Guidelines for EMAG – European Mensa Annual Gathering (2012)

These guidelines are outdated. If you are interested in hosting an EMAG, please visit, the official website of the EMAG panel.



EMAG Guidelines (2012)

Prepared by Björn Liljeqvist, Director of Smaller National Mensas, 19th of August 2012.

This document outlines the basic characteristics of an EMAG, including the process for selecting a host country. Compiled in august 2012, after the completion of the fifth EMAG (in Stockholm).

EMAG is a meeting hosted once yearly in the summer, when most Europeans are on vacation. Traditionally the first or second weekend in August. It is entirely self-funded, in the sense that Mensa International does not contribute financially.

EMAG Panel

The EMAG Panel consists of representatives of current and past EMAG organisers. Potential future organisers are also invited to benefit from the discussions. The panel is, formally speaking, an ad hoc-committee chaired by the Director of Smaller National Mensas as the ExComm liaison.
The purpose of the EMAG Panel is to ensure continuity and exchange of information and experience between past and future organisers. This is done through two or three yearly teleconferences, as well as through e-mail.

Selection of host group

The host group (a European National Mensa, but not necessarily a Full National Mensa) shall be selected at least two years in advance, as this is the minimum time needed to prepare for a meeting this size. To the extent possible, the EMAG host group will be selected through a consensus decision among the candidates and the Panel. This means that potential hosts do not need to have a fully prepared bid complete with details before expressing their interest. It is enough to demonstrate an interest and an understanding of what sort of undertaking an EMAG is. This includes the ability to assemble a core team of volunteers no less than a dozen of trustworthy people. The importance of having been present at least once at a previous EMAG cannot be stressed too much.
If there is more than one country willing to host a particular year, it should be possible to agree upon a schedule where each group gets the opportunity a certain year. This method has worked well so far. If a consensus cannot be reached, a simple majority vote among the EMAG panelists will decide. (Note that the selection process for IBD meeting is different in this respect, given the shorter notice and their different character.)

Typical elements of an EMAG

In the spirit of EMAG, each country shall have great liberty in deciding the details, how they want to do their EMAG. However, as the years go by, a tradition is being built up where people will come to expect certain things every year. The organisers should at least be aware of these traditions, when making their plans. A good start is to look at the programs of past meetings, PDFs are available.

  • The comfort of people who do not speak the language of the country should be made a priority, hence the official language of the meeting should be English.
  • One single main venue (such as a hotel or conference center) where lectures, games and workshops are held.
  • The host location should be a city that is easy to get to from most parts of Europe. Otherwise, not many people will come.
  • A website with the program, practical information and registration with payment.
  • A four day meeting, typically starting Wednesday night and finishing on a Sunday.
  • There should be a recommended set of accommodations: Hotels, hostels and sites covering a wide range of budgets. Attendants usually book their own rooms though.
  • An Icebreaker on Wednesday; a Gala Dinner on Saturday and a Farewell Brunch on Sunday. Icebreaker = Cocktail party or other common activity, speeches etc; Gala Dinner = Sitting dinner; Farewell Brunch = relaxed, non-formal. A strict dresscode is never enforced at Mensa dinners, but many people like to dress up on occasion.
  • A combination of lectures on a variety of topics: Science, culture, Mensa-specific themes etc. Speakers can be Mensans or non-Mensans, but usually it is no problem to find volunteers among the European members.
  • Tours and excursions to places in and around the host city.
  • A fee that covers a basic selection of activities, e.g. all lectures.
  • Name badges indicating country.
  • The EMAG logo (”jigsaw puzzle map”). Note that while these are not requirements, strong deviations from the expected norm should be carefully considered.

Getting people to come

The website needs to be up and running as early as possible, even if it is not complete. Advertise in the Mensa International Journal, create a facebook group for the event and make sure to have a presentation at the EMAG the year before you.

EMAG as a PR opportunity

”The city of <insert name> becomes the Intelligence Capital of Europe.” Contact news agencies, TV and press in your country and inform them about the EMAG. It is usually a great PR opportunity that will generate a lot of interest.

Useful information for organisers

The following are comments from 2012 organiser Monika Orski.

+ = Good things that were done.
- = Things that where not done but should have.

+ You need at least 1,5 year to prepare for an EMAG.
+ The venue has to be set at least a year in advance.
+ It is good to have accomodation recommendations set at least a year in advance.
- A website should be up and running at least a year in advance.
+ A solution for credit card payments needs to be agreed upon at least a year in advance. (PayPal is not a good option - they are expensive and they will hold on to your money until long after the event.)
+ Include two occasions when more or less everybody is present: The icebreaker and the Saturday night diner. (We had complaints about including the dinner before the event, but once there everyone seemed to like the idea.)
- A template for what you need to set to create an event outside the main venue should be agreed upon early. (We didn't understand that, and generated more work than needed for our reception and tour-herding volunteers.) The template should contain start time from the main venue (if you plan to orginize groups going together), start time on the event site, end time on the site and if you follow the group back to the venue, name of the person who made the booking, name of the volunteer who leads the group to and from the site (might be added when you plan the herding), and of course the event description and price. We did not understand this need when we should have, which generated some confusion regarding the starting times in the program, and quite a lot of extra work for our group herding coordinators. In some instances we even had situations where no EMAG team contact was present on a tour, and tour problems had to be solved by a sometimes rather complicated chain of phone calls.
+ You need a treasurer / economy officer to take of the EMAG finances. It's too much work to place with your regular economy officer, and should not be part of the coordinators job. (I'm very happy to have found someone whom I knew would tell me "no, you can't, that's too expensive" when needed.)
+ The reception, event herders and event tickets should be handled together, but this is too much work for one person. (We were lucky to have a mensan couple take care of this important set of tasks.)
- Reception work had been easier if we had thought to print or download easily searchable lists of payments received. (We ended up accepting peoples word that they payed tickets in advance although we didn't see it in our ticket system, as it would have been to much work to check this on site. I'm sure they all said so in good faith, but the payment may not have come through.)
+ Calculate an average registration price to cover the venue costs, printing costs and costs of meals included. Our experiment with different registration fees for early bird registration, regular fee and late registration turned out very well, with approximately the distribution we expected: 2/5 early bird, 2/5 regular, 1/5 late.

Coordinator's lessons learned:

* You always need more volunteers. But make sure you start by giving new volunteers small tasks, then see if they actually perform them.
* Do not plan to do anything other than the coordination yourself. You will be everyone's backup and have tons of work without taking on specific assignments.
* Set deadlines. I made the mistake of believing some tasks would eventually be done by volunteers postponing these tasks, and ended up doing it myself because I had no time to find a new volunteer.
* Try and ask mensans you already know and trust to take on key responsibilities, such as finances, reception and event herding coordination, and web site development.
* Get a co-pilot. While I had a wonderful core team, there was no one to be my ready backup. You need one.
* You will be able to find (or draft) volunteers for small tasks at the event itself. Eg, you do not need to have a set of volunteers pre-booked to help refurnish a meeting room, just ask those already in the room.

Minor lessons:

* Only one name field on the registration form seems to have confused some participants. Instead, put in a set of 3 fields: first name, family name and name as you want it printed on the badge.
* Asking for diet preferences on the registration form was a very good idea, but then you need to put participants' names on the special diet plates. We had problems with other participants steeling the vegetarians' food.
* If you go for a lower children's price (as we did), you need to set an explicit age limit. Some participants registered guests well into their twenties as ”children”.