Lasting Impressions – IABC World Conference 2009

IABC World Conference 2009 Summary
With the conference over, I’m left with memories that will have to see me through until next year. Call them impressions, themes or highlights, here are my top eight from outtathegate:
1.    Awesome people – to share the energy, the knowledge, the creativity, the experience and the “heart” of the people that organize, attend and present at this conference was both humbling and inspirational. I felt that I was truly in the presence of greatness. Meeting both Robert Swan, OBE and Sir Ken Robinson  proved that.
2.     Ideas, Innovation and Bold Creativity – speakers presented with new ideas and reminded us of timeless ones, we formed our own in reaction to the sessions’ great content and, through collaboration, delegates and speakers alike developed even more. There was no shortage of great ideas generated over these few days. And a new interpretation of the IABC acronym was offered by Sir Ken Robinson  “Innovation and Bold Creativity”While some of us may have left their hearts in San Fran, we made sure to take our ideas home with us.
3.    Technology , web 2.0 and social media – their collective rising importance was evident throughout the session agenda, the conversations over coffee and demonstrated by delegates blogging, tweeting, flickring and FB-ing throughout the four days.  While many communicators still need to play catch up, the popular consensus is that mastery of these tools is now the price of admission for the modern day communicator. We should know (and use) these tools to accomplish strategy, but be ever mindful of “shiny object syndrome”. While it’s important to embrace them, adding these powerful tools to our communication toolkits, it is strategy rather than the newest and coolest technology that should drive our communication efforts.
I don’t know whether it was my expectation of San Francisco as being one of the most wired cities in the world or my own technology practices, but I found that the use of technology was the one area where I was disappointed in IABC this year. As a global association, we need to be a leading example in the adoption and appropriate use of technology and all its great tools in communications. I was disappointed by the wireless access at the hotel, the prevalence of traditional powerpoint presentations, the lack of visible examples of technology within the conference area and at conference events – where were the display screens to view twitter conversations or flickr feeds? Where was the area for audio/video recording your conference feedback on site? Where were the roving IABC reporters with flip cams in hand to capture content for future marketing communications?  There was only a relatively small (albeit vocal) group of attendees, speakers, IABC staff and board members participating in the online conversations during the conference.
Why, given that we are business communicators, did we not see more of these tools used  to create pre-conference buzz? I would love to have seen a promotional video of snippets of the powerful speakers we had delivering keynotes, or an invitation to embrace the social media conversation containing more than just a hash tag (perhaps some tips and hints for doing so). I would have been pleased to have witnessed more tweetups, more use of session track specific nings to store content and promote ongoing dialogue, more use of YouTube to promote speakers and session content on the day’s events.  Where was the live streaming? Did we capture content from sessions for use in future podcasts?
Was it there and I just missed it? Hopefully we’ll see much more of this in Toronto in 2010.
4.    Authenticity – It is more important than ever to be open, honest and transparent in our communications – not only because it’s the right thing to do, but because you’ll get called out on it if you’re not. All the tools are in place to uncover and expose deception and trickery. The availability of these tools and the sheer willingness of people to share have led to a cultural shift and an increase in expectations of authenticity.
5.    Collaboration – doing more with less, technology enabling global conversations and an increasing desire for diversity are all leading to the increase in collaboration – collaborative practices include brainstorming, research, project implementation and support and ongoing education from, and with, each other.
6.    Humour and Fun in the workplace – we saw it in the halls, in the sessions, in the program calendar, in relationships formed at the conference. The incorporation of humour and fun can help differentiate a company culture, strengthen a team, secure a customer for life or pave the way to lasting friendships.
7.    Diversity – diversity in teams, in collaborative efforts, in ideas, backgrounds, approaches, tools, in global best practices – the need for embracing diversity has never been greater and never more prevalent, especially in driving a multi-functional and global communications agenda.
8.    Sustainability – from sustainable cultures that embrace creativity and technology in communication as demonstrated by Best Buy, to creating sustainable inspiration as suggested by Robert Swan, the need to build foundations, campaigns, companies and ideas that last are high on the communications agenda.

Thanks IABC for another great conference. I look forward to returning to Toronto, my home town, for 2010. Between now and then, I’ll be looking for ways to incorporate “Innovation and Bold Creativity” and “sustainable inspiration” into my work and my life.


12 responses to “Lasting Impressions – IABC World Conference 2009

  1. What a wonderful reflection. It sounds like it was a wonderful event and your takeaways from it are a nice summary of the key ideas.
    Would have loved to have heard the talk from Sir Ken, and as you say, one would hope that it was captured somehow for posterity. Your point about using the tools of Web 2.0 as a means for promoting, embracing and capturing the event is a very valid one… I would expect that there should be official blogposts, podcasts and data feeds emerging from a conference such as this, and if there wasn’t, there should have been.
    Sounds like you had a wonderful time there!

  2. Regarding point 3, I agree re the use of technology wasn’t cutting edge. I couldn’t even get cellphone coverage on the Yerba Buena conference room level (T-mobile, I’m afraid).

    I do expect that speakers chosen are experts and have more knowledge than the rest of us (so I don’t expect them to hand over sessions to the audience), but they could use more interactive speaking techniques (Liz Guthridge, Lean Communicator, is great at this) to increase our learning (spot quizzes, asking for real life examples from audience related to points they raise, etc.).

    I would have liked the sessions to have been available to attendees on podcast or video later on- there were a lot of sessions I missed which I’d love to check out. Apparently years ago, delegates received audiocassettes of the sessions…Time to bring this back in a modern form!

    I bet they could find sponsorship for these activities, from us, MediaTile, Pollstream, Intronetworks and the like, to keep the costs down.

    But then (my last point), we don’t want to fall into shiny object syndrome here, either. You’d want to start with strategy and outcome and go from there.

  3. Thanks — great review of a great conference. So glad to hear a ‘newby’ was excited by it all. This was my third conference, and every year I’m blown away by the quality of the speakers and the ideas and inspiration I bring home.

    Re technology, I know I definitely would have done more blogging and tweeting if not for the massively expensive roaming charges were I to use my iPhone or Australian internet connection over there. I know there are ways to get pre-paid SIMs, etc, maybe IABC could look into offers that might be made available to international delegates?

  4. Nicely captured!

    I’d agree with you on the some of the technology. It was my first conference, too, but now I realize, it’s our IABC, right? Why don’t we make some proposals and see what we can make happen in Toronto in 2010?

    I’d like to see a couple of open times for impromptu sessions to allow folks to Tweetup and start up spontaneous roundtable discussions (@disruptivethink and I wanted to Tweetup on “advanced social media,” but we ran out of time, as one example).

    I’m also interested in building up an open body of knowledge related to social media for internal communications and run a session based on that. (Does IABC have a wiki?) I think there’s a ton of interest in this topic, and the panel that I was on only just started to scratch the surface.

  5. Jeremy, Agreed – I think there’s a terrific opportunity to build in a little “unconference” time in the overall program – I’d also like to create a regular dialogue (online discussions starting soon) with those who are interested in the more advanced social media topics – let’s start that – who else is interested?

  6. To branch off of your first point, it was great meeting so many great and talented communicators. And it was great that it was 98% ego-free (can’t shed them all).

    Some of the best “sessions” were the more informal discussions. Set presos need to be a part of it, but I agree with Jeremy that it would be great if there was more unstructured time allowing additional collaborations, conversations and Tweetups (cringe).

    It’s the best conference I’ve attended and been a part of. And I look forward to even more in 2010, eh!


  7. Jennifer Wah, ABC

    Great summary; thanks for taking the time.

    As a veteran conference-goer myself, I was inspired by the content as never before, in large part due to an air of collaboration and cross-pollination that permeated every session and discussion. There was a new energy because of this.

    As a past program chair for the IABC World Conference (Washington and Los Angeles), just wanted to also urge any of you to consider submitting session/speaking proposals. The deadline is soon – 31 July – but indeed, the discretionary content of these conferences is largely built on the leadership of passionate communicators such as yourselves!

  8. Thoughtful and insightful reflections from everyone.

    I too was very impressed by Sir Ken Robinson and Robert Swan.

    As leaders in the communications field, though, we do need to practice what we preach.

    That means using technology in smart, effective ways that reach those who can’t physically be with us–or those who can’t attend all the sessions that interest us.

    It also means recognizing that all of us can contribute. As some of us like to say, the answers are in the room, not just in the head of the speaker.

    Thanks for the plug, Paula. I truly believe–and practice–that the era of the “expert to idiot” presentation in a classroom setting should be dead. It’s much more engaging, educational and entertaining for everyone to have an interactive experience.

  9. Fabulous summary Linda, you captured most of the things I was thinking!

    The people at IABC are some of the best I’ve ever met. I have almost never reached out to a fellow IABC member and not been helped in some way. This was my first World Conference and being able to connect with so many talented, thoughtful people in one place was inspiring and energizing. It reminded me why I am a communicator and what I love about my job. Sounds cheesy, but I feel much more empowered.

    I love your ideas for making the conference more interactive with areas for recording audio/video, a stream of live Tweets (that would be so cool) and creating an “unconference” of sorts. I also felt there were so many social/new media sessions I wanted to attend, but since inevitably there were several offered at a given time it was really hard to choose. I too would like to continue the conversation and keep learning post-conference, particularly about social media since I feel like I’ve just touched the surface of what’s possible…

    My only real issues with the conference were with the wireless connection not being available on Wednesday and not being able to find a spot to recharge my laptop battery when it ran out. I thought the terminals to check e-mail were great, but I’d also love a section of the exhibit floor where you can use your laptop and recharge if you need to.

    Similar to others wanting more time for impromptu gatherings/Tweetups, I wish I had left myself more time for these things. I signed up for the whole package (lunches, Gold Quill Dinner, Dine Around) and wanted to attend the regional networking events, so I didn’t end up with much time to either wander the exhibit hall or make impromptu gatherings. Maybe have a section of one day dedicated to those types of activities? Or maybe I just need to skip some of the formal events (lunches/dinners) and use those time periods for that purpose.

    Regardless, if I am lucky enough to attend next year’s conference I’m sure I’ll figure something out!

  10. Pingback: InSession » Blog Archive » Extending the Conference Conversation

  11. And just to clarify a point for Melissa and Jeremy, this was not my first conference – au contraire! I’ve been a proud IABC member for almost 20 years (so not a “newby”) and attended about a dozen conferences – but using social media to share the experience was a definite first for me.

  12. Pingback: Extending the conference conversation « Linda Johannesson

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