IABC 2010 World Conference-goers Donna Papacosta, Diana Degan Robinson and Sue Horner.

Part of the fun of attending IABC World Conferences is catching up with friends. My roomie Donna Papacosta is here (far left) with Diana Degan and me.

Yesterday, I promised more highlights of the  IABC 2010 World Conference in Toronto. Here are some of the takeaways from individual sessions (check IABC for handouts) in roughly the order experienced:

In Strategic Communication Planning, Les Potter, ABC (friend and cosmic blogging partner) said a quick way to determine the issues that need to be treated is to ask your CEO “What keeps you up at night?” Regarding tactics, face-to-face communication has the least reach (it’s hard to get your CEO in front of every employee) but is the most persuasive and powerful, especially if you’re trying to move people from awareness to acceptance to action. Les also said don’t wait until the end of a cycle or year to see how your plan is doing; do some sort of check every quarter so you can adjust as you go along.

When conducting communication audits, Karen Vahouny, ABC and Tracy Finneman suggested we determine what key information we really want to learn, and what will drive better employee decision making. Also check your communication channels; are they useful, clear, timely and relevant?

Julie Gebauer noted in Closing the Engagement Gap that due to the recession, people are thankful to have a job but disgruntled from pay decreases, few opportunities for promotion and low or no bonuses. To engage these workers, we need to appeal to three dimensions: think/feel/act (or head/heart/hands). Help employees understand how they can advance their own careers and how their work affects the company. Julie gave a great example of a hospital, where the people who clean the rooms were found to have a huge effect on patient satisfaction.

An energetic Gregg Lederman led a session on Engaging Employees to Out-Behave the Competition. Brand integrity, he said, means you are who and what you say you are — but if you don’t define the specific behaviours you want, people will make it up. Set expectations for what to think and how to behave; capture examples and communicate those expectations; and hold employees accountable. This includes positive consequences when employees do it right. “Don’t ration praise like it’s going to be gone.”

In Why Should Anyone Trust You?, Veronica Hope Hailey warned that lack of trust is not due to the recession, but was already an issue. She had us write our names with our non-dominant hand (a change) to remind us of the feelings that change elicits — feeling unsure, incompetent, at risk. “When you feel like this, you need leaders you can trust,” she said. Repairing trust includes dialogue, really hearing what people feel and think, and dealing with people fairly.

Mark Evans talked about Social Media Beyond Tweets, Followers, Digg, Updates, etc. His somewhat contrary opinion was that instead of a “dangerous obsession with metrics,” we should be spending our time telling stories that engage the audience, educate, entertain and inform. Rather than having a snippet of conversation with every single person (think Twitter), we should be connecting with a smaller number of people and having a real conversation.

William Amurgis shared a fabulous view of what a corporate intranet can be in How to Transform your Corporate Intranet. If your intranet isn’t keeping up with Facebook, Google, Twitter etc., he suggested, you’re failing. Thus the American Electric Power intranet features blogs, community pages, a photo of the week, personal pages and lots of discussion and interaction. His advice: keep it simple and relevant; enhance employee productivity; reinforce corporate messages; provide a place for everyone to meet; and have a personality. My only quibble is that he did away with an employee newsletter!

Katie Paine talked about her favourite topic, measurement. The key is defining what’s important. So if your CEO says, “We kicked butt this quarter,” what does that mean? What problems have you solved? Did you build relationships, generate leads, get the word out? Once you decide your performance indicators, pick your measurement tool, such as listening tools and web analytics, surveys and samples. (Shel Holtz recorded and posted Katie doing a similar session.)

As always, because I’m a writer, I like to get inspired by attending a session on writing, and so ended up the last day with Ann Wylie‘s Six Secrets of Persuasion.  They are
(1) exert authority (quote experts and authority figures;
(2) deliver less (offer A, B or C options and don’t confuse people with too much choice);
(3) become a social butterfly (people are more likely to do what they see others doing);
(4) practice likeability (find and point out things we have in common);
(5) pull the trigger (use an environmental trigger to change the way people behave); and
(6) make it about MOI, or My Own Issues (writing about the reader’s issues, not yours).

Were you at the conference? Which sessions stood out for you?