Changing the Landscape, Informing the Future

Over 1,000 global communicators gathered on 14-17 June 2015 at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in San Francisco for the IABC 2015 World Conference.

Alba Pérez Grandi, Vice-President of Communications of IABC Belgium reports on the Conference key-takeaways and learnings.

Under the attractive title, ‘Changing the Landscape: Informing the Future’, the 4 days conference program welcomed 100 speakers covering more than 80 sessions to choose from on different communications themes: corporate, internal and external communications, crisis communications, storytelling, social media, leadership, brand building, mobile technology, corporate strategy, employee engagement, measurement, social media, coaching, CSR, content marketing,.. etc.


The pick was not easy! However, one of the formats attendees I liked the most,  was the speed presentations (5 presentations in 1h) and the “Rápido¨ style which is based on the PechaKucha model, where speakers follow one another and have only 20 seconds to present 20 slides, there the need to make their message relevant and catchy.

Multipliers vs. diminishers

@LizWiseman,  President of the Wiseman Group and author of Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter” described the two different types of leaders that exist in the corporate world.

The “multipliers” are known for using knowledge that sparks brilliance inside an organisation, they are investors of their own ideas, talent managers, problem solvers, stretch challengers and instil ownership and positive thinking among their team.

On the other end, the so called “diminishers”,  are linked to a negative connotation as they are characterised by tyrants, micro-managers, tend to create negative stress that stops thinking and make decisions on their own without consulting the team. If not managed properly, the later can disrupt the working environment and lead the company in the wrong direction, lowering the level of employee satisfaction.

In a global economic context where business leaders are expected to do more with less, talent recruiters should focus on hiring more “multipliers” leaders that can make a positive impact in the organisation, take advantage of new technologies to innovate and solve problems efficiently.

As the title of LizWiseman presentation refers to, “learning beats knowing in the New Game of Work” so keeping ourselves on the educational curve and learning fast is more important than just knowing many things. If you are a leader, don’t be afraid to ask the questions that focus on the energy of the team, stretch out your capacities and discover the power of the unknown!

Are you interested in discovering in which category of leader you fall into?  Take the Fascination Advantage test by Sally Hogshead’s and find out what is your personality archetype and personal advantages that would help thrive at work.

The metaphor of sports applied to management

Passionate about sports and fascinated by the art of coaching, I attended the talk of a Canadian Olympic athlete, Jennifer Walinga, on how productive the management/sport metaphor can be for organisational communication, culture and leadership. This presentation turned out to be very inspirational as I could clearly identify many of the coaching principles that apply to both the athlete and professional world.

The athletic coach is often seen as “an expert who guides and directs the behavior of individuals or teams based on his or her greater experience and knowledge”. The professional coaching consists in a “partnership with clients where asking thought-provoking questions inspires an individual to maximize their personal and professional potential. The clients are the experts in their own lives and work and every client is insightful, resourceful and whole”.

From this insightful presentation, I concluded there are indeed strong similarities in regards to the Olympic principles for optimal performance and professional coaching. To mention a few, the coaching process, the capacity to listen, to build up your own personal story, have a vision as leader and see the potential and opportunities to unlock your strength, goals, performance and accountability.


I also had the opportunity to sneak in and listen briefly to an IABC Belgium fellow, Ian Andersen who gave a workshop around doing communication that works. I liked the fact that he engaged with the room by asking them questions on how to make communication that stick to your audience. Great to listen “more participatory meetings, focus on important things, getting control on priorities and listening tools” are on the desired menu of this fabulous group.


Winning with stories and words

Communicators know how the subtleties of language and power of stories can turn the brand experience into something unique . Three important messages I would like to share from Mike Sanchez keynote on how to revitalise your brand language are: 1- dreaming and doing CONTENT, 2. short and relevant STRUCTURE and use a bold and human TONE.

“The world began and will end with a story! The need to tell and hear stories is essential to humans, second in necessity after food, and before love and shelter” states, Subhamoy Das, eBayInc at the Speed Presentations. In the twenty first century,  storytelling is the new differentiator so bring your company story live and you’d see the effects on ROI.

Technology makes our jobs easier

Passionate also about new media technology, I manage to listen to part of Stephanie Rodriguez  presentation who talked about the impact that disruptive technology has on communication. Happy to share with you some of her interesting ideas and tips.

  • Social media enables conversation
  • Globalisation is changing things and the way we sell and buy things
  • Digital drives revenue
  • Use the closed loop strategy: create the means to bring the customer all the way into the journey
  • Create remarkable content
  • Use analytics : segment your database to align with online visitor profiles
  • Personalise the UX and Message
  • Use proximity tools
  • Design for mobile tools
  • Invest in paid media

IABC WC 2015 inspirational gurus, Less is More (Do More With Less)

Other gurus that have inspired me, confirmed my desire of being an authentic communicator and live my career dream are Bill Mc Dermott, the CEO of business software market leader SAP and the best-selling author of Winners Dream: A Journey from Corner Store to Corner Office and Entrepreneurial and Apple’s Chief Evangelist, Guy Kawasaki.

With inspiration from his parents, Bill became a small business owner at age 16, an experience that would shape his dynamic approach to leading people and building successful businesses.

My favorites quotes from  @BillRMcDermott talk:

  • “If your imagination and heart is open to the people in the room you’re in you already have a good scenario to be authentic and get your message across”
  • “Less is more, vital crystal things is what really matters”
  • “One idea carefully placed can change the world, that is the power of communication”
  •  “Simplicity in business and technology are key to innovate”
  • “Never forget that the best part of you is you. Winners dream, have that dream, don’t forget where you come from. Hit the eraser, believe you can be any anything in the world you want to be. Hit the eraser, you don’t need any negative dements, no rules to drive your life”.

I also found very interesting to hear the thoughts from a CEO perspective on how they like to be approached by communicators. Bringing solutions to the table, writing short and direct mails, think about presenting your unique selling proposition are key things to keep in mind to build on a good relationship with a CEO or director.

Finally, Guy Kawasaki, Entrepreneur and Chief Evangelist of Apple, refreshed business communicators about techniques, social channels and IT tools that can can help us reach our marketing and sales goals. He defines social media as a platform, an art on its own.

G. Kawasaki gave communicators in the room very handy advice on how to have a strong personal identity and cited some IT tools that help us to improve our online presence:

1) Perfect your perspective. Online dating sites as i.e. eHarmony.

2) Make you avatar likeable, trustworthy and competent

  • face only
  • asymmetric
  • front lit
  • consistent: same avatar on all platforms

3) Optimize your narratives on social media and email headers.

4) Business cards

  • Use big fonts – min 10 points
  • Ensure scan-ability
  • Put your cell phone on your business card

5) Add a signature to your emails

  • Evernote business cards
  • Evercontact on Google+ Evercontact on Google+

6) Use 16×9 size format for PPT presentations

Use a dark background, white type.

Master fonts: 30+size, sans serif, and bold

7) Shoot horizontal

Shoot raw

Convert to black and white

Crop tight and call it art

Optimize dimensions

8) Perfect your posts: tips, advice, share to your followers


Thank you for this unique IABC World Conference experience!

Voila, hope you find some useful learnings and insights while reading the piece!

Since I joined the IABC Belgium board in September 2014 as Communications Vice-President, this is my first IABC World Conference and so far,  the most resourceful and inspiring conference I have attended in my professional career dedicated to business communicators, consultants, leaders and government communicators. Overall, I was impressed with the level of volunteer speakers.

And last but not least, I am extremely honored to the Europe/Middle East/North Africa Regions for the scholarship grant I received which has gave me the opportunity to stretch my communications ‘connaissance’ in a global context,  strengthen my link to the IABC and connect with extraordinary people. As said by the new appointed IABC International Chair, Michael Ambjorn, ‘the future of IABC relies on building connections with our unique community’, and indeed, talented people is what drive any organisation to succeed.

At the Asia-Pacific and EMENA Regions cocktail reception, I had the chance to meet and thank in person Michael Nord, past Chair of the Region and Klavs Valskov, newly elected Chair of the Region.


After spending some time and sightseeing the beautiful city of San Francisco, I can personally confirm the famous quote by Mark Twain, “The coldest winter I ever saw was the summer I spent in San Francisco”. Despite the coldish weather the experience all together was amazing so will definitely return to SF one day.

Next scale is IABC World Conference 2016 in jazzy New Orleans, until then keep communicating authentically and if you can, join IABC EMENA and IABC Belgium yearly events.


Posted in EMENA Regional news, World Conference.