Five Themes from the 2019 IABC World Conference

The IABC Heritage Region awarded two members with scholarships to the World Conference in Vancouver earlier this year. Nancy Sarpolis from the Detroit Chapter shares the key themes from the conference in her blog.

Attending the recent IABC World Conference was like being the proverbial kid in a communications candy store.  Just look at the conference line-up: Communicating artificial intelligence. Driving culture change. Standing out in a noisy market. Engaging remote workers. Yes, please!

But with nearly a hundred sessions and networking events at this year’s event in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, choices had to be made. And even though I couldn’t attend them all, there were several common themes among those I selected:

  1. Engagement is still an issue. According to a recent study, only 15% of workers consider themselves engaged at work. These sobering findings are from the Corporate Rebels,  a team of communicators from the Netherlands who left their corporate jobs and set out to learn from the world’s most inspiring organizations. Case studies include companies that are growing their business through supportive leadership (Ari Weinzweig at Zingerman’s in Ann Arbor, Michigan) as well as those that are improving productivity through employee freedom and trust (Frank Van Massenhove at Belgium’s Federal Office of Social Affairs).
  2. Transparency builds trust.  While nearly every keynoter—and many breakout session speakers—echoed the importance of trust in our leaders and organizations, the most interesting presentation on the topic came from the Regional Municipality of Peel in Ontario, Canada. Their case study involved providing a cynical journalist with unprecedented access to an innovative long-term care facility (while still respecting patient privacy). The transparency led to a greater understanding of the issues and challenges facing caregivers and their patients…and ultimately drove advocacy in the form of favorable legislation for this vulnerable population.
  3. Technology is changing your workplace and also the way you work. Sessions on new technology and artificial Intelligence drew standing-room-only crowds…and for good reason. Digital tools such as block chain, which offer an extraordinary level of transparency, are predicted to transform many industries and spawn new ones. In the not-too-distant future, for example, you’ll be able to select a head of lettuce and scan it to learn where and when it was grown and the details of how it arrived in your grocery store (or grocery delivery box). The Hub vendor fair was also filled with the latest communication solutions for measuring and simplifying the email process, personalizing messaging for various audiences, polling and more.
  4. Brands taking a stand. Consumers and employees increasingly expect their brands and their workplaces to take a stand on social issues. According to a 2018 study by Global Strategy Group, 77% of Americans believe that corporations have a responsibility to take action on important issues such as gun violence, immigration and climate change. Leaders need our counsel more than ever to navigate this very public and dynamic space.
  5. Print is back!  You probably received the inaugural copy of Catalyst, the recently launched magazine for IABC members. Even digital brands—think Airbnb and Raspberry pi—are launching print publications. Why the resurgence? Experts point to studies that show individuals retain more information when it appears in print, as well as the permanency of the medium. Print also garners higher scores for trust than digital sources—which is becoming more important than ever in the era of fake news.

Bottom line: World Conference was one sweet experience. If you missed it, take heart. Several World Conference speakers are among the 30+ speakers who will be featured at the 2019 IABC Heritage Region Communication Conference in Detroit on Sept. 22-24, 2019. Early bird registration ends July 30, with final registration by Aug. 30.

Nancy Sarpolis
IABC Detroit Chapter Board Member