Archive for the ‘Professional associations’ Category

I have been a loyal and enthusiastic member and supporter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) for over four decades. But lately, IABC is instituting so many changes that I hardly recognize my beloved professional association.

With any change initiative, frequent, honest, two-way communication is an absolute must. IABC has sponsored untold professional development offerings over the years to tell members that.  But is IABC doing what it says its members should do? Simply put, is IABC walking the talk?

My colleague and friend, Sue Horner, Ontario-based writer and long-time IABC member, recently posted an insightful discussion of the IABC situation. I suggest that anyone interested in IABC read her thoughtful observations. You can find it at Sue’s blog, The Red Jacket Dairies.


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John Bailey, 76, died recently after a long battle with cancer. He was president of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) when I first joined the organization. He was a valued friend and mentor, a shining example of leadership who made IABC what it is today.

John was born July 12, 1935, in San Francisco. He had over 50 years of experience as an association executive. His credentials and accomplishments are far to numerous to mention here. I prefer to talk about what he meant to me as a young communication professional. He meant everything to me.

John was a leader in every positive sense of the word. He led by strength of example. He was wise and thorough and compassionate. He was a man of honor and commitment, a trusted friend, and the driving force that made IABC into the vibrant professional organization it is today.

He was fearless in his leadership. He was candid in discourse, thoughtful in deliberations, and accountable without passing the buck. He praised in public and critiqued in private. He literally drove IABC to become a worldwide success, meeting ever greater needs of its members with quality products, programs, and services.

When I broke my back and was paralyzed in 1977, he made sure that I was accommodated and welcomed back to active IABC involvement. When I was named an IABC Fellow in 1997, he made the effort to be there for the ceremony even though he had moved on from IABC long before. I was honored to have this great man there to support me.

John Bailey represents so much of what I have loved about IABC. I am honored to have worked closely with him. I will never forget the lessons learned from this great man.

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The International Association of Business Communicators (IABC), my most beloved professional organization, begins its annual world conference this weekend.

But I won’t be attending.

Since I began my organizational communication career way back in 1973, I have rarely missed an IABC World Conference. But things change. Careers take new directions.

Presently, I am completing work on a doctorate in Instructional Technology at Towson University. I have finished my course work and now am taking a series of six comprehensive exams, one a month for a half-year. I have a demanding one this month, so here I am.

I’d normally be on a plane right now headed to San Diego, but I am in my home office reviewing the research foundations of instructional technology to prepare for this month’s comp exam. I will miss the professional development, networking, fellowship, and sheer stimulation of the world conference, but I cannot justify the time away. My priority right now is to successfully complete these comp exams so I can finish my dissertation and my doctorate. Three comp exams down, and three to go.

IABC has been my “graduate school” for most of my career. When I wanted to learn and grow, IABC was there for me. I could always find what I needed or make a contact that could help me. As a source of professional development, IABC is unmatched. I can honestly say that I owe any success I’ve had in my career to IABC.

IABC has given me professional development, a large network of contacts/colleagues, and the best of friends, all very important aspects of my life. Now, as a senior lecturer in the PR Track of Towson’s Mass Comm. department, I try to introduce my students to the value of professional association membership. I believe it is the single most rewarding investment a person can make in his or her career. I hope they will join, stay active, and benefit as greatly as I have.

I miss being a part of the world conference, but I am there in spirit.

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As stated in my previous post, I attended the IABC World Conference June 5-10 in part to see old friends on the IABC staff and from the membership. In addition to professional development, one of the greatest aspects of my career-long IABC membership is the friendships I’ve made with people worldwide.

I treasure my conversations with these people, some of whom I only see once a year at conference. Although we stay in touch via various means during the year, nothing beats face-to-face interaction with people you respect and care about.

The main purpose of IABC’s World Conference is professional development. In that respect, this was an excellent conference with top programs and speakers. The program was substantive and balanced and provided something of value to all communication/PR practitioners who attended, no matter their level of experience or job description. IABC is a master of excellent and timely professional development programs. Without IABC, I could not have been as successful in my career as I have been. I have the highest respect and affection for IABC’s staff.

For most actively involved IABC members, the networking opportunities are a tremendous plus of the conference. So, did I find those fulfilling F2F experiences I so wanted to find?

Yes and no. What happened?

For one thing, attendance was way down perhaps due to the weak economy. My session on strategic communication planning and management was well-attended, as were the educational sessions I attended. But overall, the numbers simply weren’t there.

The presence of social media, as expected, was all-pervasive. I took time to observe what was happening around me. Conference attendees act very much like my Millennial students with their cell phones and PDAs, but my students are not allowed to use these devices in class. The moment students leave class, the cell phone/PDA goes into action. Conference attendees feel no such constraint; they sit in sessions and use cell phones, PDAs, and computers with impunity and wild abandon. When out of sessions, you see many people sitting alone using technology rather than talking with people.

The typical in-session scenario is this: a person attends and tweets a session for his/her followers. Or, an attendee blogs about the session while the session is being conducted. Then, there are the text messengers who carry on conversations while in a session. Countless others feel compelled to check for messages every few minutes or to surf the Web.

What is happening here? What does this all mean? 

Twitter is definitely the current darling of the social media glitterati. So many people tweet sessions that a presenter’s message is magnified perhaps a hundred or a thousand times or more. Session tweeters say they are “reporting” on the event for others out there in the Twittersphere who could not attend. Tweets are re-tweeted, and the word spreads exponentially at 140 characters a pop.

For example, I was part of an invitation-only think tank on social media, and during that half-day session, fully one-fourth of the 30 participants were using their computers or cell phones or PDAs the entire time. One participant who constantly reported on the event from his laptop was asked why he stayed on his computer talking about the session with people who were not invited rather than “being fully there.” He replied that he was there, but he felt responsible to share the event with so many others who weren’t.

Okay. If you say so. When it came time to report findings of their small group work, he totally missed the assignment and went off on so many unrelated tangents as to draw laughter from the other participants. Perhaps his followers in the Twittersphere got better from him.

Critics of the practice say, “But you are not listening. You are tweeting.” Defenders of the practice say they are listening and listening even more closely so as to be able to tweet salient points.

Whatever your viewpoint, Twitter changes the rules of engagement for speakers and conference attendees. Some savvy presenters encourage tweeting during the session and display the tweets as the session progresses. That way, you can see an underlying full, rich discussion happening in real time simultaneously. The essence of the session can be shared with a much wider audience. The presenter may become Twitterlebrity.

Twitter followers who are in less-than-interesting or relevant sessions can leave to attend one that is tweeted to be more lively and interesting. Twitter adds a bold new dimension to “session surfing.”

No doubt Twitter is the current force to be reckoned with. I am anxious to see if it will be the same at next year’s IABC World Conference in Toronto.

I’ll try to be in Toronto to roam the halls in search of meaningful conversation. But in the meantime, see you on Twitter. I’m at http://twitter.com/LesPotter

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Please excuse my absence, but I am in full summer mode for a few days. It’s nice to have some down time.

In addition to some much-needed rest, I am focused on the IABC World Conference in San Francisco June 7-10, 2009. I will present on strategic communication planning and management on Sunday, June 7.

I can’t wait to see IABC staff/friends there. An IABC World Conference recharges your professional batteries like nothing else.

In fact, IABC has given me every good thing I’ve known in my career:

  • Every good job I ever had I got directly or indirectly from IABC, including consulting assignments as president of LES POTTER INCORPORATED and my beloved teaching job at Towson University.
  • Every bit of professional development to keep me current (in addition to earning my MBA and current work on my doctorate) come from IABC’s excellent products and programs.
  • My best friends are friendships made and nurtured in IABC.

Am I an IABC zealot? You bet. Join me in San Francisco, and you will see why.

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The best place to be for professional development and networking is IABC’s World Conference June 7-10, 2009, in San Francisco, California. I’ll be there, for it is the highlight of my year. I wouldn’t miss it.

There is simply no greater investment in your career than attendance at this conference. In these troubling times, you must build equity into your career. That means:

  • Learning new skills to make you more marketable
  • Networking with other professionals who may be in a position to help you advance
  • Making new friends and reconnecting with old friends

And let’s face it — if you must spend time in a city, then San Francisco is about as interesting a place as you can find.

For more information, visit IABC’s Website.

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I had an experience Friday, September 5, that combined my 30-plus year communication/PR/IMC management career, my love for and career-long involvement in professional associations, and my new teaching career. I designed and facilitated a leadership workshop and strategic planning session for the incoming officers of Towson’s PR Group, comprised of PRSSA and IABC student chapter members.

It was extraordinary. The officers for 2008-2009 are highly motivated to begin with. They consistently exhibited enthusiasm, thoughtfulness, and dedication during the all-day event.

The morning was devoted to the study of management and leadership, contrasting the differences and skills needed for both. This will prove valuable to these leaders as they assume responsibility for the organization and its day-to-day management challenges.

Management involves planning, organizing, leading, and controlling the use of organizational resources to achieve results. We isolated and captured what this means for the Board collectively and for each individual position on the Board.

But leadership is another matter. Managing successfully day to day is at the heart of organizational officers’ responsibility. But to be a leader involves interpersonal influence that gets individuals and the group to act. That is like herding cats.

These leaders explored what it means to achieve coordinated action as a leader and manager. The quality of their thought and the depth of their commitment was exemplary. That came clear as we conducted strategic planning in the afternoon. While the planning will be ongoing, we made a great start Friday. We will build on it in the days to come.

As I pointed my certified pre-owned, fully-optioned Buick Park Avenue home to Virginia for the weekend, I smiled all the way. It was a magnificient day seeing these fine young leaders dedicate themselves to a cause greater than themselves and do the hard work to be competent at it.

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