The AILA Congress of Applied Linguistics takes place every three years. It is the largest meeting platform for applied language research and brings together around 2,000 people. For six days, the latest insights in the field of applied linguistics are shared and explored. The congress location changes each time in order to underline the international character of AILA. To host the congress in the Netherlands, Groningen Congres Bureau, now Congress by design, prepared and won the bidding process in 2017, so that the congress could be held in Groningen in 2021.
Unlike previous editions, we proposed to organise the congress with separate symposia, with some 250 symposium organisers being co-responsible for their Call for Papers, the programme and the chairmanship. This worked out well and ensured a high level of commitment from the many speakers and stakeholders. Originally, the AILA Congress was supposed to take place in 2020 as a live event. Due to the pandemic it was postponed to 2021, ultimately taking place entirely online. In order to let the participants see and experience the city of Groningen and the host country, we filmed the AILA committee giving their introductory talk while they were walking through the city.
AILA 2021 was the first online congress for this association. The number of participants exceeded expectations, and it emerged from the evaluation as a valuable platform for knowledge-sharing. The new congress format with more ownership of the various speakers has certainly contributed to this. The lower entrance fee for researchers from developing countries also lowered the threshold and contributed to new forms of communication in a changing world. The next AILA congress will take place in Lyon in 2023 as a hybrid conference, drawing on the experiences and insights of this online congress.