Patrick Armstrong, IABC NSW Board Director, attended his first World Conference this year in Montreal. He reflects on the experience.
There is an incredible atmosphere when you get 1,300 business communicators from around the world together in one room. It’s a sense of being among your tribe, with a collective interest, and communication in overdrive.
This was my first IABC World Conference and I couldn’t have picked a better year. Montreal 2018 was the most well-attended conference since New York in 2013.
In this unique bi-lingual city of French and English, it felt like the whole global communications community was in town.
Throughout the four days, conversations flowed with communicators from Jamaica, Japan, US, Hong Kong, UK, Belgium, South Africa and New Zealand to name just a few. The Australian contingent was strong, with nearly 30 representatives including two Board colleagues from IABC NSW.
Delegates had the opportunity to meet directors from our International Executive Board and network with IABC leaders and members from across the globe. A highlight was getting to know the team at IABC Montreal and experience their generous hospitality as they showcased their beautiful host city.
The conference combines international keynote speakers, presentations from practitioners from around the world and interactive workshops. It’s a case of ‘choose your own adventure’ across internal and external communications; corporate affairs; digital; video; crisis management; and IABC Gold Quill winning case studies, among others.
Being involved in Internal Communications in my current role, I walked away from the conference with practical knowledge in my specific field, including the tools I need to build the business case for a new mobile intranet in my workplace.
However, I took the view that World Conference is an opportunity to stretch my knowledge. This resulted in being part of one of the most interesting sessions I attended; a two-hour crisis management simulation. It was challenging and thought provoking as we worked in groups to make the decisions required in a full-scale crisis. It is knowledge I will carry throughout my career.
The theme of the 2018 World Conference was ‘Communications Crossroads’ and this came across in all sessions. The overarching narrative for me was across five key pillars:
Human-Centric Design: We need to be telling human-centric, emotional stories to cut through the noise in what keynote speaker, Seth Godin, calls our age of distraction.
Technology & Change: Our profession is at an exciting crossroads. Culture and technology have combined to give us new tools for communicating based on collaboration and mobility. We need to embrace it and lead change.
Storytelling: Bombarding our stakeholders with top down messaging is a thing of the past. Our role is to create tailored messaging to tell compelling stories. We also need to see that other people, whether they are our colleagues, leaders or customers, are our greatest storytellers and brand advocates; we need to involve them in the conversation internally and externally via social channels.
Data & Measurement: If we want a seat at the Executive table and to be true change agents, we need to use data and research in everything we do. Evidence works.
Business Strategy & Innovation: Communicators are the new business strategists. More than ever, senior leaders are looking to us as advisors and innovators. As such, we need to truly understand the business strategy and company direction.
It was a timely reminder as to why we do what we do. More than ever before we are connectors, storytellers, change agents, innovators, technologists, creatives, strategists, advisors, crisis managers, reputation guardians and business people.
Seth Godin suggested we are in a ‘Revolution’ and ‘Renaissance’ for business communicators. Don’t let it pass us by. Our time is now.