by Ed Lallo/Newsroom Ink
Every year it is the same old, same old, “Come to this years annual International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) conference because it will be the biggest, the best and hosting a line-up of the brightest speakers” – and this year is no exception. A flood of emails from international fills member’s inboxes touting the benefits of attending.
What are the real, tangible benefits of the IABC World Conference being held this year in Chicago from the 24th-27thof June?
In spite of being spread worldwide, IABC is a tightly woven organization strung together through communications lines that crisscross the globe originating at a single dot on a California map – San Francisco.
For the organization the benefit is obvious, the conference is its largest moneymaker. The financial success of the program – an average attendance of approximately 1500 – along with the accompanying Gold Quill Awards, is money the organization depends upon to fund staff, travel and outreach programs.
For the speakers, the international conference is a chance to showcase their expertise, as well as possibly picking up a client or two along the way.
The real importance of the international conference lies in how those attending perceive it. How it can not only further their career, but also provide tangible benefits for their employers.
“As the in-house PR strategist for a major corporation, I don’t always get the opportunity to share ideas with my peers from other industries and the agency side,” said nine-year communication veteran Patti Kelly, Texas spokesperson and public affairs specialist for State Farm Insurance, who recently joined the Austin IABC chapter. “The IABC World Conference offers a forum for collaboration, shared learning, and discussion that you can’t find anywhere else. I look forward to rubbing elbows with the brightest minds in PR and communications, in a fantastic city to boot!”
For attendees the conference offers the chance to see long lost friends from around the state, across the nation or from far flung parts of the world. It offers the opportunity to hear speakers speak, see winners win and tourists tour. Underneath all of that there is a fundamental value often overlooked in the endless emails, speaker tweets and insider hype – the needs of the attendees.
“I am hoping to learn more effective tools and tips on how to be an exceptional communicator,” explained 2012 first time conference attendee and non-IABC member Jennifer Cardillo, lubes communications manager for CITGO Petroleum Corporation in Houston. “CITGO has four different lubricant product lines, with over 250 products that have applications in numerous industries. I am responsible for lubes external communication and a part of the team that manages media campaigns that include; advertising, public relations, social media, websites and sponsorships for three brands.”
With a diverse portfolio of products and campaigns, along with web technological advances, Cardillo’s company is constantly faced with how to “be heard” in the marketplace.
“After attending the conference, I hope to bring futuristic and forward-looking communication knowledge to help propel my brands “light-years” ahead,” she said. “I have been a painter for many years and this requires a great deal of creativity. As a non-member, I am hoping to learn more about IABC at the conference and also to mingle with creative minds in the communication world.”
As a young communicator the conference is important in furthering her career, “I learned from painting that to be effective you not only needed to have inherent creativity, but also learn the methods and tools to carry out creative vision,” she said. “I am looking forward to learning more communication methods and tools to creatively carry out our strategic plan.”
Five thousand miles south of Houston in Sao Paulo, Brazil, 10-year veteran communicator and IABC member Viviane Regina Mansi will be making the 11-hour flight to Chicago as well this summer.
“Effective communication is that which goes together, supports and enhances business productivity. As the business changes at an incredible speed, nothing is more pertinent than the IABC meetings to exchange experiences with who knows better about communication. I always leave with many ideas!” said Mansi, manager of communication for Takeda Pharmaceutical Corporation, Brazil.
More that 800 communicators from 11 countries currently signed up to attend will join Kelly, Mansi and Cardillo in Chicago. According to Paige Wesley, IABC’s vice-president of marketing and communications, “the majority of bookings for the conference historically happen in the later part of May.”
The international conference offers coverage of wide variety of topics daily affecting communication professionals. Seven professional development tracts cover topics from crisis communication to social media; accreditation to business and talent growth; measurement to research – choosing the proper session can be as complicated as navigating a minefield – chose your steps wisely.
“The opportunities and challenges facing corporate communicators has never been greater,” explained Rob Drasin, president of Trident Communications and current president of the New York City chapter of IABC. “The IABC annual conference gives attendees an opportunity to find out what the newest tools and techniques are from experts, understand what is working in practice and network with colleagues who share their ideas and challenges. Our members are meeting the challenges of uncertain times and the IABC conference is a foundation that helps them move their companies forward”.
Avant-garde is defined as innovative; experimental; pushing the boundaries; this years conference is hoping to give attendees a clearer 20/15 vision of the future of communications that engage forward-thinking concepts and adapt to the global economic condition.
It represents an opportunity to look to the future, while tying in lessons of the past and integrating basic tenets of strategic communication into a vision of prosperity.
“The IABC World Conference is the one event I try never to miss. The energy created by so many talented people sharing their insights in just a few days is enough to keep me going for the whole year.’ said Ian Andersen who works as external communications adviser to the Director general for Interpretation at the European Commission in Brussels, Belgium.
Andersen current job is working to find a solution for the succession problem for the European Union’s interpreting service. The service stands to lose half of its staff in key languages over the next ten years.
He looks to the world conference for the latest avant-garde social media tools to create awareness in a growing community of engaged linguists. In 2011, Andersen and his team won three EMErald awards for their projects in France.
“There is always something to learn and at the same time it is reassuring to see that the European Commission’s social media practice is not far behind the leading edge,” the 30-year communication veteran explained. “Comparing notes with seasoned practitioners from across the world is truly inspiring, especially if, like me, you work in a multicultural setting. And there is always the chance that colleagues can be stimulated and perhaps even helped by our examples in the many discussions throughout the event.”
Six thousand miles east of Brussels in Shanghai China, 16-year communication professional Heather Ritchie, vice president APAC Communications at Alcatel-Lucent, agrees with Andersen. For her the “international conference is the one conference I must attend. I like stepping out of my day to day to hear other ideas and perspectives. It fuels me.”
The last two years have been some of the most painful and ironically the most rewarding for Jan Cherry as the internal communications and engagement leader for BP’s Gulf of Mexico Region. The challenges have proved to make her stronger and she looks to the conference for an inspirational boost.
“As the communications world continues to change, I have a passion to change with it,” said 20-year Houston-based veteran. “My eyes and ears are open to meet new faces, and hear exciting ways to bring fresh, insightful perspectives to the work I do everyday. I can’t think of a better way to explore this goal than to engage with a planet of communicators at the IABC World Conference who share my desire! I’m confident this experience will bring boundless opportunities to strengthen my approach in communicating with the business and enhance my professional career.”
The real benefit of the IABC World Conference is not the networking, nor the speakers, nor the awards or the tours. The real, tangible benefit of the conference is a combination of those individual highlights molded into a tool the communicator has at his or her disposal to solve communication problems facing their company or organization. A communication tool that sharpens individual’s skills, while keeping their company on the cutting edge of communication practices.
International Conference Links:
NOTE: The Sheraton is sold out for one day of the conference. The same conference rate can be found at the Doubletree Hotel two blocks away.