IABC 2017 World Conference Recap

    Karen Reid

    I had the chance to broaden my communications horizons and increase my connections as I joined more than 1,000 international communicators at the historic Washington Hilton in Washington, DC for the 2017 IABC World Conference – what an amazing experience!

    I arrived a day early, to represent IABC Dallas at the Annual General Meeting (AGM), held each year just prior to the conference to conduct association business and elect the members of the International Executive Board (IEB). Interesting facts gleaned from the meeting:

    • Get set for #IABC1720, our new strategic framework designed to advance the profession, create connection and develop strategic communicators
    • ISO Certification is on the way for the Senior Communication Management Professional (SCMP) certification
    • IABC has received Platinum Status from Guidestar, the world’s largest source of information on nonprofit organizations (a huge achievement!)
    • For more information, check out

    Professional Development
    The conference theme was “Global Business: Lead Communication -- Make Real Impact.” I gained insight from each session I attended and came away from the conference inspired to continue innovating and integrating communications into my niche market. What a thrill to have five tracks of learning tracks to choose from including Communication skills, Leadership and strategy, Marketing and brand, Reputation and Employee engagement. Along with creative visuals and spontaneous discussion, the more than 70 speakers presented in a variety of formats including talks, panels, workshops and the Circles of Wisdom, a special series led by IABC Fellows. They provided an inside look at Gold Quill case studies, business analyses and best practices, helping us to gain insight, knowledge and techniques for providing more value to our teams and organizations.

    There was no shortage of networking opportunities. Throughout the week, I:

    • Mingled with IABC leaders from around the world at the Leaders Reception
    • Socialized with fellow communicators from 30 countries, making new acquaintances and reconnecting with treasured colleagues and friends during the Welcome Reception at the stunning International Trade Center
    • Celebrated at the IABC Foundation Reception, which highlighted the Foundation’s ongoing work and kicked off a fundraising contest amongst the regions.
    • Attended the Southern Region’s fabulous gathering during the Regional Receptions
    • Dined at a phenomenal restaurant (Founding Farmers) and shared delicious food and fabulous experience with 10 fellow communicators during the Dine Around
    • Met with colleagues from a diverse array of companies and countries to share perspectives at the Speed Networking lunch, a brown-bag round robin of eight-minute conversations with the theme of “share, discover and grow”

    Special Events
    On Sunday, I participated in The IABC Foundation’s “Gift of Communication,” an annual community social responsibility event. Twenty-nine IABCers spent the afternoon sharing their talents and counsel with 10 agency representatives from six nonprofits in the DC area. What a wonderful, enriching experience for all of us, as we engaged with a global bank of fellow communicators to create communication plans and provide guidance on pressing challenges.

    The World Café General Session was a unique experience of small group discussions and crowdsourcing during which we shared insights and experiences focusing on ethics in communications. As we dove into dialogue, an illustrator captured our comments and created an “Ethics in Communication” poster that remained in The Hub for the rest of the conference.
    Discussion points included:

    • What does ethics in communications mean to you?
    • Share how the recent social and political situation impacts your thinking about ethics or describe an ethical challenge you’ve experienced?
    • What do you consider your own code of ethics?

    Enthusiasm was at a fever pitch by the time the Excellence Awards Gala rolled around. Billed as the communication professional’s night of nights, filled with inspiration, delicious food, entertainment and great company, the event honors Gold Quill Award winners, IABC Fellows, and special award winners. FYI, our own Meagan Bubela received a Gold Quill and chapter sponsor PartnerComm, Inc. was named Large Agency of the Year – congratulations!

    Did I mention that not only was the conference educational and informative, it was fun? We bedecked our conference badges with a wide array of descriptive ribbons ranging from “First Timer” to “Colors Outside the Lines,” “Official Smarty Pants,” “Mastermind” and “Warning: Spontaneous Sarcasm.” In the Hub Exhibit Hall, vendors offered giveaways, candy and fun photo opportunities in addition to information about new tools and services to help us innovate.

    Gabrielle Dolan kicked off our week with a keynote address on authentic leadership and storytelling, recommending that we reduce the length of our workplace stories to 1-2 minutes (verbal) and 300 words (written) and reducing the overuse of corporate jargon to better reach our audiences. Monday’s General Session keynote was delivered by Jon Iwata, of IBM. “We need to become modern communicators,” Iwata said as he led an inspiring discussion about Artificial Intelligence (AI), highlighting IBM’s Watson, which can understand and interact naturally with people, learning and reasoning while recognizing language. Iwata explained that AI can help us find relevant information for specific audiences. “We need to gain mastery of technology and use it to move forward in our work,” he said. “AI, when properly applied, is a force for good.” Tuesday dawned with sunshine and a focus on originality as Denise Jacobs got us moving with the Creativity (R)evolution, her vision for a future that will transform the way we communicate and connect. She incorporated improv, group think and breakout discussions to generate creative sparks and encouraged us to “ban our inner critic” and be kind to ourselves. The conference concluded on Wednesday with keynote speaker Mark Jeffries’ discussion on the art of business influence. Jeffries, a former Merrill Lynch stockbroker who has become a trusted adviser and communication consultant, sprinkled humor and levity in his motivational presentation, focused on listening and responding as professional communicators. He encouraged the audience to listen not to reply but, rather, to understand. "Listen to what is said and not said," he suggested, noting the four steps necessary for a meaningful exchange are listen, watch, anticipate and then react.

    Looking Ahead
    I can’t wait for next year’s World Conference and I’m hoping you will make plans to join me June 3-6, 2018 at the Palais des congrès de Montréal in Montreal, Canada for what I know will be a spectacular event!



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