By Natasha Cousin

Okay well if you were at the World Conference you probably didn’t miss these, but if you weren’t able to make it to Montreal this year, here are three themes I found repeating themselves throughout this year’s amazing conference.

  1. Be Connected

People don’t want to listen if you’re just yelling at them. Sage advice from bestselling author Seth Godin to open the conference; how many of us still fall into the trap of simply pushing out message after uninspired message? You wouldn’t be friends with a boring, self-centred person, so why do we think people want to connect with a boring, self-centred organization? Generosity and art are fundamental, so find your smallest viable market and contribute to that tribe, says Godin.

Similarly, Mallory O’Connor of Habanero Consulting Group emphasized the importance of connection in design thinking. In fact, the first principle of design thinking is to be human centred, says O’Connor. Build empathy through interviews, observations, analytics and usability testing to help you understand unique audiences. Simply making beautiful things doesn’t respect a human-centred approach. Oh and if you were wondering what the other four principles of design thinking were, here you go: take a holistic approach, be collaborative, be visual, prototype and pilot.

Finally, the idea of being personally connected to the work you do was brought up in several sessions, including a decidedly non-diverse CEO panel (which was quickly acknowledged and addressed by IABC in a new “no diversity, no panel” pledge). When asked what CEOs expect from their communications staff, in amongst answers of feedback and advice was an urge to be connected to the organization; get out there on the front line so you can better understand and contribute. As consultant Sheila Parry quipped in her PRIDE workshop, someone working with headphones on and not stopping to say hello may be productive, but they are not contributing to culture.

  1. Embrace Uncertainty

Don’t just let the future happen. Futurist Anab Jain showed us that there are many possible futures and we should take the time to explore them. This includes thinking through the unintended consequences of the decisions we make, something few of us do on a regular basis (or is it just me?). In one of my favourite quotes of the week, Jain calmly reminds us that it’s not the quality of our answers, but the quality of our questions that will truly serve us.

Mark Dollins and Greg Carlisle’s transformation communications session walked us through how they embraced uncertainty in the multi-year mega-merger of DuPont and Dow by creating a clear and compelling narrative from day one. And although they didn’t always have much notice as to what was coming down the pipeline, they made sure employees always knew where to find new information by cross-promoting their internal channels. Do you tell employees all the things you are doing in internal communications? Try making a video explaining your channels – it worked for DuPont!

  1. Experiences Matter

We are all narcissists. Bill Shander of Beehive Media reminded us the importance of making the message about “me” in his data storytelling session. Once you know what you want to say, use storytelling and information hierarchy design to trigger pre-attentive processing, or simply put, create an experience that really speaks to your audience.

Going back to Mallory O’Connor’s design thinking workshop, the Vancouver airport didn’t redo their website because it needed to look nicer: they redid it because there was a growing gap between the experience people were having in the airport and the experience they were having online. The project’s top priorities? Accessibility and translation, both of which were achieved in the award-winning website.

And the conference ended with my favourite experience of all (besides all the poutine), a powerful speech by Culture of Good Co-founder Ryan McCarty. We all want to live meaningful lives, but so much of our time is spent at work. That’s why you need to align the good you do in your life to the workplace, says McCarty. It matters. Encourage your teams to do good in the community and those experiences will drive the business forward. In McCarty’s words, the life we lead is the legacy we leave.

These were just a few of the ideas discussed at #IABC18. If you want to know more or discuss any topics further, contact us here. We’re always looking for input on what members are interested in. And if you’re thinking of attending next year’s World Conference in Vancouver, I wholeheartedly recommend it. I’ll see you there!

Natasha Cousin is the Digital Marketing and Content Lead for Sunterra Quality Food Markets and the 2018/2019 Director of Professional Development/Events for IABC/Calgary.


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