Wednesday, June 22, 2011

IABC 2011 World Conference Recap

Communicators talk a lot! And that’s a good thing. 1400 communication, marketing and social folks chatted, networked, learned and saw some sights in San Diego last week. The IABC World Conference was full swing in and offered much of the same things in the past, a place to share and learn. I was lucky enough to co-facilitate a session on Sunday sharing three hours of open space to collaborate hot topics and network our butts off. I stayed for the rest of the conference and took advantage of sessions, interesting keynote speakers, and my favorite part of any major event, meeting new people, like-minded or not. 

So what did I get out of the event? I’ve categorized my experiences in bite-sized nuggets for your scanning pleasure. But don’t just read and close the page. Share a few highlights of your own in the comments section. Isn’t that half the point of going to a conference? Share the wealth!

Best lines I heard or overheard:
“Your brand is what your employees say it is.”
“Value is in the eye of the beholder.”
“…prune your garden.”

Takeaways and Reminders
These are key points that resonated with me in the sessions I attended. Most are not new. But they are terrific reminders to be true and stay on point for successful approaches.

  • Biggest theme: Make it simple (write in plain, simple language) 
  • Integrated communications: Focus on blending plans and tactics vs. a singular approach to marketing, social media, executive communications, etc. 
  • Emotional connections: Connect with employees emotionally to drive overall engagement and passion. Make it personal. 
  • Drive traffic: Want better adoption? The best way to drive traffic to your site is to put the must-have items on it. i.e. pay stubs, schedules for hourly employees 
  • Multiple approaches: One fit does not work for all regions and employees. For example in a sustainability program, employees in Asian Pacific markets prefer group contributions vs. employees in the US which usually prefer to contribute individually. Know the audience and be nimble in your approach.
  • Offer outcomes: Understand the outcomes of your communication plans and services so you can focus on offering a service with an expected outcome to clients. This addresses that problem or situation a client wants to tackle. Clients too often are focused on services and something fun without understanding the best approach to solve their problem. 
  • Think big about your brand: You really only have one brand. Or at least you should. Even sub-brands are okay as long as they deliver on your brand and promise. Everyone that touches this brand is now part of a brand system. Connect these people and initiatives to drive one brand message. If everyone is working together in a brand system, the message stays clear. And a clear message helps employees understand the company and their role. 
  • Find the gaps: Communicators are in the perfect position to spot the gaps in strategy plans. We can look at it from all angles (employee, leaders, and consumer). Find the gaps and point them out. This is usually when communications can connect plans and ideas. 

Happy Improvements
I wrote a post last year recapping the 2010 conference including a few things I’d like to see changed. Guess what, people listened. Here are a few of those things as well as others that I believe worked nicely.

  • Case studies: I was happily surprised to see more case studies and real experiences vs. an onslaught of vendors. I walked out of sessions with not only some knowledge, but most of the time with a new contact to share future ideas with. 
  • Social media: There were session about it and a lot more attendees using tools while attending the conference. This was the first year I didn’t feel like the ugly duckling (swan…get it?) because I was tweeting and not many others were. Yay for embracing a current technology and rhythm. 
  • Digital copy: It was nice to see a digital copy of the schedules and programs. I will admit, I actually do like the printed brochure. But digital was a step in the right direction. By the way, the right direction is listed below in the mobile app bullet. 
  • Vendors: It was nice to see a few new vendors. I always like to know about new options. Maybe think about getting a Foursquare, Jive or Yammer there. They make perfect sense! 

Thoughts for Next Year
Call it what you will, challenges, learnings, whatever you do don’t do this again, or just plain that could be even better – all ideas to make 2012 an even better conference experience. 
  • Collaboration: I am so glad IABC attendees had the option of joining an online group to share and interact around the 2011 conference. Now I’d like to see a permanent place instead of a one-time instance. Sad but true, the current Ning site will probably fade away. Why not use a place that IABC folks are already visiting, like LinkedIn. Make use of the space and do not create another place to distract. Adoption will also be better. Or if Ning is the ticket, make it a on-going living space in the IABC website. Connect them!  
  • Mobile app: Take the digital schedule and resources and turn them into a mobile app. A digital version of the schedule can only do so much. Let me tag my schedule, build one, connect to the online collaborative space, see the twitter feed and more. Build it and we will come! 
  • WiFi: You knew I was going to say this, right? I was okay without it this year because we were in the US. But for our non US folks and the attendees with WiFi only tablets, WiFi is a must. Make some magic. 

I end with a big smile and a resounding, “I’m glad I attended”. IABC is evolving and I can see it. I look forward to sharing, learning over the next year and seeing everyone at the 2012 conference. Who knows, maybe I’ll even throw my name in the hat for a session I’m cooking up. Interested?

Keep sharing and connecting!


Sue Horner said...

I enjoyed the conference, too, as well as your summary! Great idea about the ongoing space to connect, and I'd vote for LinkedIn as well. Receiving messages from the Ning page made me detour to log into another space, whereas I am already present in LinkedIn.

Christopher said...

Sue - That's exactly how I felt, a little detoured. Also I had a difficult time using the site on my mobile device. I really hope next year we have a space that that blends our current IABC experiences and feels seamless.