Yearly Archive 2015

ByMichael Ambjorn

December Leadership Forum: Finance & Brand

The fourth IABC Leadership Forum was pulled together from across three continents: Carlos was in Montréal, Dianne in Clinton, Ginger in Tulsa and Priya in Toronto. I was in London – and Melissa helped with the Q&A from Melbourne.

Here’s the replay:

Special Q&A guests


Ginger Homan

Ginger Homan

Carlos Fulcher

Carlos Fulcher

On this edition we were joined by IABC Treasurer, Ginger Homan, ABC.

Ginger has been working closely with Carlos Fulcher to create a balanced 2016 budget for IABC – including essential strategic technology investments including:

  • An updated Association Management System – to better serve staff and leaders – in line with our theory of change
  • A Learning Management System for the IABC Academy – to better serve those seeking professional development through IABC – in line with our mission

Additional strategic investment is going into better serving our Corporate Members – and short-term improvements are also being made to the current member management system (MMA).

Our association is still working through the aftermath of ten years of underinvestment in this area. Progress is being made.

One further major financial item to note is the $300K+ cost reduction we will be realising through moving our offices. Carlos briefly spoke to this at the end of the call.


Priya Bates

Priya Bates

Past Chair of the IABC Brand Task Force, Priya Bates, ABC, MC, joined for a Q&A on the brand roll-out.

Priya’s key messages:

  • It is great to see so many chapter adopting the brand so fast – some are still to pick it up though. Help is available… just ask.
  • Whatever you do visually: keep it simple.
  • And remember, the brand is more than the logo – use all of it – see the Brand Toolkit.

A practical, actionable element of the latter which you can RT:

Quick overview of the further topics covered

Dianne Chase

Dianne Chase

Dianne Chase shared a look ahead to #IABCLI – aka –  the 2016 Leadership Institute. We look forward to seeing you there. Dianne also shared the latest top  growth chapters – impressive and encouraging: 

Large Chapters

Edmonton 26%

Medium Chapters

Canberra 15%

Small Chapters

Switzerland 40%  

Well done. 

Also big thanks to all who participated in the IABC Leadership Survey that just closed. We’ll look closer at the insights early next year. Meanwhile,  Gold Quill is well underway. Here’s your toolkit.    

…and, also topical – a reminder from the Past Chair:   


Q&A Highlights

Question from Sheila Carruthers from Calgary: In addition to IABC working on corporate discount offerings, will there be consideration to offer discounts at LI and conferences for independent consultant members and individuals who pay their own membership fees?

Answer: Check out the scholarships for LI in the first instance – Ginger also offered to connect offline to talk more.

Question from Maliha Aqeel from Toronto: Are there any plans for HQ to conduct a brand compliance audit?

Answer: The recent Leader Survey had a set of questions around brand adoption – we will share more on that early next year.

Question from Gay Flashman from London:  Is there any way in which we can share our original blog & social content between chapters for use on local IABC channels?

Answer: The Editorial Committee has been charged with creating a global conversation calendar that can help facilitate this. Watch this space.

Last but not least, I shared a brief update on my recent #IABCAPAC trip. Here’s a decent summary of how I felt after – fuller notes will be filed in the usual place.

Thanks to all who connected – and you don’t have to wait until next month to get a question answered. Just head over to the IABC Chapter Leaders Group on LinkedIn and pitch in.

Let’s #createconnection – like never before.

Michael Ambjorn


ByMichael Ambjorn

Skills, skills, skills…

Stacy Wilson

Stacy Wilson

Guest post from World Conference – aka #IABC16Programme Advisory Committe Chair Stacy Wilson, ABC

Serving as the 2016 IABC Program Advisory Committee (PAC) chair has brought many revelations. One very important one is that being an IABC member and a long-time volunteer is not enough to ensure my place as a speaker.

I’ve submitted to speak to World Conference many times and been refused on numerous occasions; even as I speak frequently for other organizations, chapters and my region. I used to think that my long service in many different roles should have influenced my selection. One of the reasons I agreed to this last-minute assignment was to more fully understand the process. Now I do.

My PAC team – which is a remarkably talented group! – comes from 15 different time zones. There are millennials, mid-career professionals and very senior practitioners. There are people from corporate, consulting, not-for-profits and government. We even have several non-members to help us better understand what brings non-members into the fold.

These are the amazing people who evaluated the nearly 200 submissions received. This week, I’ve fielded many emails from the disappointed speakers who did not receive an invitation to present.

How the process works

Every proposal is submitted online. Prospective speakers are asked to provide session titles, descriptions, value/benefit explanation, along with their biographies, references and supporting documentation that helps us understand their skills as a presenter/instructor. Submitters are asked to consider a variety of concerns, such as theGlobal Standard, Career Paths and the conference theme.

Each submission is reviewed by at least two evaluators. Each is scored based on various elements related to content and presentation skills. Evaluators are able to comment on the submissions they review. Then begins a complicated process of identifying the short list of speakers to invite, considering these elements:

  • Track
  • Session type (e.g., traditional, workshop, IABC talk, speed presentation)
  • Speaker locations
  • Scores and evaluator comments

We also looked at who had spoken at the prior two conferences so as not to repeat too many of the same faces. This is in response to attendees who want to see fresh, new ideas from new faces. If we consider a speaker who has spoken recently, we review recent ratings for that speaker.

If we can’t discern the prospective speaker’s presentation skills, we may follow up with references to understand more about delivery style. Video clips help tremendously here. Only a small fraction of submitters even submitted a video clip. Evaluators often search online for these.

There are always some who decline the invitation, which sends us back to the backup list to fill such gaps. This means that a rude/inappropriate response to the initial decline doesn’t help your case for a secondary invitation. Remember, the speaker slate isn’t done until every speaker is under contract.

What it comes down to

In the end, here are my top take aways from the experience thus far:

  1. Evaluators may not know the prospective speaker personally. Even past chairs and Fellows may not be well recognized for their important role. Being a long-time member and/or volunteer really gives a submitter no edge.
  2. Submitters who do not provide clear demonstration of their speaking skills and ability will suffer lower scores. Slides alone cannot provide evaluators this level of information. Video is the best way, but providing exercises, methodology, handouts, tools, etc., can make up for a lack of video evidence.
  3. A high rating with one topic at the prior year’s conference is no guarantee that your new topic will make it through the PAC process. Last year’s rating is a secondary metric. If a submitter fails to impress with the new topic (e.g., vague description, poor supporting documentation), his/her score will not elevate the proposal to the short list.
  4. Every submitter believes his/her topic is the most important – I always thought this too – and is incredulous when it isn’t picked. What they don’t know is that there may be many other similar presentations submitted. The most competitive tracks areEmployee Engagement and Leadership and Strategy. If you submit in one of these, your chances of getting selected are smaller because these are the tracks with the most submissions.

So what is really important in this process? According to the PAC’s charge, it is these considerations, in this order:

  1. Quality
  2. Content
  3. Global representation

Clearly, many prospective speakers do not understand how to submit a great proposal. I certainly wasn’t submitting the greatest proposals. To support prospective speakers we are going to create a how-to toolkit. This will help anyone submitting put together a great proposal in time for the 2017 call for presentations.

I get it now.

2016 PAC members were not allowed to submit; a change to the PAC terms beginning with this term. There is no bias, no politics involved in speaker selection; it’s been very democratic. The team is trying to deliver the very best in service to the member, the association and the profession.

As the PAC chair, I am not allowed to submit for either 2016 or 2017. But, I can promise you I’ll be ready to submit for 2018, and I’ll use my new-found insights to ensure that my submission wows even the evaluator who has never heard my name!

ByMichael Ambjorn

December ’15 Board Meeting

The IABC International Executive Board – aka #IABCieb – recently held its seventh board meeting of this term and here’s a quick recap of what was on the table in addition to the usual reports from the Chair; Vice Chair Dianne Chase (with a specific focus on the work of the Council of Regions); Financials from Treasurer Ginger Homan ABC and last definitively but not least, the report from our Executive Director, Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE.

The 2014—2017 strategy says, in a paragraph:

“Financial recovery and sustainability is primary, as is the loyalty and development of our members and leaders and consolidating gains from the 2011-14 strategy. Increased reputation in the profession; better brand positioning; and greater interaction with business as a revenue generator are then the big opportunity to be grasped”.

Financial Recovery and Sustainability

Ginger Homan

Ginger Homan

Carlos Fulcher

Carlos Fulcher

Brook Yciano

Brook Yciano

At this board meeting the board reviewed the Finance Committee’s proposed 2016 balanced budget – including a set of strategic investments in:

  • Association Management System (AMS)
  • Learning Management System (LMS)
  • Office relocation costs

The latter will ultimately yield a saving of $350,000 in its first year.

The first two are essential steps in our continuing work to make up for ten years of underinvestment in technology. I am pleased to report that the board unanimously adopted the budget. Big thanks to Treasurer, Ginger Homan ABC,  Executive Director, Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE and Finance Director, Brook Yciano – and all of the hard working Finance Committee.

The board also reviewed progress reports from Audit & Risk, Policy ReviewAcademy and the Global Communication Certification Council.

Loyalty and development of our members and leaders

Dianne Chase

Dianne Chase

Micayla Felicion-Davin

Micayla Felicion-Davin

Once a year we bring IABC’s top international leaders together. IABC Vice Chair Dianne Chase shared an update on the preparations for this with help from the Council of Regions and Micayla Felicion on staff.

See the full programme – and register.

Connect with others going: #IABCLI – and if you haven’t been to one before, why not check out some of the photos from last year’s Leadership Institute?

Better brand positioning

In line with the focusing in on Strategic Advisors as the core audience for IABC, the board was pleased to learn that the Global Communication Certification Council has decided, after considerable deliberation, to pursue that level as the next Certification. Stay tuned for more on this in 2016.

Greater interaction

I reported how, as Chair, I was honoured to join 32 IABC Leaders from across Asia-Pacific who met for the first Leadership Institute in the APAC region since 2012 – and the first since the formation of the APAC Region Board. The event was hugely successful and offered a balanced mix of workshops, educational sessions, networking opportunities and social events.


This was in addition to 40+ engagements in 7 cities across 14 back-to-back days on the road. Our leaders in APAC are nothing if not ambitious on behalf of IABC’s leadership. This included advocacy opportunities with:

  • Five government departments, a major police force and other public service bodies
  • Australia and New Zealand’s biggest banks, a cellular operator, an insurer, a financial institution, a major engineering firm, and more…

You can read what I learnt on this – and other trips – in the Field Notes section of this blog. So many to thank – esp: Leanne Joyce, Zora Artis, Monika Lancucki ABC, Damien Batey, Mike Shaw, Kathryn Britt, Yvonne DensemJennifer Andrewes and John Tulloch + the amazing and unstoppable Kirsten Peterson.

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn


ByMichael Ambjorn

November IABC Leadership Forum

The third IABC Leadership Forum was pulled together from across two continents: Carlos was in Philadelphia, Dianne in Charlotte, and I was in London – and Melissa helped with the Q&A from San Francisco.

Here’s the replay:

Be sure to tune in for the next one.

When & Where
Wednesday 16 December: 1pm PST / 4pm EST / 9pm London / 8am Sydney (Thur). Click here for time zone conversions in your part of the world. Full details here.

ByMichael Ambjorn

Who does what

This week’s Venn is an excerpt from the latest quarterly report for the International Association of Business Communicators.

It is snapshot of the work put in to advancing the comms profession done by 1000+ leaders across the world.

You can download the PDF here.

Learn more about IABC at – and be sure to follow @IABC.

If you want to do a deep-dive, you may also want to check out some of the other posts on this blog. Here are the key categories and what you can find within them:

#IABCieb Notes & Queries

Notes from every board meeting

IABC Leadership Forum

Q&A and more from the monthly Leadership Forum.

Annual General Meeting

Notes from the 2015 Annual General Meeting – including  a look ahead.

Field Notes

A range of reflections – some examples: What communicators can learn from start-ups: paper folding segmentationWhat connects these three leaders?An extreme reading / listening listMaking global communications work3 insights from the #sharingeconomy road from Frankfurt to Florence

Guest posts

Does exactly what is says on the tin. We always need more of these.

The Weekly Venn

It is all about the intersect…

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. Want to share this week’s Venn? Go on. You know you want to.

ByMichael Ambjorn

11 conference ideas from #SLUSH15

This week I’ve been at #SLUSH15 in Helsinki – a start-up focused event that has grown from a few hundred people to 15,000 in less than seven years.

So whoever tells you that people no longer go to conferences are wrong. People are just expecting a different format than they used to – and here are a few ideas I took away from this monster-one:

People come because of people

1: Because they can meet likeminded people. Not just the fancy keynotes and all that.

SLUSH gets it – they’ve put the whole shebang in one hangar-sized space: 15,000 people milling, talking, connecting – all at once.

2: They’ve also dispensed with the bright lights – making an airport-sized experience feel intimate. Oh and they have lasers. And smoke machines. But I digress.

A good conference is a marketplace for connection

Not just content.

3: SLUSH have a great space set aside for connecting – where people can meet, discuss and kick off new collaborations. Because innovation is all about cross-pollination of ideas.

4: Also, speakers such as Google’s Sarah Drinkwater (Head of their London Campus) offer to spend time with people 1:1 to share advice. Adds a nice peer-to-peer touch – making everybody behave in a more accessible manner.

5: Many come to events to find a new gig. SLUSH have grabbed this challenge by the horns: they have a whole area dedicated to recruiters. Example? Exhibitor TransferWise is looking for all of these: CopywriterDigital Content ProducerEuropean Community ManagerPaid Social Marketing ManagerVideo ProducerHead Of Government RelationsHead Of PR – APACHead Of PR – Europe, Head Of PR – UKInternal Communications Manager, PR Intern (Paid, Immediate Start)Press Officer (Europe)

Technology accelerates the experience

6: Yet the experience is still human. A set of apps help play a part: the main SLUSH one providing the agenda etc. + clever real-time help via the folk at Ninchat.

7: Then there’s the swipe-right-left networking-app GRIP – which promises to work long after the event is over. Let’s see.

8: For those using Twitter (and at #SLUSH15 that is a lot of people) it always helps when slides have hashtags and handles so information can easily be tagged on the fly.

A few Old School things still worth the while

9: The humble business card is definitively not dead. I get mine from Moo.

10: Nor are name tags with nice big, clear and legible lettering. Font size 30+ or bigger. Some of us wear glasses.

11: Decent coffee helps. A lot. Thanks

If this might be useful to somebody organising a conference near you, feel free to share it.

Meanwhile, I hope to see you in Sydney later this month, Los Angeles in February, Rotterdam in April and New Orleans in June 2016 – or somewhere in-between.

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn


ByMichael Ambjorn

What communicators can learn from start-ups: paper folding segmentation

This week I’ve been at #SLUSH15 – an event that brings together 15,000 people interested in start-ups: entrepreneurs, investors, academics and of course the raw talent who power it all.

Here’s one of the things I took away – advice given to start-ups, but just as applicable to communicators operating at the strategic advisor level:

Paper folding segmentation

‘Impossible is nothing’ said Muhammad Ali – and whilst that is true, he did take a rather meticulous approach.

The same goes for start-ups (and communicators) who succeed: they don’t try their luck across all the weight classes.

They pick their fights carefully.

The first step? Segmentation.

Kim Väisänen

Kim Väisänen

Kim Väisänen brilliantly brought this to life with a visual shorthand: and no, I’m not talking about boxing gloves. Rather, something you’ll most likely have to hand: a plain sheet of paper.

From Wikipedia: A size chart illustrating the ISO A series and a comparison with American letter and legal formats

From Wikipedia: A size chart illustrating the ISO A series and a comparison with American letter and legal formats

Now just imagine that piece of paper is the whole world.

Tempting, yet hopefully obvious that you can’t address all of it.

Kim’s advice? Keep folding until you have enough specificity to make it meaningful – but also realise that you can’t fold infinitely.

The average piece of paper can only be folded 7-8 times.

If you want to geek out on more on start-up advice – including Rachleff’s Law of Start-up Success, then there’s a useful write-up here. For those just starting out, this simple ‘business plan basics’ Prezi which I’ve taken on the road in the past may also be useful.

Or, if you simply want to prove that you’re a world class communicator who knows how to target what you do… the time is now to enter the 2015 Gold Quills.


2015 Gold Quill - IMAGINE

Share your good practice: let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn


ByMichael Ambjorn

November ’15 Board Meeting

The IABC International Executive Board – aka #IABCieb – recently held its sixth board meeting of this term and here’s a quick recap of what was on the table in addition to the usual reports from the Chair; Vice Chair Dianne Chase (with a specific focus on the work of the Council of Regions (#IABCcor)); Financials from Treasurer Ginger Homan ABC and last definitively but not least, the report from our Executive Director, Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE:

Portfolio Review & Organisational Alignment

Cindy Schmieg

Cindy Schmieg

Our on-going work to ensure a strong and sustainable future for the association – one where the sum is greater than its parts – continues.

At this board meeting Cindy Schmieg ABC reported on the work of the Awards Alignment Task Force which has been looking at how the recognition programmes at the different levels of IABC can better work in synch.

Meanwhile, do help promote this year’s Gold Quill

Katie Macaulay
Katie Macaulay
Melissa Dark

Melissa Dark

One of the cornerstones of the current three-year strategy is increased reputation in the profession and better brand positioning – and one of the routes to achieving this is by stepping up our own practice of communication. Katie Macaulay and our Director of Global Communications, Melissa Dark ABC, joined the board meeting for a generative discussion to further advance this work. They will bring back a practical strategy for review in December.

Last but not least on this front, the board reviewed the results from the annual board evaluation.

Member Month Results & Technology Update

Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE
Carlos Fulcher

The board discussed the latest membership figures and Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE reported on the latest work on the website.

Moving IABC’s technology infrastructure into the 21st century after ten years of underinvestment continues to be hard work, but progress is being made. I continue to be in awe of the effort being put in by our hard-working HQ staff – and our leaders in the field – to serve members around the world. Thankyou!

Also: the member marketing toolkit page has now been updated with new social media posts and images.

Claudia Vaccarone

Claudia Vaccarone

Linked to this Claudia Vaccarone shared an update from the Membership Task Force. One of the early recommendations to come out of that group is a call for additional investment in updating IABC’s technology infrastructure.

This groups is also doing an analysis of the wider competitive/collaborative arena that IABC is playing in. If you have a contribution to make here, do get in touch with Claudia.

A look ahead to the 2016 Leadership Institute

Leaders go to Leadership Institutes to build their leadership skills.

They happen around the world: Minneapolis, Johannesburg, Basel, Denver, Calgary and Baltimore earlier in the year – and I am excited about attending the APAC LI in Sydney in November.

Dianne Chase
Dianne Chase

Leaders also go to Leadership Institutes. To build their leadership skills.

Once a year we bring IABC’s top international leaders together. IABC Vice Chair Dianne Chase shared an update on the preparations for this with help from the Council of Regions and Micayla Felicion on staff.

Registration for the 2016 Leadership Institute is now open. We are looking forward to an energetic event at the Hotel Maya in Long Beach, CA from 4-6 February 2016. The program for the Leadership Institute will offer leadership training, professional development, and networking for IABC chapter leaders coming from around the world. Additional information about LI can be found here. We look forward to seeing you in Long Beach!

Don’t forget to submit your Chapter Management Award entries by 1 December 2015. The CMA winners will be presented at LI.

Progress towards the 2016 World Conference

Stacy Wilson

Stacy Wilson

Stacy Wilson ABC shared an update on the progress her Program Advisory Committee is making in preparation for the 2016 World Conference which will be help 5–8 June in
New Orleans.

The team is working on reviewing the many submissions for sessions – as well as selecting keynote speakers.

Registration is open – please help spread the word using #IABC16.

Forward Look

At the December meeting, in addition to the Comms Committee returning, we will review progress from Audit & Risk, Policy Review, Academy and the Global Communication Certification Council. That’s in addition to reviewing the 2016 budget for IABC which will go to the Finance Committee first.

Meanwhile, please do join the next IABC Leadership Forum online: details here.

Meanwhile, thanks for all you do.

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

ByMichael Ambjorn

Board Evaluation & Effectiveness

This week is #trusteesweek here in the UK where I am based. It is an opportunity to take stock of the opportunities available to leaders looking to impact the non-profit sector.

For the IABC International Executive Board – who also serve as Trustees of the IABC Foundation – it is also an opportunity to step back and reflect. Why? The annual board evaluation is coming up at today’s board meeting.

We’ve committed to doing this annually in line with good board practice for non-profits – and in fact, it is good practice for all types of boards. Whether public, commercial or charitable as messrs. Cameron & Archer outline here . Do also see the Venn they’ve kindly lent me for this purpose (used as the header for this post). A sober change from the usually more colourful Venns). It sets out the three elements of board effectiveness.

Kirsten Peterson

Kirsten Peterson

I’ll go into a bit more detail about the framework we have used (with expert assistance from our Governance Coordinator, Kirsten Peterson) once we have had the discussion. You’ll be able to find that filed under #IABCieb Notes & Queries in the next week or so.

Before that, I want to emphasise that whether you serve on a full-fledged board – or indeed as part of any group doing oversight- at the simplest level, it is about self-reflection. The group can’t perform if the individuals don’t.

The National Council of Nonprofits has this compiled this set of evergreen questions may also want to reflect on (I’ve picked out the most relevant):

  1. Do I understand and support the mission of the organization?
  2. Am I knowledgeable about the organization’s programs and services?
  3. Do I follow trends and important developments related to this organization?
  4. Do I read and understand the organization’s financial statements?
  5. Do I have a good working relationship with the chief executive?
  6. Do I recommend individuals for service to this board?
  7. Do I prepare for and participate in board meetings and committee meetings?
  8. Do I act as a good-will ambassador to the organization?
  9. Do I find serving on the board to be a satisfying and rewarding experience?

Should your answer be no to any of the above – then it is time to reach out to the person leading your group… because life is too short to not be aligned.

Let’s #createconnection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

ByMichael Ambjorn

October IABC Leadership Forum: Basel, Baltimore, Calgary, Denver, LA, Rotterdam, NOLA…

Carlos Fulcher

Carlos Fulcher MBA CAE

Dianne Chase

Dianne Chase

Melissa Dark ABC

Melissa Dark ABC

We did the second IABC Leadership Forum on the road: Carlos and I broadcast from the stage at the Heritage Region Conference in Baltimore and Dianne checked in from Charlotte, fresh back from the Canada West conference in Calgary – and Melissa helped with the Q&A from San Francisco.

You can watch the replay here:

It was a great session, but don’t just take my word for it:

Mary Foshage

Mary Foshage

‘Love this! Am going to encourage our whole board to join.’ – Mary Foshage, VP Marketing IABC St. Louis

Quick overview of the topics covered

All of the following was interspersed with Q&A – see a run-down of the questions at the end – and the Leadership Forum is all about creating connection between leaders, hence all the people are hyperlinked in case you want to follow up.

Welcome, brief introductions

Camille Downing

Camille Downing

The core team (above) + special guest Camille Downing who joined to share an update from the Heritage Region conference which gathered a strong contingent of communicators from across the East Coast of the US – and even a couple of Canadians.


Conferences around the world

High Octane

Dianne Chase, IABC Vice Chair, reported from the Canada West Conference in Calgary – chaired by Master Communicator Karen Lee ABC. Read More