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The EuRA Conference 2014 - David Jordan reports from Edinburgh

Jul 17, 2014
Like every capital city, Edinburgh has an atmosphere all of its own. As the train pulled in to Waverley station I snatched my first view of the castle, its granite walls clinging to the extinct volcano where it has dominated the skyline for the better part of a thousand years. Edinburgh is truly an historic, enigmatic city, an exciting venue for the 2014 EuRA conference.

From the 9 -11 April 670 delegates from around the globe gathered at the prestigious Sheraton Hotel Edinburgh for the 17th EuRA annual conference


In what has become something of a tradition, the conference began with a series of training sessions covering a variety of relocation related subjects including achieving Excellence in Service Delivery and Talent Mobility.


Later, regular EuRA host Frances Edmonds opened the show in her usual energetic style by leading delegates in a rousing rendition of Auld Lang Syne with spoof lyrics specially written with a EuRA theme. With everyone suitably warmed up CEO Tad Zurlinden accompanied by EuRA’s President Patrick Oman took to the stage to welcome everyone to the conference and present a review of the past year.


Frances introduced Keynote speaker Steve Jones, a Canadian branding and marketing expert who delivered an entertaining, and very noisy presentation, called Brand like a Rockstar in which he showed how the lessons he’d learned during 30 years in the music industry can be applied to a relocation business. Being different from the crowd: taking risks, being consistent and turning up the volume to 11 (exceeding expectations) were some of the examples Steve gave.


With the sound of AC/DC and U2 still buzzing in our ears it was time to change into our glad rags, or this being Edinburgh, kilts and sashes, for the gala dinner.  The venue, The National Museum of Scotland, was superb and after a magnificent steak meal washed down with a glass or two of wine, we were all dazzled by the sudden appearance of a full Scottish military band, complete with busbies, drums and of course bagpipes. It was quite a surprise and made a great finale to a memorable evening.


Perhaps surprisingly, given the night before, there was an excellent turn out for the first morning business session. Dean Foster, President of DFA Intellectual Global Solutions and expert on global culture gave an interesting talk about the 21st century expat and how to meet the challenges of working with and managing global multicultural teams.


Three panel sessions before and after lunch looked at the need to diversify and how new technology is changing the way customers access services. The panellists also discussed how specialisation can help buck the trend for relocation services becoming commoditised, and how by personalising services and marketing USPs, companies can differentiate themselves from the rest.


The conference ended with a closing speech by Sky News’ Chief Foreign Correspondent, Andrew Wilson in which he related stories from his 25 years in the international news business.  His fascinating, heart rendering, sometimes gory tales of reporting from the war-torn regions of the world had the audience clinging to his every word.  His travels, often with his family in tow, made him the perfect speaker to address a conference of people dedicated to international relocation and the wellbeing of expats.


As always, the conference was brilliantly organised and a great pleasure to attend. Next year the EuRA conference moves south to the Portuguese city of Porto on 22-24 April.


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