By Natasha Qereshniku, IABC/Calgary Vice President

Held in Long Beach, California, this year’s Leadership Institute (LI) saw many communications leaders from IABC chapters across the world stop in to enjoy learnings, connections and sun. Leaving minus 30 weather in Calgary behind, I was ecstatic to go somewhere where my nose hairs didn’t freeze to the inside of my nostrils every time I ventured outside. What I gained was more than an improved climate. Among the interesting martini-enhanced conversations, fireside debates on geography and accents, and walks along the pier, I also attended some outstanding sessions. Below are some highlights from what I learned, sprinkled with a touch of IABC braggadocio.

Tim Shaw and Natasha Qereshniku collecting our Chapter Management Awards from International’s leaders Stephanie Doute and Ginger Hoffman.

1. IABC/Calgary still rocks! A few years ago, our chapter brought home several chapter management awards and won international chapter of the year. This year, we showed we continue to serve our Calgary members at the top of our game. We won two awards, one for Excellence in Financial Management and another for Merit for our mentorship program. Congratulations to last year’s board and all our hard-working volunteers!

2. Tenacity and hard work gets the job done every time. At the Chapter Management Awards ceremony, I was inspired by this year’s international chapter leader of the year – the president of IABC Malaysia, Kristy Christie. She started off not long ago with no board and created a team from scratch, carving out a new membership foothold for IABC. A young and tenacious leader, her humility and passion inspired me and reminded me that if you show passion and work hard, you can achieve your goals.

Cynthia D’Amour presenting on engaging volunteers.

3. Cynthia D’Amour continues to be a guru on how to engage members. If you don’t know who Cynthia is, I encourage you to read her books, or attend one of her sessions if you can. This year, she spoke on designing experiences our IABC members would love. The premise being, “People decide with emotions and justify with logic,” so we need to consider, appeal and deliver on an emotive level. This means engaging potential volunteers at events by considering what research tells us are the main drivers for any volunteer: To help (people want to give back); To learn (people seek out personal and professional development); To meet (people want to be connected, part of communities).

4. Making compelling video content for members isn’t as hard as I thought. The brilliant Dan Gold shared many helpful tips to make quick, engaging videos. For example, if you are promoting an event, create a “shot list” or narrative plan for your promotional video (which can be shot with a smart phone). Crowdsource as much as possible as it’s more authentic, cost-effective and easy to do. Provide members a taste of event passed by livestreaming clips so they can better decide if they want to attend future events. Some cost-effective tools/resources recommended for video editing included: Adobe Elements, Final Cut Pro, Lumafusion and Audio Jungle.

Fireside chat with fellow IABC leaders: Adam Bradford (Vancouver), Megan Thorburn (Edmonton), John Fabrius (Orange County), Richard Kies (Canada West Region) and Natasha Qereshniku (Calgary).

5. There’s a secret sauce to recruiting and maintaining volunteers. Volunteer recruiter extraordinaire Kamna Narian gave us the ingredients to successfully recruit/keep volunteers. Provide clear and continuous responsibilities to keep volunteers engaged and never idle; Be compassionate (life happens) and customize roles to support volunteer development; Be constantly connected, because how else will you know when “life’s happening” or what growth a volunteer is hoping to gain from their experience?

While I listened and learned, I also had some engaging discussions about the future. We were asked to consider the question – who do we want to be as communicators in this ever-changing world? What ethics are we bound to and how can we be a force for good, wherever possible through our communications work? Questions I encourage you to reflect on. As you lead, connect and learn, it’s important to be intentional and thoughtful because as you already know, words matter.

For more on LI, check out the hashtags on social – #IABCLI and #WeLeadIABC

To join in on the experience, attend the upcoming world conference in Vancouver in June. The list of speakers and presenters promises to lend a great learning experience along with all the connections to be made with communicators from around the world.

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