The importance of communication and connection at this year’s IABC World Conference, Vancouver

Pesel and Carr’s Managing Director, Barbara Pesel, and Account Manager, Amanda Cirillo, recently attended the annual International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference in Vancouver. The pair returned home with not only an abundance of thought-provoking takeaways, but also two Gold Quill Awards!

“Think Forward” was this year’s conference theme. A few topics covered by keynote speakers were; the lost art of conversation, engagement reimagined and the power of authentic storytelling, and how communications can enable accelerated growth and innovation.

For communications professionals it was the epitome of innovative thinking in relation to how communications can and must move forward to help achieve business objectives. The keynote and breakout sessions shared inspiring stories, presented unique views and pushed boundaries.

Our top takeaways from the conference were:

There is no better time for communications

It is time for communications professionals to take their seat at the board room table. We are the experts in our field, and it is our responsibility to use our expertise to support senior executives, helping them to achieve their business goals.

With that responsibility comes a need for communications professionals to take an enterprise-wide view of the organisations we work with, identifying opportunities and risks and understanding how they can impact all aspects of a business.

Test less, more often

The “research” phase of a project does not have to be intimidating, nor should it be a finite part of a program. Communications decisions are increasingly backed by data rather than instinct.

Research can include simple A/B testing with audiences to identify what resonates. For example, asking which colour is preferred, or which image on a magazine cover. It can also be a one or two question polling rate, what has the most impact amongst the communications component you are developing. Instinct is good, but it must be backed by insight.

If you’re not doing video, you’re not doing communications

Almost every speaker touched on the power of video for communicating messages, especially when telling tricky stories. Video creates empathy and allows the combination of emotions alongside facts.

Neuroscientific research attests that when people read something that challenges their own point of view, they assume that the author does not understand the issue. But when they hear an opposing opinion, they think that person has had different experiences which has led them to their convictions.

Internal and external communications are no longer two distinct functions

One of our mantras at Pesel & Carr is “it all starts from within” – and this idea was a common theme throughout the two days.

With research by Gallup showing the majority of employees are unengaged in the workplace, it is no surprise the biggest concerns for CEOs globally are attracting and retaining talent. Companies with employees that understand the business strategy – not just the vision – perform significantly better financially, yet just 34 per cent of companies reiterate the strategic priorities more than once a quarter. Just like external communications, internal engagement has a direct impact on the bottom line.

Be in the present

Who can multi-task? All the findings point to no one. Conference presenters emphasised the importance of deep listening, focusing on one task at a time – which means switching off devices when you can – and having more face-to-face time with others. When a person’s email inbox is open, productivity drops by 10 per cent.

The art of a good conversation is asking a simple question to receive a complicated answer.

Long live print

While digital channels are critical to most communications strategies, there is still a place for print. Research shows that people read more of a publication for longer in print version than online, particularly amongst employees for internal communications.

People look for downtime from their screens and the sensory experience of reading in print.

“The conference takeaways reiterated the importance of what we do here at Pesel & Carr and the way we align our strategies to business objectives,” said Barbara.

“Effective communication is more science than art. Our role as communications professionals is to turn data and trends into insights that drive all our activity. We need to continually demonstrate how our work contributes to outcomes – and this is best done collaboratively working in a trusted partnership with senior leaders.”

The 2019 conference was IABC’s biggest yet, attracting more than 1,400 business communications professionals from 42 countries.