I just got back from my first time at The Communications Network’s annual conference, ComNet in Miami Beach, Florida. While I didn’t even get a glimpse of the ocean (my own fault, as I was fitting too much into each day), I did learn a lot, and met a host of great communicators who all share our challenges in communicating for good.
As The Communications Network CEO, Sean Gibbons pointed out in his opening remarks, this particular conference provides the unique opportunity to be surrounded by hundreds of people who all want to make the world a better place. It offered two days for us to learn from each other on how to do our jobs better.
Highlights for me included:
- A keynote interview with Michelle Obama’s chief speech writer, Sarah Hurwitz (she was phenomenal –a more detailed post on this session coming soon!).
- A fascinating panel discussion about crisis communications with Donna Shalala and Craig Minassian from the Clinton Foundation featuring their experiences weathering the storm during the 2016 election cycle.
- A keynote session with Katherine Boo, author of “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” and a New Yorker staff writer, who spoke powerfully about the importance of truly understanding the experiences and stories of our audiences as the crucial way to connect with them and ensure our efforts are serving them as intended.
- A standing room only storytelling workshop session that shared insights from 20 cross-discipline academic scholars on storytelling. No matter how many storytelling workshops I attend, there’s always a new nugget to uncover – a favorite from this session: work on the edge of expectation, offer your audience something they aren’t expecting, break the pattern of what they might expect to stand out and break through.
- A keynote TED-style talk from Grant Oliphant, President of The Heinz Endowments, which delivered a call to action for all of us to speak as our purpose, position and privilege demand – on behalf of the change we are trying to deliver (see a more detailed post on this session in a few days!)
- The announcement of the new Clarence B. Jones Impact award – named for a hero of the Civil Rights Movement, who helped draft Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech. He was a chief communications officer before it was an actual title or role. Clarence was in the audience, and spoke, upon hearing that an award was being developed in his name. It was an honor to hear his heartfelt remarks about his experiences and witness the humility: “My name is only representative of those who are no longer here…who have done more than I could do in a lifetime.”
And there was more, much more. Looking forward to applying all I learned to our day-to-day work on behalf of our clients and I’m already plotting how to attend again next year!
Trish Taylor, PhD
Executive Vice President
Image source: The Communications Network