5 things the global comms conference taught me…

Post by Advita Patel

Wednesday 10 July 2019

Late last year, I decided to take quite a big step in my professional development and bought a ticket to one of the biggest communication conferences in the world – the International Association of Business Communicators World Conference, which took place in Vancouver last month.

This wasn’t a sudden splurge. I’d been planning to attend for a number of years and even though I’d researched thoroughly, I was worried that I may have made the wrong decision. Thankfully I had absolutely nothing to worry about. The IABC World Conference was one of the best I’ve attended in a long time. Not only were the workshops brilliant, but the people were fabulous and I connected with so many international comms pros.

5 things the global comms conference taught me

I’m still buzzing from the conference and took away so much that it’s been really hard to narrow down some key takeaways. Hopefully my points below will give you a flavour of all the rich discussions that happened over the three days:

“If the rate of change outside of your business is faster than the rate of change inside…you are becoming less relevant!”

  1. Video is king. This was according to the first keynote speaker, award winning journalist Soledad O’Brien. She spoke about the state of the media – trust and global free pass. Soledad explained that with today’s media, journalists believe people ‘bump’ into news rather than seek it out – hence the growth of clickbait and fake news. This perception is incorrect, in fact three thirds of the audience actually look for news and don’t ‘bump’ into it, which is why communicators need to be smarter about the way we share our stories. She also spoke about driving trust inside an organisation by being authentic as employees will not forgive lies, no matter how difficult the message is to communicate. The final part of her presentation was about making a story ‘stick’ and the power of video and the impact it can have when used well. I wrote about it in more detail on my LinkedIn page
  2. AI in IC. This area really fascinates me but I’ve really struggled to find some good research, so I was delighted that Adrian Cropley from Cropley Communication hosted an AI workshop. He went through some inaugural research undertaken with comms professionals from across 25 countries, which was interesting. The survey quite clearly demonstrated that more than half the respondents felt IC was not ready for AI and more than two thirds are not using AI. It did make me question whether we are at risk at falling behind the rest of the world? They are now currently in the process of doing the second survey where they will be looking to develop a framework. You can download the full report from the Cropley Communication website
  3. Podcasting is the new email. I’ve lost count of the number of IC podcasts that have been released this year but I genuinely love listening to them. I’ve been looking into bringing podcasts into organisations so I was really interested in this workshop which was led by Brent Bowen from Sparkcade Marketing. Brent shared some great tips but the one that stuck with me, was to make sure you kept your podcast around the average commuting time, which in the UK is 45 minutes. He also spoke about how podcasting can help enhance your brand and how you can repurpose the content for other channels such as blogs and magazine articles. I don’t know many orgs that have a podcast for employees but I do think it’s definitely worth investigating, especially if you have a remote workforce
  4. Avoid the Third Space. I couldn’t go all the way to Vancouver and not attend Jenni Field’s (who wrote for the IC Space back in April) presentation on remote workers based on research she undertook with Benjamin Ellis. The report is full of fantastic insights and I highly recommend a read if you haven’t done so. But I was totally fascinated by the Third Space concept she shared. This is space that isn’t home or work but a space where people connect – think community centre. Apparently staff areas are counted as third spaces which is why things like digital screens don’t work in some organisations. In case you’d like to read more, I wrote a wider piece about this on my LinkedIn page
  5. Grow faster than yesterday. The best keynote speaker for me has to be Peter Sheahan, CEO of Karrikins. His presentation blew me away and I couldn’t absorb quick enough. I didn’t even take notes as I was worried I’d miss something. The line that got me hooked was: “If the rate of change outside of your business is faster than the rate of change inside…you are becoming less relevant!” His whole presentation was thought-provoking. He said that companies will only grow commercially, where leaders grow personally, which I couldn’t agree with more. As Internal Communicators I really believe we can support this and help our leaders grow in their role, as we are lucky to hold some privileged information about our organisations

I have another 100 points I could write about the conference right now… Instead, I’ll be sharing them slowly in my blog over the next few months. I loved the whole experience, so much so, that I’m booking onto next year, which’ll be in Chicago – who’s going to join me?

I hope this gives you a little glimpse of some of the interesting discussions held. If you want to find out more please get in touch, you can find me on Twitter or LinkedIn.

What’s next?

I’m now in the process to see how I can bring some of Vancouver’s good practice to Birmingham when we host our #ChangingTheConvo conference. There’s a special discount for public sector employees and you can also save a further 10% by using the code CIPR10 – hope to see you there!


About the author

Advita has worked within internal communications for the past 14 years in various industries including Healthcare, Education and Transport. In late 2017 she took the decision to leave permanent employment to head up comms on a project within the nuclear industry and to start work on her own consultancy, CommsRebel. Advita has a wealth of experience within the IC sector and specialises in areas such as Employee Engagement, Change and Transformational comms, particularly in large organisations with a remote workforce.

Advita is the Chair for the CIPR Inside committee and she was also named on the Northern Power Future List for her contribution to the work she has done within communications in 2018. She’s passionate about helping people and organisations be the best they possibly can be and as a trained coach/mentor she often mentors people who need some support in their career. She regularly shares her insights, thoughts and musings on her blog commsrebel.com or you can catch her on Twitter @advita_p.