Career outlook: Professional Congress Organiser

Haaga-Helia has a lot of business cooperation with the event industry. The collaboration is rewarding for both the company itself and the students. Rauna Graulus, an Event Management student from Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus, noticed this when she got to work for the ECTS (European Calcified Tissue Society) Congress.

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Corporate collaboration

In the early spring of 2022, a number of lucky Haaga-Helia students received an exciting opportunity: to volunteer as staff members for the ECTS international congress.

Haaga-Helia constantly ensures that real-life learning opportunities are provided and utilised by students. The Haaga-Helia student event crew represent different backgrounds and degree programmes. Most of the students’ participation in the congress as staff was connected to an event related course that they were currently enrolled in.

Rauna Graulus, the 5th semester Event Management student at Haaga-Helia Porvoo Campus got the opportunity for an internship instead of volunteering. Graulus is aspiring to become a professional congress organiser (PCO), which means that she wants to specialise in planning and executing conferences on behalf of academics, researchers and associations.

During Spring 2022, Graulus did her internship with ECTS, assisting with the organisation of the international congress, in Helsinki and collaborating with Interplan, a German congress management company. With its team of over 100 staff members in Munich, Berlin, Hamburg and Leipzig, Interplan has acquired the status of one of the leading professional congress organisers in Europe as well as in the German-speaking community. They have successfully organised over 3,500 national and international congresses with a focus on medicine and science.

Graulus’ tasks during her internship included congress logistics, communication as well as recruiting and training volunteers for the assisting at the congress.

The organiser of the congress, ECTS is a major European non-for-profit organisation targeted towards researchers and clinicians working in the musculoskeletal field. ECTS holds annual congresses for its community in varying locations around Europe, where more than 1,000 researchers, clinicians, allied healthcare professionals and students participate in educational seminars, modern research presentations and gain valuable networking opportunities. The ECTS annual congress took place in Messukeskus, Helsinki 7.–10.5.2022.

In order to get the volunteering position, you need to be highly skilled

The selection process for the volunteering positions in the ECTS congress was long and rigorous; the positions received over 50 applications and around 30 were selected. Students were selected based on interview performance, positive “can do” attitude, strengths and weaknesses and previous experience. The student volunteers were positioned in various roles, for example welcoming and guiding in the entrance, cloakroom, and congress room assistants. The team was managed by four group leaders: Iida Minkkinen, Sawsan Yas, Reetta Turunen, Reel Abdeldayem and by Rauna Graulus, who supervised the whole student event crew as part of her internship for ECTS .

The main roles of the group leaders, especially Graulus and Abdeldayem, was to deal with the recruitment, interviewing, training and shift scheduling of student volunteers. This pre-congress task started months before the congress and lasted up until the first morning of the congress. During the congress and together with the other team leaders, Graulus and Abdeldayem took the front seat in managing and ensuring that every-day operations concerning the student volunteers went smoothly and efficiently.

– For me as an event student to work with ECTS and Interplan and help organize their regular webinars or yearly PhD trainings, clinical training and annual congress is a huge opportunity to learn about event management and specifically association congresses. The most exciting and best part of the internship was the work for the congress, the trust and freedom they gave me to recruit and be the teamleader for the volunteers on the congress. An extra bonus to this whole experience was making connections and getting to know people from all over Europe, Graulus describes her experience.

Roberta Mugnai, the executive director at ECTS was very pleased with Haaga-Helia student Rauna Gralus:

– It was a pleasure working with Rauna, she was pro-active and brought many good ideas. Keep her close to you, she’s the best, Mugnai states.

The volunteers’ work was very appreciated

Messukeskus’ Congress Manager, Ms Paula Blomster, played a big role in bridging the congress with Helsinki as a congress destination. According to her, it is imperative to firstly sell Finland and Finnish know-how in order to acquire large scale conferences to Finland, which is exactly what she had achieved.

Competition for an international conference is fierce. Every city and every venue wants to host these kind of events that attract the brightest minds and hosts them for many days. It is great business both for the scientific community and for the service providers of the destination. With the ECTS 2022 Congress, Finland was competing against Latvia and Lithuania. The capitals of these two nations boast amazing attractions, such as the largest medieval center in Europe (Vilnius) and breath-taking Art Nouveau districts (Riga). And enjoying these cities costs less than enjoying Helsinki’s charms.

– Our challenge was two-fold: reduce the cost and provide even better service. By partnering with the very capable students of event management of Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences, we eliminated the costs and were able to provide a good learning experience for the students. This support helped us clear the cost hurdle and our quality proved to be a winner. The students, with the enthusiasm of their youth, provided a very professional service level, Blomster states.

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