Category Archive The Weekly Venn

ByMichael Ambjorn

My knowledge packing list for #IABCLI

Leaders from around the world are heading to #IABCLI in Los Angeles next week. It is one of my favourite events of the year. It is a real opportunity to look to the horizon, get inspired – and make practical steps forward. Let’s start with a few pictures from 2015:
2015 Leadership Institute

Now before attending any event I try and do a little bit of prep to make sure I can both add – and get – maximum value. As the old saying goes: you get out what you put in, and being well briefed helps with that.

I thought I’d share my knowledge packing list in case it is useful for any other IABC leaders prepping for a meeting with other leaders, whether next week in LA – or in fact anytime… because I believe true inspiration sits at the intersect of what you know, what others can help you with – and what you can help them with.


Let me put it differently:

It is through creating connection with others that we help each other realise what’s truly possible – and how to get there.

Take time to explore the intersect. It is where the magic happens.

2016 01 #createconnection venn - #IABCLI

Travelling light? Here’s what I’ve got in my carry-on – the four most recent newsletters from IABC:

  1. CW Observer – the weekly round-up of the latest from Communication World…
  2. IABC Weekly Digest – goes to all members, lists all the global social channels, regional conferences and much more…
  3. IABC Leader Letter – goes to IABC leaders monthly and has the latest on leader events, membership month etc.
  4. The ‘Steal Sheet‘ has handy ready-made stuff for tweeting etc.

In for the long-haul? Here are a few things I’ve also packed for in-depth reading and reference:

  1. Who does what. In Venn. What’s not to like.
  2. IABC Leader Centre – your one-stop resource for the good practice library and much more.
  3. The most recent quarterly report – embedded below for easy scanning. The next report will be released at LI.
  4. Notes from recent Leadership Forum Q&As.

Want something social for checking on the phone whilst in the check-in queue? 

  • #IABCLI – for the event backchannel
  • #IABCieb – for the latest from the International Board

Like any good communicator, you’d also expect me to check that I’m up to speed on Tone of Voice…

2016 IABCLI Guidebook app screenshotThere’s plenty for us to grapple with – and I can’t wait to get there. It is going to be an amazing programme.

Install the app to see for yourself – and connect with fellow leaders.

Big thanks to the Council of Regions – and staff – who have been pulling out all the stops to prepare for this.

Hope to see you in LA!

Let’s create connection like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

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

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

What connects these three leaders?

Earlier this month I changed planes eight times to get to a range of IABC commitments. One of the things that made it so worthwhile was the warm welcome and the human connection one come across wherever a stop is made in the IABC universe.

A quick count tells me I talked 1:1 with a 100+ leaders, but as an espresso drinker I appreciate that your coffee break might not last all day. So I’ll focus in on three leaders who inspired me (in the order I met them).

Marci Larson

Marci Larson

In Jacksonville I had the opportunity to talk at length with long-serving leader Marci Larson.

Patient, graceful – and strategic.

A leader who quietly develops the next generation of local leaders.

We need more people like that.

Cody Bromley

Cody Bromley

In Denver I had the opportunity to meet Cody Bromley, the IABC Southern Region Rising Star for 2015 – and I can see why!

A bundle of energy and insight. Not afraid to challenge – or be challenged.

We need more people like that.

Brenda Siler

Brenda Siler

In Baltimore I had a chance to talk to Brenda Siler – Past Chair of the Association (1998-99). She’s got that quiet confidence and gravitas of an accomplished leader.

Plenty of irons in the fire, yet ready to help if called upon.

We need more people like that.

What they all have in common is the only place that connects internationally minded communicators. Join us.

Let’s #createconnection like never before. 

Michael Ambjorn

ByMichael Ambjorn

Making Global Communications Work

Making Global Comms Work Graphic

Click to see full size and read Gay Flashman’s post

Recently I had the privilege of chairing an event on behalf of IABC UK, kindly hosted by top comms headhunting firm VMA.

I’ve been reading the follow-on blog posts and I particularly like the nice visually-amplified summary from Gay Flashman. I would add just one more column (which Gay covers in the main text): the Global Standard. It adds the professional process that helps practitioners make sense of the other two.

Read her full post here.

Meanwhile I commend the panel to you – big thanks to them for sharing their experience and insights from across the globe:

Claudia Damato

Claudia Damato

Tom Blackwell

Tom Blackwell

Emma Thompson

Emma Thompson

Last but not least thanks to Kirsty Brown and Casilda Malagon for organising and inviting. And with that, let’s close out with some practical advice from the UK Chapter President – hear hear!:

Topical to that, do check out the notes from the inaugural IABC Leadership Forum – and look out for the invite to the October edition.

Let’s #createconnection – like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. You might ask why the Global Standards are not at the centre of the intersect in the Venn: discuss.

ByMichael Ambjorn

Places to #createconnection

At IABC, we connect communicators to a global and local network, career opportunities, resources and knowledge – using communication to engage, influence, counsel and execute.

One of the most tangible ways we do this is through our events programme, which runs throughout the world. Here’s a roundup of what’s coming for communicators in general, and for our leaders specifically.

Where to develop your communication skills


Check your local website for events coming up – and don’t forget, if you’re on the road, you’re welcome to attend events in other cities. For example, if you’re in London September 23, come along to ‘Making Global Communications Work‘.

Prefer the shorthand of Twitter? IABC Detroit maintains a handy list that allows you to keep the finger on the pulse of 70+ chapters around the world.


Conferences run throughout the world and across the year – London and Johannesburg earlier this year and here are three more coming up:

  • Calgary – ‘High Octane’ – 15-17 October 2015
  • Denver – ‘Taking it to the extreme’ – 15-18 October 2015
  • Baltimore – ‘Re:ignite’ – 18-20 October 2015

Dianne Chase, IABC Vice Chair, will attend the Canada East conference in Calgary – and I am honoured by the invitation to close the Southern Region conference in Denver. Carlos Fulcher and I will also run a highly interactive workshop and meet with the #IABC16 Programme Advisory Committee – and then it is straight onto Baltimore to open up the Heritage Region conference. Hope to see you there.


Missed #IABC15? Worry not: The new Best of Show webinar series is a global virtual learning experience that takes the highest rated sessions from the World Conference and brings them directly to you.

The program builds on the success of this year’s event and offers participants access to the best presentations from 2015’s conference. For those who have never attended an IABC World Conference, it provides the opportunity to preview the kind of high-quality learning to be expected at World Conference.

If you're an IABC leader, get the Best of Show marketing toolkit on the Leader Centre

If you’re an IABC leader, get the Best of Show marketing toolkit on the Leader Centre

Mark your calendar for World Conference in 2016!

And if you’ve got what it takes to speak at our flagship event of the year, get your pitch in now. Want some advice from previous speakers first? Check out this exchange on our LinkedIn group (and add your own advice too).

Where to hone your leadership skills


Even though the 2015-16 board year is well underway, your local Chapter board might very well be looking for an extra hand. Reach out to them. There’s nothing like hands-on practical experience.


Klavs Valskov

Klavs Valskov

The Europe, Middle East and North Africa (EMENA) Region is running a Leadership Institute in Basel, Switzerland at the end of this month. Regional Chair Klavs Valskov is pulling out all the stops for this one and Dianne Chase will be participating to take input for the ongoing work to implement our three year strategy – aka – #IABC1417. The conferences mentioned in the section above also have a Leadership Institute element, which will have leadership attendance. Carlos Fulcher, our Executive Director, and I are also excited to be participating in a workshop with the Programme Advisory Committee for the 2016 World Conference – #IABC16.

Ron Fuchs APR

Ron Fuchs APR

The EMENA event is kindly hosted by #IABCieb member Ron Fuchs APR from Roche. A great example of how members often leverage organisational support to help advance the profession – and in this case the leadership within the association.


The annual International Leadership Institute – #IABCLI – will be in Los Angeles, February 4-6, 2016 – again, one for the calendar.  Looking forward to seeing you there.

Let’s #createconnection – like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. As an IABC leader, need some practical tools and templates to advance your work? Log into the Leader Centre where you’ll find a whole library of useful information:

  • Brand Toolkit
    Information and resources for IABC’s brand
  • Awards
    Develop your local chapter awards programs
  • Finance
    IABC’s financial management guidelines
  • Governance
    High level tips and tools for board support, encouraging volunteerism and documentation
  • Marketing
    Market your chapter and IABC membership in your community
  • Membership
    Membership marketing made easy
  • Professional Development
    A guide to event planning, budgeting and management
  • Sponsorship
    Generate revenue for your chapter through sponsorship




ByMichael Ambjorn

#IABCleaders: silos are so yesterday

How do you get people across the world to work together collaboratively in pursuit of a shared aim? That’s a tricky question when you have 1,000 leaders distributed across the globe. Anybody who has worked for a large organisation will recognise that silos can quickly develop. Silos that slow things down at best, or confuse and cause wasted effort at worst.

Traditionally organisations rely on cascade – but in today’s interconnected world we know that doesn’t always work. Just look at the standard open rates for mass email. Sobering. Then look at the click rate. Doubly sobering.

I am pleased to say that IABC’s monthly Leader Letter (put together by our hardworking staff at HQ) has an open rate that far exceeds the industry average. We know it is valued by the many leaders who engage with it. We also know that amongst the readers – and those who do not – there is an appetite for more communication: realtime conversation in addition to the traditional asynchronous cascade. The Chair of the board’s Communication Committee, Katie Macaulay, has in fact written a whole book about it, but that’s another story.

In last Weekly Venn we looked at timezones, today we’ll look at a practical way we hope to connect leaders across the world to share and learn. It is called the #IABCleaders Forum – and here’s a snippet preview from the plan:

Read More

ByMichael Ambjorn

Creating connection across timezones

Theomary Karamanis

Theomary Karamanis PhD

Sue Heuman ABC

Sue Heuman ABC

Leaders from across the world connect regularly to advance the global profession of communications. Two groups that are at the forefront of advancing IABC’s work for the profession are the Academy team, led by Theomary Karamanis – and the Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC), led by Sue Heuman ABC.

Janet McCormick PhD

Janet McCormick PhD

The latter has been getting some extra attention thanks to the successful pilot of the world’s first global Communication Management Professional Certification exam at the 2015 World Conference. Well done to the practitioners who took the bold step and tested their mettle – and big thanks Janet McCormick and the inaugural GCCC and the staff team, without whom this would not have happened.

Congratulations to the first certified Communication Management Professionals (CMP), who had their qualifications conferred in August 2015.  Priya Bates, ABC, MC, CMP Terry Cerisoles, CMP Sandra Reid, CMP Fraser Tingle, CMP Brad Whitworth, ABC, IABC Fellow, CMP Rachel Wong, CMP

Click the image to read profiles of the six new certified Communication Management Professionals (CMP) – including their motivations for taking the test.

The timezone challenge

But how does the Academy team, the GCCC and many other global work groups and committees connect and collaborate to advance the profession – considering that the teams are distributed across the a panoply of timezones? The Tuckman stages of group development still apply.

To form, storm, norm and perform I suggest that…

Face-to-face is essential

For that to happen you need two things: clarity on when to meet, and ideally something that can bring you face-to-face without necessarily jumping on a plane (with that said, I do hope to see you at #IABCLI in February!).


Let’s cover the face-to-face tech first – there are two favourites amongst senior leaders at IABC:

  • Skype for 1:1 calls (although I am also seeing an increasing use of WhatsApp for this)
  • Zoom for group calls

Here’s the 2014-15 #IABCieb in action on the latter:

That leaves the timezone challenge

As you can see from my own little at-a-glance cheatsheet, it is almost always 4am somewhere2015 08 26 #createconnection timezone table Two tools that might help here

For when you want to find a time that is a reasonable ask – quick and dynamic and covers all timezones (as opposed to my cheat-sheet table which only has a few), and especially useful if you’re just trying to co-ordinate with one or two other people

For when there a more than a few people in play –  when more people are trying to find an optimal time it can get very confusing quickly… doodle makes this a doddle.

Got something even better? Let me know @michaelambjorn – and if you’re one of IABC’s 1,000 leaders across the globe, thank you for all you do.

Let’s #createconnection – like never before.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. Looking to step up to serve the global communication profession? We have opportunities to lead – and as always, here’s a ready-made Tweet for you:

ByMichael Ambjorn

It’s the economy … but perhaps not as you know it

‘Gig Economy’ and ‘Sharing Economy’ are two catchphrases that have recently been in the press a lot – the first because of negative connotations and the later for more positive reasons.

Neither are new concepts, but they are increasingly being felt as forces of change. There’s a third popular term, the ‘Collaborative Economy’ which sits at the intersect.

And then you have the ‘Traditional’ setup of fixed, 9-5 employment.

Confusing right? Yes. Especially when there is change afoot. This post will hopefully shed some light on these.

The most memorable outrage against the market changing I’ve come across was at a panel discussion in 2009 at London’s Frontline Club: A set of professional photographers practically mauled the BBC’s editor of user-generated content for threatening their profession: accepting photos for news stories from the public – taken by amateurs on non-pro cameras.
Then, from the edge of the packed room, a seated lady of some considerable age and experience weighed in – bringing about complete silence: she shared her story of how she started out as a writer, reminding the assembled group that fance tools don’t equate to talent, professionalism and craftsmanship. Anybody can after all pick up a pen and start writing… It is not the typewriter that makes the professional (or indeed the camera).

A much longer term shift well beyond the semantics has been underway for quite some time – what is happening is it is hitting the mainstream.  And it has implications for how communication professionals operate – and advance. In this week’s Venn we’ll look at the intersect – and I’ll be keen to hear your experiences of how you have adapted, as well as any implications you feel it has for associations such as ours.

The latter is highly topical this week as the IABC Executive Committee and our senior staff convene in San Francisco for a summit set to focus and prioritise the work underway as part of the #IABC1417 strategy.

The Gig Economy explained

Strategic advice on communications has been around as long as Aristotle but the way it is secured has changed over the years. Think of ten communicators in your network five years ago vs. now and I expect you’ll find that quite a few have increasingly been working ‘gigs’ at least part of the time rather than in ‘traditional’ full time employment.

An informal poll of my own network also shows that those who remain in ‘traditional’ employment increasingly supplement their project teams with ad-hoc assistance, either drawn from their own network, or through intermediaries such as VMA, Harkness Kennett and equivalents. You could call it small-scale outsourcing.

Some also turn to platforms such as (around since ’01), elance or Upwork – and you may even have visited the Crews Control exhibitor stand at World Conference – they act as an intermediary between corporates and video teams having facilitated an impressive 84,000+ shoots!

The advantage for professionals operating in this space is potentially more freedom, self-determination – and ideally higher pay. The drawback is that each needs entrepreneurial skills, in addition to their communications expertise.

The Sharing Economy in context

Where the gig economy is about short-term transactions, usually with a financial element to them, the sharing economy is a much broader concept.

What really sets it apart is the ethos.

Whilst your Airbnb booking might not be that cheap, you do expect a less commercial experience than you might in a hotel. In other words, whilst the gig economy is at least old as the Guilds that used to govern the medieval professions, the sharing economy is as old as hitching a ride and on that note, I’ve got a Field Notes companion piece to this one based on my insight from a week working my way from Frankfurt to Florence, via Prague and Vienna – where I’ll talk more about insights from what you might call the bleeding edge of all three economies. The intersect known as the collaborative economy.

The collaborative intersect – from a global profession point of view

Associations sit naturally in the intersect between the ‘gig’, ‘sharing’ and the more ‘traditional’ economy.

Through providing professional standards, a code of ethics – and a career roadmap – IABC caters for all of them.

Let’s dive into each in a bit more detail:


This is the place where standards, the career roadmap, certification etc. (as set out above) at first feel the most familiar – but they have an important role to play in the…

Sharing economy

Through our ethos of collaboration and freely sharing experience and advice, our members advance their careers.

This happens through hundreds of local events; our big conferences (London, San Francisco, Johannesburg, Baltimore, Denver, Calgary etc. this year alone); mentoring programmes – and of course our 42,000 strong LinkedIn group.

What ties it all together and makes it work is that shared objective set of frameworks: the Global Standard, the Career Roadmap etc. and of course for our leaders, the IABC Leadership Competency Framework (you’ll quickly come across the latter if you apply for one of the current opportunities to step up and lead).

Gig economy

It looks like it is here to stay, and railing against it like the photographers in the story from ’09 might consign us to the fate of Kodak (who incidentally is in the news again for suppressing an invention in 1975 which could have put them in pole position for the future).

In fact, I would argue that through the diverse community that is our membership, professionals have been finding and exchanging opportunities for as long as we have been around (45 years and counting!).

We’ve been looking more at how we might best step our support here – and see the P.S. below for one thing on that front you can do right now. Meanwhile…

In conclusion – I’m keen to hear your experiences of:
  • how you have adapted to this changing environment?
  • if it changed your working relationships?
  • what implications do you think it has for associations such as ours?

Please help #createconnection – share your story.

Michael Ambjorn

P.S. If you’re thinking of dipping your toe into the market on your onw, here’s a worthwhile workshop by one of IABC’s most highly decorated communicators – who has comprehensive across all three economies.

…and as usual, here’s a ready-made tweet for you: