Empathy. Storytelling. Engagement. – The three main themes from this year’s IABC Canada West Regional Conference which took place Oct. 22-24 in Kelowna, BC.
As this was my first IABC conference experience, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. However, after three days surrounded by like-minded colleagues, I will definitely be attending again.
The conference offered four keynote speakers, 15 breakout session options, networking refreshment breaks and my personal favourite – Experience Talks – where six master communicators shared a story that somehow related back to communications or a learning experience that helped shape who they are today.
One phrase that resonated with me was from Catherine Ducharme, one of the Experience Talks panelists. She said, “Our career is a combination of what we create and how we hold it.”
This quote tied well into the theme of storytelling. All of our stories, regardless if they are personal or work-related, help shape who we are and how we handle situations. Empathy plays a large part in this as well.
Breakout sessions included topics on research, engagement, leadership, brand/reputation, content strategy, design, change management and marketing. There was something for every type of communicator. Each session offered practical tools (such as templates or key questions) that could be implemented upon one’s return to work.
Aside from the actual sessions, it was very beneficial to network with other communicators from across Canada. This gave the opportunity to discuss workplace challenges and to learn how others have approached and solved similar challenges in their own workplaces.
A common trend identified this year is the increase in change management and the growing importance of internal communications. Often, leaders or executives make decisions that affect all staff, yet have difficulty in communicating this in a way that involves employees and gets them on board with the change. A typical go-to solution would be an employee survey.
A new suggestion for dealing with change management arose from a breakout session on design thinking with Mallory O’Connor and Barbara Richards. They suggested using an empathy map – a tool that assesses (1) what people are doing and thinking, (2) what people are feeling and saying, (3) what people are seeing and hearing, and (3) what the pain points are.
This is just one example of a practical take-a-way that conference attendees received.
Whether you are a junior-level, mid-level or senior-level communicator, attending an IABC conference is definitely worth one’s time. I left the conference with new tools, new connections and new ideas on how to approach certain situations. Most importantly, I left with a new insight into how my own stories and experiences have shaped how I communicate.