9 Learnings From The International Business Communications World Conference

The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) World Conference held in Toronto was a gathering of global communication professionals sharing their expertise and insights. Russell Grossman, the Director of Communications at the Office of Rail and Road (ORR), attended the conference. This article presents his top learnings from the conference.
Russell Grossman

Director of Communications

2 min read

The IABC World Conference in Toronto highlighted growing concerns about AI, burnout, and effective data use. Practitioner burnout is real, and the pandemic has transformed work patterns. AI presents opportunities, but active engagement is necessary. Virtual communication is challenging but essential for dialogue. Fostering positivity, trust, and adaptability are crucial. Transparency is vital amidst invisible influence. Here are my top learnings:

1. Rediscovering the Conference’s Magic

I’d forgotten the magic which is this conference – how much I’d missed the content, the bonhomie, the scale, and the common issues.

2. Emerging Concerns

The top three subjects practitioners worry about in 2023 are AI, burnout, and effective use of data. Disinformation isn’t far behind. This syncs with discussions we’ve been having in the Government Communication Service. Previous worry bead subjects like ESG, diversity, and multiculturalism are still there but baked more into normal life.

3. Burnout

Practitioner burnout is real and concerning. A lot of people feeling we’ve not reflected enough about what the pandemic has meant; does mean; and will mean about working patterns. Too much ‘keep calm and carry on’; but the world of work has probably changed forever.

4. Recognizing the Vast Potential Amidst Lingering Concerns

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is more opportunity than a threat (it may become a threat to human existence but we’ll let world leaders worry about that for now). AI itself isn’t new, but the attention on it is. ChatGPT does ‘good enough for starters’, but AI is an emotionless beast and a dumb copywriter. AI won’t take your job away if you don’t engage with it, but someone who does, will.

5. Communication in the Virtual Era

Communication is about promoting dialogue and understanding. So listening, observing, intuiting, and being curious (AI is none of these, incidentally) come before giving your opinion, counseling, or talking. Virtual working makes these things much harder – but that’s not a reason for not achieving them.

6. Fostering Positivity and Care

We should look for the good in our organizations, promote that and promulgate it. Don’t be there to just seek out the faults, or catch people out. Spend more time smiling than scowling. People often don’t care how much you know, until they know how much you care.

7. Building Trust

Earn trust through promises fulfilled; the consequence of expectations that are met; and values lived. The defining question: ‘What would reasonable people appropriately expect a responsible organization to do in a relevant situation?’

8. Fear Breeds Poor Change Behavior

The more uncertainty there is in change, the greater the fear. It’s the fear which breeds poor behavior in change. Yet more change programs than ever are uncertain where they’re going – or the change gets changed because the world outside has changed. And no one saw it coming (or if the change consultants did, it wasn’t in their contract that they had to tell you when it did).

9. The Invisible Influence

Neither ChatGPT nor any other Large Language Model has had any part in scripting this piece. But if they had, would I tell you? You’d be relying on me to do so, but probably wouldn’t know if I didn’t. Scary.

Next year's IABC conference is in Chicago.


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