As an IABC EMENA region, we are made up of volunteer members from more than 40 countries and 10 chapters. Every chapter has a leader. And every leader has a story. Down below is Claudia Vaccarone’s story, who recently ended her tenure as IABC France president.
10 LEARNINGS AS CHAPTER PRESIDENT
I have been an IABC member on and off since the beginning of my career, but it has only been upon moving to Paris a decade ago that I truly experienced the full value of this association.
A few years ago I decided to take an active role in the IABC France chapter and have been a board member since 2010. This year, I had the privilege to serve as chapter president.
As I conclude my tenure, I’d like to share a few lessons I learnt from this phenomenal experience.
#1 IABC HAS MANY LAYERS
As a member I was not as aware of, or particularly interested in, the regional and international dimensions of the association.
However, a an active volunteer I had the chance to learn more about the IABC EMENA Board, the Council of Regions, the International Executive Board, the Research Foundation etc. and to fully grasp the richness in content and professional development that IABC really offers.
As a result, this year I will serve as EMENA Board member and I look forward to strengthening relationships with members at large and between the regional chapters.
#2 IABC LEADERS ARE PASSIONATE COMMUNICATORS
The IABC France chapter hosted the regional Leadership Institute (EMELI) back in October 2012. We co-organised it with the IABC EMENA Board and it was attended by all of the region’s chapter leaders.
As I met chapter, regional and international leaders this year, I was struck by the incredible passion for our profession in all its forms that underscored them all.
It is a contagious and uplifting form of passion that I am very glad to have been ‘infected’ with.
#3 LEADING VOLUNTEERS IS AN ART
As a chapter leader I faced the unique challenge of consistently guiding the board toward meeting chapter goals and needs and, at the same time, wanting to empower individual board members to reach their personal goals.
It is not always easy, or even feasible.
IABC board members volunteer for a number of different reasons. Some are transitioning between careers and want to keep active; some use the platform as a business development tool for their consulting; some are young and eager to learn; some a seeking the opportunity to showcase skills that their current job does not allow, and so on.
It is this variety of motives which constitutes a richness in outlook and problem solving. I have learnt to cherish that, because it is precious and can lead to some very creative outcomes!
The overall governance experience has been tremendously fulfilling and enriching, stretching me in unexpected directions, and allowing me to truly grow.
#4 VOLUNTEERING IS INCREDIBLY ENRICHING
There have been moments this year I have felt fatigue.
I have a demanding and travel intensive full time job, I have two small children and it wasn’t always easy to find the time also for the numerous board calls, monthly professional development and networking events, partnerships meetings, and so on.
But something very specific got me going: the more I did and the more I was involved, the more I got back in knowledge, insights, inspiration, contacts, relationships, visibility and, in turn, career development opportunities.
#5 BEING THE CHANGE YOU WANT TO SEE
The IABC France chapter is young, and while it enjoys one of the strongest Professional Development programs in the region, it faces fierce competition from the national associations, and experiences a high volume of transiting international membership.
It’s not easy to grow membership in this context, yet I felt that the ecosystem was there. Getting involved as a board member allowed me to be an actor and try different things.
By leveraging the social platforms like Linkedin, for instance, we managed to identify the local prospects and have them join the IABC France Group which now counts over 400 local members. This is a precious pipeline to scout for the future boards.
#6 IABC FRANCE IS A PRECIOUS COMMUNITY
What I love specifically about IABC France is that it attracts the best international talent in town.
Every event I attend I get to meet some extraordinary individuals with unique life experiences, skill sets, and careers.
I have met some courageous individuals who chose daring career changes; leading professional speakers and bloggers; esteemed faculty members of the American University in Paris and Celsa; career coaches, content strategists, leading digital marketers, experts in change management, and so on – all with a friendly smile and a genuine interest in who you are!
#7 I CAN DO VIDEO INTERVIEWS!
I used to be frightened to be on camera, but as I was very aware of the increasing importance of video in communications, I went through public speaking training last year.
During the various IABC functions and events, there was, and is, the official video team who are there to capture leaders’ opinions on the event itself or on the future of the communications profession.
This offered me a unique opportunity practice my new skills.
Over time, I gradually gained more and more confidence. Eventually, I was able to exploit it in my daily job when I had the chance to do media interviews on my market research project.
All in all, an incredibly valuable addition to my own skill set.
#8 ACHIEVING WORK/LIFE BALANCE
It sounds like a cliché, but I learnt the hard way that we perform better at work if we give ourselves the chance to relax, to have fun, to breathe some real oxygen and shake off the stress on a regular basis.
Because my schedule was so crammed at times, I nurtured the importance of balance as a key for sanity – regular yoga, laughing with my kids, walking daily and nature immersions in the weekends are my personal recipe.
#9 SOME CACTI ARE BIGGER THAN ME!
I attended the International Leadership Institute in Scottsdale, Arizona in January where I co-facilitated an orientation session for Incoming Presidents, and had the chance to liaise with chapter leaders from all over the world and benefit from the best practices of other more established chapters.
This was an incredibly energizing experience! On the way back to the airport I saw for the first time in my life some giant cacti in the Arizona desert. I am a tall gal, measuring 6’2” (1.83 m) but could not believe that some cacti were up to 6 meters tall – three times my size!
#10 BEHIND EVERY GREAT WOMAN IS A GREAT FAMILY
All my gratitude and love to my husband and my kids for their constant support and cheering this past year!
I could have not done it without their understanding and patience; I am blessed to have them in my life and I look forward to spending more time with them next year!
Claudia Vaccarone served as IABC France Chapter president from 2012 to 2013. She has been an active IABC EMENA Board Director since May 2012 and an IABC member since 1997.