By Devin Harrington, Communication Specialist
Last month, I had the opportunity to attend the International Association of Business Communicator’s (IABC) World Conference in San Francisco. As a member of the Minnesota chapter, I had attended a few local seminars and luncheons that I thought were highly valuable. So, I was eager to see what this large, global format had to offer…Plus, I was excited to spend a few days in California!
Day one started with volunteering at The Gift of Communication. In this three and a half hour round table session, conference attendees had an opportunity to meet local nonprofits and share communication strategies and tactics. I met with John and Jill from The Volunteer Center. This 70 year old organization has a great history of connecting nonprofits, business and individuals with mutually beneficial service opportunities. Looking at their future and preparing for potential changes in their service delivery, all at the table agreed that creating an overall communication strategy and finding a dedicated communication professional to help implement the plan would be most helpful.
Throughout the next three days of the conference, I was able to choose from dozens of breakout sessions covering a variety of topics and trends. More often than not, I was filled with a sense of affirmation that much of the communication we do at Hammer is in line with industry trends and the communication profession as a whole. In an age of nonstop communication, it’s not about getting the most messages out through any and all channels possible; it’s about finding the most appropriate channels to spread well-crafted, targeted messages. In the past couple of years, we have gotten more in tune with this at Hammer and, in my opinion, have positioned ourselves well in our community and broader industry.
A recurring theme in a number of presentations/speeches was the idea of disruption and constant change. Because of advances in technology and the increase in ways people communicate, organizations have to constantly be on their toes. You still need to plan and count on those tried and true practices, but you also need to be ready to adapt and work with your audiences. For a nonprofit like Hammer, this can be challenging given the variety of audiences we need to reach and the finite resources with which we have to do this. In general, we plan and adapt well, but, there is always room for improvement.
An indirect result of having so many communications professionals in one setting was the chance to network and perhaps make a new friend or two. At the 2014 conference in Toronto, my director connected with an Australian PR professional who ran a firm with his wife. It just so happened that his wife and one of their employees would be in San Francisco. It was great meeting them, learning about the communication profession from an Australian point of view and exploring some of the cities establishments and well-known neighborhoods after the days’ breakout and keynote sessions. Now, I have two new Aussie friends and a place to stay in Sydney should I ever venture down under.
Overall, I enjoyed my first experience at the IABC World Conference and learned a number of things I can now apply to my work. It can be tiring to spend multiple days in a conference setting, but the variety of breakout formats, scope of topics covered and backdrop of San Francisco kept me thoroughly engaged. Not all organizations provide employees with opportunities to grow professionally outside the office, but thankfully, I work at Hammer.