How IABC membership can help students

In a globalized world where a career can be pursued anywhere, it is crucial for one to have a strong business network of like-minded professionals. As a student, starting a career in a very tough and competitive environment, connections are what sets one apart.

London is a city of opportunities but also one of competition. Finding the start to a career and building a unique network can be a tough task.

However, joining the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) as student member made all the difference for me.

Not only did I meet some potential employers, I was also given a chance to progress within the organization and build a name for myself. With hard work and determination to get recognized, IABC members elected me to be on the Board of the UK Chapter, the biggest IABC chapter outside North America.

With this experience and the connections I made as a student member of IABC, my fear of professional life (getting a job) disappeared and I was ready to step into a professional World well ahead of my fellow postgraduates.

My professional career broadened up significantly due to the connections I’ve made and I feel now that the world is my oyster.

Article written by Jovan Radakovic

Father and daughter perspectives on the IABC World Conference

My name is Rosie Smythe and the reason I came to the IABC conference was primarily to support my dad (and also the fact that I had never been to Toronto and really wanted to!)

As soon as you say the word ‘conference’ to anyone my age (twenty one) their heart immediately drops to below their feet and any interest they had in the subject matter disappears without a trace. I am ashamed to admit that this was my mind set coming in to the IABC. However from the moment I arrived to the moment I left I was totally ‘engaged’ in not only the all the presentations I saw but also in the new world I was encountering.

I had never really understood what my dad did and whenever anyone asked I would brush it off and say something along the lines of ‘oh a consultant who um goes in to companies and um makes their employees work better’.

This conference showed me (through all the different workshops and presentations) how ‘employee engagement’ is instrumental in helping companies to perform better whilst keeping morale high. For someone who wants have their own company one day I found all this advice invaluable both from the output point of view but also the lessons about managerial style and atmosphere in the workplace.

Not only that but I want my employees to be proud of the brand they work for and for turnover to be low; I truly believe, after the lessons I learnt at IABC, that ‘employee engagement’ is the key to these two factors.

A real highlight for me was hearing the ice hockey gold medallist Hayley Wickenheiser speak. She was inspirational in all that she had achieved but some of her key advice really struck a chord; one of the things she said was that ‘pressure was a privilege’.

Having never thought about pressure in this way it was transformed into a positive for me and no one knows pressure better than Hayley. She also described that in the Sochi games the Canada team were two-nil down before they came back to win. I think there is a very important message in there along the lines of however bad you think it is going you have to keep on fighting. I think that is a lesson for both young and old.

On the topic of young I noticed the complete absence of other young people like me. Considering the amount I got out of it, I am sure there are thousands of others my age who would benefit. I would love to hear what the IABC’s plans are for the Y gen.

John Smythe

Meanwhile at the convention I talked about a weird phenomenon associated with employee engagement. The weird thing is that despite all the rhetoric, all the noise and hype and corporate survey results claiming rising levels of engagement; at the national level the numbers of people at work who say they are engaged is flat lining at or below 30%.

I thought this was just a UK number but other speakers from the Americas said likewise. In my own workshop on the ‘Two key ingredients of effective engagement for leaders’ participants reported similarly – that despite all the surveys, programmes and ‘stuff’ the engagement dial was not moving up.

My focus was on the elephant in the house when it comes to employee engagement. That elephant is the Paradox of Power. As you may know Engage for Change believe that the most critical enabler of engagement is the willingness and capability of leaders, managers and supervisors to enfranchise people in the decisions that affect them and which they can improve.

That requires leaders to consciously consider who else will add value, speed and energy if others beyond an elite (and themselves) are invited to challenge and contribute. The elephant is that many of us rather like command and control, hierarchy and are quite fond of deference. This we believe is the main restraint on raising the engagement dial. The focus in organisations is on engagement programmes, surveys and ‘stuff’.

It should be on leaders’, managers’ and supervisors’ attitudes to power and deference. Most of us grew up in the shadow of command and control and many organisations are still little soviets. The attention now should be on this paradox of power.

Meanwhile, John and Rosie also took time out to enjoy Toronto.

World Communication Forum Davos – key lessons

I’d heard a lot of good things about this forum. I was told that it focuses on real communication issues facing society and businesses, debates “hot topics” and connects communicators and thought leaders from all over the world. I’d never been before, but with that sort of recommendation, who wouldn’t want to be part of it? So I signed up, traveled to Switzerland and dived head first into the debate.

But did the forum live up to my expectations? What did it cover, what did I take from it and would I go back? Having had a few days to digest my experience, here are my thoughts.

My main observation is that the committee and organisers have nailed the title, location and content of the forum and, by doing so, attract an incredible mix of professionals from all over the world.

This is not a conference, it is a forum

And there is a big difference. At a conference people show up in their thousands, sit in packed auditoriums whilst someone preaches at them, collect free stuff from exhibition stands and try to avoid people selling them things they don’t need. At a forum, people go to share ideas, experiences and, collaboratively, shape the future of their industry. That’s precisely what everyone at this forum went to do.

Location, location, location


The forum is held in Davos, which, despite being tucked away in the beautiful Swiss mountains, is regarded as the epicentre of thought leadership and change as it hosts the annual World Economic Forum (WEF).

It is a pain to get to from the UK (2 hour flight and 3 hour transfer) but, actually, being in a town so small and secluded makes perfect sense. It gives you a break from the normal day-to-day hustle and bustle, allows you to focus on the topics of the forum and means you’re never more than 5ft from another attendee (not literally, but you get the point) so conversation continues outside of the auditorium.

Fantastic, passionate, expert communicators

Just over 130 communicators, representing 30+ countries and cultures, attended the forum. Despite the diverse nationalities, skill and background of the group – there was a common willingness to share knowledge and ideas and a shared passion for improving the communications profession.

There were open debates at the end of each presentation, lots of panel discussions and a group activity to stimulate interaction and collaboration. In the two days I think I spoke to most of the attendees at one point or another and always had a healthy discussion… with the exception of starting an awkward discussion between a Russian and Ukrainian… wooops.

Key lessons

In the two days there were presentations and debates around social media, the future of PR, technology, “big data”, communicator 3.0 and how to generate economic value through communication. Here are key lessons, trends and messages I took away:

  • Communication needs to be authentic. Yes, that’s nothing new but your communication strategy should not just focus on building trust, but should reflect aspects of your brand, product or service that harbour the feeling of trust
  •  “If you don’t have data and analytics you don’t have a strategy?” Paul Holmes.
  • Data enables communication to target on the ‘market of one’… but that isn’t enough. Communicators should be using data intelligence to give their audience the answer to the next best question they should ask – but there is a fine line between being helpful and tasteless.
  • A communicator’s fight for their audience’s attention is getting tougher. People don’t read long articles (ok, it might take me a while to adapt this one), they typically read the first paragraph, scan for key words or read the comments to see if it’s worth their time. ‘tl; dr’ means ‘too long, don’t read’.
  • In the same way a CFO is not solely responsible for the profitability of a company, internal communicators and PR do not control a brand’s reputation anymore. Establishing brand ambassadors is key, as is having a “better well done than well said” strategy.
  • I also met the Scott Fahlman, the scientist who introduced this 🙂 in online communication 32 years ago. Now “the smiley” is used a billion times a day to express emotion in our communication! You shouldn’t underestimate the emotional impact of a smile!

 Would I recommend it?

Absolutely. All I would say to anyone considering going in 2015 is that you need to go with an open mind and willingness to share your experiences, challenge thinking and actively participate in the debate.

I came away fascinated by how influential communication is in shaping business, society and culture and with plenty of ideas for how we will improve client projects in the future.


Matt Frost

Matt is CEO of SHILLING – a specialist company that helps multinationals achieve their business goals through strategic and creative employee communication. Matt has worked in the marketing and communicators industry for nearly 15 years and is passionate around pushing the boundaries and challenging the ‘norm’ to engage, educate and inspire others.

To find out more about Matt and SHILLING: