The international NUAS Communication Conference 2022 (NUASkom) is typically dedicated and organised by an international specialist organisation or a scientific association. NUAS, the Nordic Association of University Administrators, was founded in 1976 and its members include 65 Nordic universities. The purpose of the organisation is to improve administrative university work and to facilitate professional networking.

Aimed at communication professionals, the organisation's NUASkom conference is held in the Nordic countries every two years, and Finland's turn to host it is once in every eight years.  The conference was previously held in Turku in 2004. The pandemic forced the organisers to change the date of the conference twice. 

The NUASkom 2022 conference was organised by Åbo Akademi University and the University of Turku in collaboration with Aboa Congress and Event Services (Aboa).

"We were asked to organise the conference because we received positive feedback on our arrangements for the Viestintäpäivät communication conference in 2019. And we in Turku had no shortage of ambition to begin planning this programme," says Thurid Eriksson, the Communications Manager of Åbo Akademi.

The content of the NUASkom conference is the responsibility of the Nordic organisation's planning group. Their aim is to create a programme that contains topical subjects but also useful and practical content for communication professionals who work at universities and are at different stages in their careers. The discussion in Turku was opened by so-called circus-style lectures, which involved roughly ten separate sessions of a-20 minute introduction followed by a chance to ask questions and discuss the subject. In particular, the topics that emerged in the discussion included crisis communication, promotion of universities' public relations and internationalisation, and how consulting help from communication professionals could support researchers.

NuasKom 2022, Ruissalon Telakka, Ruissalo Boatyard

Networking and the social programme are an important part of the conference

It was exceptionally decided that the social programme of NUASkom 2022 would be available to the guests as soon as they arrived in Turku. Among other activities, the guests could choose to go on a historical walk around the campus area or a medieval tour of Turku Castle. The trip to a Finnish sauna by the sea in Harjattula was also hugely popular. The conference's welcome reception in Åbo Akademi's Arken building, which is built in an old industrial area on Piispankatu, was attended by happy and relaxed participants, who had had the time to shake the dust off their feet after their journey and network with the other participants. 

"We happened to get a sunny evening for the welcome reception," says Thurid Eriksson, looking pleased. 

"We had a stage built on the yard, and KDC Dance Studio's lively and modern dance performance Street Festival really fit the relaxed mood. If the weather had been bad, we would, of course, have been prepared to move inside to Kårkafé Arken, but now we even managed to open the bar on our idyllic inner courtyard."

The actual conference took place in the well-lit Natura and Agora buildings of the University of Turku. The schedules of entrance examinations caused the organisers some trouble, but the issues were solved with the help of the Facility Services.

"When reserving facilities in the beginning of June, you need to always keep in mind that the university's entrance examinations are held at the same time," reminds Mari Ratia, Thurid Eriksson's coordinating partner and translator for the University Communications of the University of Turku.

"The largest lecture room in Turku is located in Natura, and we originally prepared for roughly 300 participants by also reserving four other large lecture rooms and several small rooms for seminars and workshops. Unica's Galilei restaurant, conveniently located in the same building, provided us with delicious catering for our lunch and coffee breaks," says Mari Ratia.

The conference's evening ceremony was organised as a sit-down meal with table service in Åbo Båtvarf's Lindblom Hall in Ruissalo. The ferry trip planned for the journey, set to begin from the bank of the Aura River, was cancelled because of rainy weather, and the mode of transportation was changed into a bus ride. The evening's spectacular programme was provided by Åbo Akademi University's student choir Brahe Djäknar, which was established in 1937.

"The tradition of singing at academic celebrations met with much admiration, and the hum of conversation that followed the performance was quite something," says Thurid Eriksson with a laugh.

"We spent the rest of the night enjoying the music of Apollo Orchestra, and the Instagram competition on the conference's social media was also wildly popular. Many participants took fun photographs at the Instagram booth," Mari Ratia recalls with satisfaction.

NUASkom 2022, Thurid Eriksson, Mari Ratia

Event sector professionals were a big help for the success of the conference

Thurid Eriksson wants to give special thanks to the employees of Aboa Congress and Event Services for their expertise and flexibility in organising the conference.

"We had to change the date of the conference and all its bookings two times because of the pandemic. I have organised numerous events and know how much effort it takes to organise a conference in addition to your other work. Among other tasks, Aboa's professionals were in charge of producing the conference's website, conference registration, communications with the participants, as well as financial administration. Aboa also impeccably took care of the dinner arrangements, social programme plans and practical arrangements, which was a great help to us."

"We also received much praise for the colourful delegate bags provided by the City of Turku and the Convention Bureau of Visit Turku." The tote bags are sewn at the city's Employment Services Centre, Työpiste, and they are made of surplus textiles. "It was important to us that the idea was sustainable," says Thurid Eriksson.

Thurid Eriksson and Mari Ratia are happy with how the NUASkom conference arrangements succeeded and how much positive feedback the event has received. When they think about the future and subsequent conferences, one challenge rises clearly above the others.

"The air services in Turku haven't yet recovered to what they were before the pandemic, and SAS cancelled hundreds of flights right before the conference, so the air routes were very challenging to use," reflects Thurid Eriksson.

"We expected 300 participants and ended up with 180 delegates, 115 of which came from Sweden, Norway, Denmark or Iceland. However, it's hard to judge how the air routes affected the final number of participants: this was the first live conference after the beginning of the pandemic.

Text: Sari Ruusumo
Photos: Mika Okko