute to parts of the organisation but can have a difficult time to see the whole picture.

Why it is important to have association staff sent to events such as EAS?

People are motivated and work well when they have a sense of belonging to a community, have the necessary expertise and the sense that they are being invested in and trusted. EAS is a tool to offer all of this to association staff over the course of 2 days. They can connect with others and learn while feeling recognised as part of a larger community. They feel trusted given the freedom to go to the event, network and tailor their own  experience. They know that the associations is investing in them at the same time. EAS is in that sense a grand slam in employee satisfaction and retention.