By Liam O’Mahony, VP Finance of IABC Phoenix
I went to my first IABC conference in San Francisco in June 2009, and that was a bit overwhelming, given the more than 1,500 members from around the world in attendance. While it is always nice to get out of the office and visit a different city for a few days, I sometimes question the overall value of large conference presentations for delivering tangible takeaways that will have an immediate impact on attendees when they return to their jobs and associations back home.
Last weekend I had the unique opportunity to participate in the IABC Leadership Institute in Miami as a board member of IABC Phoenix. This forum presented a much smaller scope of sessions than the annual world conference. There were approximately 220 attendees from many chapters across the U.S., Canada and other countries. This conference is tailored for chapter board members and is built around breakout sessions and roundtables of small groups ranging from seven to twenty-five people.
Bart Butler, the IABC Phoenix President-Elect for the 2012-13 board term also attended the conference. To maximize the value, we attended different sessions outside of the two general presentations and exchanged notes and ideas in between or at meals. These discussions may lead to some new ideas for planning next year’s IABC Phoenix activities and programs.
One of my Leadership Institute highlights was interviewing the IABC Chair Adrian Cropley, ABC to discuss his thoughts on accreditation, board involvement and the “Making Managers Better Communicators” presentation he will give to IABC Phoenix members and guests at The Apollo Group on March 21. A separate Q&A video blog with Adrian will be posted soon on the IABC Phoenix website. He is a very energetic and animated speaker and I look forward to his visit next month.
The Leadership Institute was a great experience overall to network, discuss operations and gather new ideas with fellow IABC members from across North America. It is such a rare opportunity to see members from outside the Phoenix chapter, so I made many new connections that will continue on LinkedIn and Twitter going forward.
A few of my takeaways from the Leadership Institute are outlined below:
-The primary pillars of the IABC mission and purpose are to provide member content, be a partner in life-long learning and career development and emphasize the business objectives of communications to the chapter network.
-There was a workshop designed to train the “super judges” for the Quills awards competition. A comprehensive new judging criteria and instruction manual was developed as more consistent award judging procedures have been advocated by IABC for implementation at all three levels – Gold, Silver and Bronze. These new “Evaluating Excellence” standards also apply to the scoring for ABC portfolios and exams. The main outcomes for entries that are held to the award-winning status generally answer the question “Was the needle moved?” and “How was it moved?” outcomes rather than merely listing quantitative outputs.
-The principles of Kaizen, an efficiency improvement philosophy embraced by the Japanese, were outlined by keynote speaker Chakisse Newton, who emphasize a “dare to start small” approach:
1. Pursue incremental improvements; small steps within the process can make lasting and noticeable impacts. Incentives help to alleviate the “FUD” syndrome (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt).
2. “Break it down, then build it up” – each project is a task with more than one step. In a sales or pitch proposal situation, ensure preparation, delivery and follow-up. A smaller piece of delivered promise can lead to large-scale success over a longer-term relationship. Observation and documenting the number of tasks will help build up an improved process
3. Make small requests (plus one!) – When people are overwhelmed, they tend to underperform or panic at a large request. Couch the expectations by lower the magnitude of request, then build up a step from there by adding to the request.
4. Create clarity – go from the wow! To the how? Ask small questions in the form of “Five Whys” to drill deeper to the core of the process or project that needs to be completed.
-There was a great presentation by the IABC Toronto and San Francisco chapters outlining the elements and benefits of a comprehensive mentorship program with the following lifecycle: application, evaluation, pairing, introduction, sustain program, testimonials, celebration, legacy and advertising. The chapters worked on developing stronger relationships with local universities and corporate members and started with a call for participants that collected stories for matching mentees with mentors. The benefits of a strong mentorship program that were highlighted included: connecting with young professionals, inspiring member engagement, enhancing career development, seeding the culture and succession planning.
-Another session delved into the merits of pursuing the Accredited Business Communicator certification. Approximately seven percent of the worldwide IABC membership possesses the ABC designation and the goal is to elevate that threshold significantly higher. The benefits touted for attaining the ABC are demonstrating professional credibility, career advancement potential and resume enhancement, increased confidence in problem solving and strategic planning and recognition from your peers and your local IABC chapter.