by Jennie L. Lamb, BVIABC President 2015–17
On Thu., Feb. 23, Marie Lindley, vice president of finance and president-elect, and Manda Jackson, vice president of membership, joined me as we drove to Dallas to participate in the 2017 International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) Leadership Institute (LI): Share, Lead, Succeed.
This marked LI #3 for both Marie and I—but for Manda, it was LI #1. I love bringing new Brazos Valley IABC (BVIABC) leaders to LI—all IABC Kool-aid drinking jokes aside. I told Manda that I hoped it was all she imagined it would be and that I really hoped she’d bring someone to their first LI one day!
Last year, I wrote about my love/hate relationship with LI. This dichotomy continues to be true. Let’s start with the love.
On Thursday evening, while dining on the 38th floor of The Sheraton—where the views of downtown Dallas are breathtaking—BVIABC was recognized for the first time in a decade during the Chapter Management Awards (CMAs). The CMAs are structured much like IABC Quill awards—revolving around entries that demonstrate the execution of a strategic plan (including research, audience analysis, resource allocation, measurement, and evaluation) for various areas of chapter management.
In December 2016, Chase Friedman, former vice president of communications, and Courtney Bosquez, vice president of professional development, helped me research and write our entries in five categories: Leadership Development, Professional Development, Communications Management, Event Management and Web Management. I’m so honored to report that we received an Award of Merit for Web Management! This award is a testament to Chase’s work on our website redesign, his strategic direction and analytics, and everyone who contributed to The Blog at bviabc.com since its inception. Thank you all so much for making this possible! (And now, we have reestablished a template and process for entering these awards again on a yearly basis.)
On Friday, the first order of business was a marathon World Café session focusing on the #IABC1720 strategy. IABC has instituted a three-year strategic cycle and the IABC International Vice Chair, Sharon Hunter, is in charge of writing the next cycle’s strategic plan. In addition, the vice chair also heads the Council of Regions, which is the body that coordinates the program for LI. Suffice it to say, Sharon was a very busy woman during LI!
During the World Café, we heard an inspiring speech from our newly appointed IABC Executive Director Stephanie Doute, CAE. Her theme was “Bigger is not always Better—Better is Better!” which spoke to IABC’s struggles with membership recruitment and retention and the strides that have been made in recent years to strengthen the association’s governance and brand. We also heard a summary of the #IABC1417 strategy and a report on its execution from IABC Immediate Past Chair Michael Ambjorn.
Next up was IABC International Secretary/Treasurer Ginger Homan, ABC, who is assisting Sharon in authoring the new strategic plan along with the entire International Executive Board (IEB). (She has also been nominated to succeed Sharon as Vice Chair for the 2017–18 IEB term.) Ginger presented preliminary re-wordings of the IABC vision, mission/purpose, and philosophy statements, which not only align with the philosophy found in the new brand guidelines but also move towards improved readability.
Then, the interactive portion of the morning saw participants moving about the room and contributing to speed discussions about the why and how of the three main parts of the new purpose statement. We were asked to spend each of three moves about the room at a table that focused on each of the pieces of the proposed purpose statement:
- to advance,
- to connect, and
- to develop
professional communicators to be a force for good in business and society.
The contributions of the IABC leaders present at LI will be combined with outcomes from other appreciative inquiry sessions already held during this board term at regional conferences and chapter events. The new strategic plan will be presented for ratification at the Annual General Meeting (AGM) in June at World Conference in Washington, DC.
On Friday afternoon, the breakout sessions began. Over the two days of programming, BVIABC chapter delegates attended sessions on sponsorships, how to run chapters like businesses, leadership paths in IABC, and creating outstanding professional development programs led by various chapter and regional leaders.
Wrapping up the Friday program was a session about the newly reinvigorated IABC Foundation. The four pillars of the IABC Foundation are:
- Gift of Communication– Providing the tools and funding for chapters to give back to their local communities.
- Gift of Experience– Investing in experience-gaining activities for the next generation and those in transition through various channels, which may include scholarships, internships, mentoring and more.
- Gift of Excellence– Supporting certification of professional communicators around the world.
- Gift of Insights –Providing grants for targeted research that results in case studies, white papers or other publications supporting member needs, IABC thought leadership and promotion of the profession.
The Gift of Communication has been the first area of focus of the new IABC Foundation Committee. A toolkit, “The Gift of Communication in a Box,” debuted at LI. It’s a set of criteria and other useful information designed to help chapters establish volunteer programs/service project events. After the announcement, the Dallas chapter gave a presentation on their award-winning “Heroes” program—their own volunteer program and nonprofit charitable initiative benefitting the North Texas Food Bank. Be on the lookout for a BVIABC volunteer incentive program to debut in April—partly inspired by what we took away from this session!
Friday evening was all about #CreatingConnection with regional receptions, Dine-Around, and an after party hosted by the Dallas chapter. Dine-Around is an IABC-event staple. The chapter in the city of the event provides hosts and participants sign up for a particular restaurant. Everyone pays their own way and gets to eat the food of their choice while making new connections with other participants. The BVIABC contingent got to experience the incredible Café Momentum—a restaurant with a nonprofit mission to help disadvantaged youth explore careers in the culinary industry.
On Saturday morning, after the Breakfast Roundtables where chapter leaders discussed various chapter management topics, a Town Hall Meeting with IABC IEB leadership was held. International Chair Dianne Chase led the interactive session where participants were encouraged to ask questions of the chair, vice chair, secretary/treasurer, and executive director. Some topics that came up focused on new technology investments such as the new awards administration system, the new association management system, and the use of Basecamp for chapter leaders. Another point of discussion was centered around IABC’s statement on and petition about #AlternativeFacts, truth, and ethics. IABC’s international leadership teams should be applauded for making it a priority in recent years to be transparent and accountable to the membership through better communication with chapter and regional leaders. After the Town Hall Meeting, participants attended the last of the breakout sessions.
And, here’s where I’ll mention something I didn’t love—there seemed to be less time on the agenda this year for breakouts that focused on particular board roles and portfolios. However, the ones we attended, as mentioned above, were very good.
A lot of time at LI was devoted to general sessions and groupthink exercises like the World Café, Breakfast Roundtables, and the closing keynote with Caroline Kealey, who talked about Communicators as Change Makers. So, while I missed the extra time to delve deep into some very specific aspects of chapter management, I do believe that involving the masses—at all of the IABC conferences throughout this IEB term—in the writing of the #IABC1720 strategy will reap benefits in the long run. Members and leaders at all levels of our association should feel a sense of ownership and in turn, should help to make it as successful as possible.
Finally, if I had to list one last part I didn’t love, it’s that I only had fleeting moments with some of my very good IABC friends from other parts of the country and world. And, I hate that I didn’t have more time to spend with them!
At the very end of LI, we formed a big circle and each of us summed up the experience and how we feel about IABC in two words. I chose “Bold Solidarity.”
We returned to the Brazos Valley after LI thinking hard about the challenges we face with our chapter. While we continue to hold our own in terms of professional development programs, we continue to struggle with networking opportunities and leadership succession.
A month later, we are coming off of a great IABC Member Month in March 2017, where we realized an impressive 19% increase in membership! It is my fervent hope that old and new members alike will find ways to help us lead our chapter and community of communication professionals for the remainder of the year—perhaps through our forthcoming Volunteer Incentive Program—and consider starting their own journey towards the day when they will experience an IABC Leadership Institute.
Jennie is a graphic designer at the Texas A&M College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences and has supported science in higher education for most of her 20-year career. She’s been a member of IABC since 2010, and a member of the BVIABC Board of Directors since 2011. Jennie is currently in her second term as BVIABC chapter president. In addition, she is a member of the IABC Southern Region Communications Committee and the 2017 World Conference Program Advisory Committee (PAC). IABC Southern Region named her Communicator of the Year in October 2016.