Good vibes in NOLA

IABC 2016 World Conference may be over, but it’s certainly not forgotten. Our guest blogger, IABC EMENA past president Neil Griffiths, reminisces about his experience of it and shares the benefits of attending – and contributing to – an event of this kind.

CkYFjqlUYAErCrFAlthough this was my fifth IABC world conference, it was the first time I was attending as a presenter. I had a personal goal of speaking on such a stage for a while and was delighted (and daunted!) when my proposal was accepted. When I put the session proposal together, I knew that I had something to say about how to cope when you feel like you’re the only one in your organisation that seems to want good communication… So that’s what I focused on and the main points I made were:

  • In the 12 years I have been working in professional comms, one thing I have experienced across all the orgs I have worked in is that there’s a lack of understanding of how good communication can help solve the big, juicy challenges the org is facing.
  • That said, there is a general openness to good, or better, communication when the org is shown what that looks like. As communicators, we have to be the ones to show the org. It really is down to us.
  • If you work in an org that is really closed to what you know to be good communication, then there’s nothing wrong with practicing good comms out of the view the org (in other words, just do it anyway… even in private!). No one needs to know what you’re doing and over time they will accept that this is just the way communication is ‘done’.
  • You have to be annoyingly consistent in the areas of execution, writing, focusing on audiences/outcomes and measurement. This will build your credibility in your organisation.
  • You have to keep the communication process and your recommendations simple. Don’t get carried away and forget that good comms do not come easily to many people in the org.

The slides and templates I shared with the room are available here: I wanted to share the templates particularly, as I wanted session participants to have something tangible to take home and use. Of course, the virtual materials might not make a lot of sense, so you can get in touch if you want me to explain (I’m on Twitter as @negriff).

I was encouraged that many of the other sessions across the conference had a similar vibe to mine. In particular, the keynote speakers seemed to be promoting the same kind of messages: Helen Marriage challenged us to ask ‘why not?’ when faced with environments that seem to be saying no to what you know to be the right thing; Seth Mattison questioned the principle of ‘knowledge is power’ and that being open with resources and approaches was a key to the networked organisation; Andy Gibson explained that in today’s world we need to be able to focus on the possible, to avoid stress and to take care of our minds (I hope that my session and the tips I gave helped the minds of those who are facing communication challenges!).

But by far the standout session I attended was the corporate snakes and ladders, created and facilitated by Casilda and Stephen from the IABC UK chapter. It was such a clever, innovative and engaging way of using the IABC Global Standard to inform personal career decisions and professional dilemmas, using the backdrop of a snakes and ladders board. As participants it made us think about what is right and what is easy (from a communication sense) and challenged us to think about organisational politics and manoeuvring, which is something you don’t ordinarily get from a session at a conference of this kind. Congrats to the team for a great concept!

The final point I’d make about NOLA was the overall vibe that I felt. Truly it felt like a new IABC, over the issues of the past few years and united in a vision for the future. The energy was at its infectious best and I have heard from many people since conference that they are refreshed, energised and full of new ideas for how to improve their work. Long may that momentum continue and here’s to a great #IABC17 in Washington DC!


Follow Neil on Twitter