The Academy of Management is the world’s largest community of management scholars and is comprised of nearly 20,000 members representing over 120 countries. Each year, the Academy convenes its Annual Meeting at a destination which can support the influx of thousands of conference-goers and the programme runs for five (very full) consecutive days. This year marked the 80th Annual Meeting and was originally planned to take place in Vancouver, Canada, which was the host to a very successful meeting in 2015.
As the signature event of the year for the Academy and management scholar members, what was really notable with this year’s Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management was that it was entirely virtual! Thanks to the Academy’s innovative response to the global pandemic constraints, the Annual Meeting, a mainstay in our academic agendas, avoided cancellation and proceeded in a way which ensured the safety for all conference participants. This was achieved through rapidly pivoting from an in-person, face-to-face conference plan to a first ever, fully virtual Annual Meeting. No small task considering the programme involved 1,500+ sessions!
It was an opportunity to level the playing field and be more inclusive by reaching attendees who were able to participate from anywhere through a mobile device
Jackie Coyle-Shapiro, Professor of Organisational Behaviour and President of the Academy of Management
Over recent months, this year’s President of the Academy, LSE’s own Jackie Coyle-Shapiro, Professor of Organisational Behaviour, led the Academy and its leadership’s consideration of options to proceed with a meeting virtually, in lieu of the planned Vancouver programme. Under the unique challenges of the pandemic, the Academy’s leadership and staff delivered a historic first; a virtual conference with more than 7,200 attendees, representing 88 countries globally! The result? A resounding success!
“With the decision taken on the 7 May 2020 to hold the Annual Meeting of the Academy of Management virtually, it was a sprint to the finish line and an extraordinary effort on part of all the volunteers to put together a ground-breaking 2020 conference,” said Jackie. “It was an opportunity to level the playing field and be more inclusive by reaching attendees who were able to participate from anywhere through a mobile device. For me personally, it was a wonderful opportunity to participate in sessions that I would not otherwise have done, and it was an educational experience!”
165,000 individual session attendances were logged in the online conference agendas of participants
Participants registered and attended in huge numbers, with some commenting in the discussion chats online that the pivot to online offered them even greater value through ease of access to the Annual Meeting programme than they had experienced in previous years. “For a virtual conference when no one really knew how this would play out and work, as it was our first, it was rather seamless and could be a way forward for the future that would be more inclusive and would involve more people,” said Jonathan Booth, Associate Professor of Organisational Behaviour and Human Resource Management at LSE. “The session that I co-led was very interactive and generated a lot of questions and conversation, and I thought that this method of conference delivery can really work. Although running virtual sessions requires some forethought.”
The vast range of events across the five day programme were offered in a highly interactive multi-media platform, in a mix of live, mock live, synchronous and asynchronous sessions, all of which had supporting materials available including papers, narrated presentations, videos, polls, discussion chats, and ways to connect with both the content in our field of study and the people in our networks. “The most wonderful feature of this virtual conference was you could listen, read or download authors’ presentations and papers. This meant you could understand others’ work more freely and in detail. It also carried great benefits considering there were more than 1,500+ sessions such that all participants could join even they were in 88 countries globally,” said Haiyang Liu, Assistant Professor of Management at LSE.
To avoid career disruptions related to recruitment delays which many organisations are experiencing today, the Academy included the annual recruitment events and provided functionality for university recruitment and job conversations to proceed virtually.
Once again, LSE faculty contributed to this year’s Academy conference programme. You can view the conference agenda to see where Department of Management faculty and students presented.
This year’s annual meeting saw tremendous attendance and participation. Here is a snapshot of the magnitude of activity which the Annual Meeting entailed:
Overall, the 2020 Meeting of the Academy was a resounding success! Notably, this year’s meeting offered even greater value to participants by its virtual and travel-free access, by including the Teaching and Learning Conference within the meeting registration fee, and by extending access to the Annual Meeting website until 31 October 2020. “An upside of the virtual format was that it allowed for some really interesting breakout group discussions as part of larger sessions, in a way that was as good or better than in person,” said Shasa Dobrow, Assistant Professor of Management. “Moreover, with everyone emerging from lockdown in their respective locations, the ability to be together – virtually – was a truly powerful opportunity to feel connected.”
If you missed any of the programme, it’s not too late to sign in and listen, read or download author presentations and papers. Members are already looking forward to seeing what formats the Academy offers for the Annual Meeting in 2021, planned for Philadelphia. No doubt there will be great potential to maintain some of the innovative elements of this year’s programme’s many online extras, which were developed to make the shift to a first ever fully virtual programme.