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Fresh thinking: Insights from the IABC World Conference, San Francisco, 2015

22 Jul 2015

The IABC World Conference is an annual feast for communicators. It offers a mix of exceptional and visionary keynote speakers through to small expert workshops.

It’s also a chance to meet with leading experts from around the world, to socialize, make new friends and contacts, and to relax in beautiful San Francisco.

With over 1100 delegates and 80 sessions to choose from, my only regret is that there were many sessions I couldn’t get to, so here are some of my favourites.

Firstly we kicked off with Sally Hogshead’s opening session on the science of fascination. Her tests and presentation had everyone buzzing and was a conversation kicker for the welcome reception that evening.

An inspiring talk was Aaron Dignan on The Responsive Organisation. It was a dazzling insight into disruptive innovation and the rapid pace of change requiring a new way of working along these shifts:

  • Profit <-> Purpose
  • Silos <-> Networks
  • Planning <-> Emergence
  • Efficiency <-> Adaptivity
  • Controlling <-> Empowering
  • Privacy  <-> Transparency

Been stuck in too many planning meetings, grinding through text rather than fresh ideas? Too many layers of approval? Aaron Dignan urged us to stop “planning to plan” and instead create networks that allow for the emergence of new ideas. Break down silos, and focus on internal networking, or “internal knittedness,” he advised. Check out or

Storytelling was a recurring theme, and according to Subhamoy Das, stories are the scaffoldings of business communications, but also of life. “We all live our lives through stories. We make sense of our world and our place in it through stories!”

Bill McDermott, CEO of SAP (and author of Winners Dream: A journey from corner store to corner office) told his life story and gave some key tips for communicators:

  • If you want to be relevant don’t come in with questions. Don’t waste time. Come in with ideas and solutions.
  • Avoid long emails “All this corporate sneaky stuff has gotta go”.
  • Go direct, pick up the phone.
  • Be a catalyst for making vision and strategy come to life. Think about what matters most.

A deeply important and moving session was on crisis communications during the Boston Marathon Bombings. We heard three perspectives:

  • the spectator who suffered psychological trauma and as a communicator explored the ways to reachout to so many different people
  • the Medical Centre where many victims were sent and who handled the first media call within nine minutes.
  • The police officer assigned to media relations, using social media to great effect including publishing the photo of the suspect, against usual police practice. They went to 850 million Facebook members, and from 55,000 to 300,000 Twitter followers in moments.

In the closing keynote, Guy Kawasaki gave us great tips for improving our social media profile. Checked yourself out recently?

As chief evangelist of, he also gave some tips on business cards, email signatures, powerpoint and pictures, and demonstrated ways to perfect our social media posts.

Save the date: Guy Kawasaki is presenting at a breakfast for IABC members on Friday 28th August in Melbourne. Details here.

Make a date: IABC World Conference, New Orleans, June 2016 – I’m there!

Leanne Joyce
President, IABC Canberra
Chair, IABC Asia-Pacific

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