#23 CCM Conference Provides Tips, Tools & Support for LEAN Communicators

by | May 8, 2009 | Blog | 2 comments

Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

Maroon Bells, Aspen, CO

In the rarefied air of Aspen, Colorado in late April through early May, I listened to a number of great, inspirational speakers talk about several aspects of leadership. They and almost 100 colleagues gathered for our annual CCM (Council of Communication Management) Conference.

From a LEAN Communications perspective, the speakers said leaders need to:

1. Give up control (which will help us gain power) Several speakers talked about the necessity for professional communicators to create collaboration instead of disseminate information. We also need to acknowledge that employees are our organizations’ best ambassadors and we should help them, not hinder them, in that role. We also have to recognize that employees will soon demand to be participants in the conversation, if they aren’t already.

2. Aim for progress not perfection. With limited resources, we must focus on the “must” issues, not the “nice to have.” For example, 80% done and out is better than 100% finished and delayed. Also, evaluate whether you should translate everything into all the languages your employees speak, especially if you’ve declared one language (generally English) the language of business. Long-time CCM member Angela Sinickas, who’s known by some of us as “the queen of measurement,” suggested that we encourage employees to use Google’s translation feature. That’s a great LEAN Communications tool!

3. Support literacy, education and re-education. In our “reset world,” as one speaker characterized the times we’re working in, education is the foundation not only for our work world, but also for our global society. For that reason, we should all strive to increase literacy. We also should recognize for ourselves and others that education means life-long learning. In today’s complex, ever-changing world, we cannot stop our education when we complete school.

This conference was rich in content. For education junkies, it was akin to mining gold. As an added bonus, the speakers not only knew their stuff, but they were also engaging and entertaining in their delivery. For example, David Arkless, President of Corporate and Government Affairs of Manpower, who spoke about the global talent and skills gap that exists today, was as gifted as a speaker as the TV veteran journalist Greg Dobbs.

By contrast, the conference format didn’t stand up to with the quality of the content from my viewpoint as someone who will participate in at least six national conferences this year and also does meeting planning for smaller groups. We’re still using lectures–or as some refer to it “the expert/idiot model” in which a knowledgeable speaker talks to a group of  “dummies.” And these speakers were so eager to share their deep knowledge that we had minimal question and answer time.

We did perform one enriching task at the conference related to education–assembling back packs that included school supplies and basic hygiene items for orphans and vulnerable children in need. Thanks to fellow board member, John Jensen, World Vision organized this conference event as a way for CCM to give back. It was great to get out of our chairs and do something useful.

In the spirit of continual improvement–which is the heart of LEAN–I offer these three suggestions for next year’s conference, which will be May 5-7 in Philadelphia:

1. Make the conference more interactive. For a group that calls itself the “best minds in the business” and helps our internal and external clients with meetings, we’ve been too slow to recognize and adopt cutting edge meeting design for ourselves.

2. Be more personal.We pride ourselves on being a collegial, supportive community of senior-level colleagues. So when we get together once a year, we should take a few moments to have everyone introduce themselves so we can put a face together with a name. Nametags aren’t enough.

3. Be greener. We should follow the cue of other groups and doing more to recycle, reuse and reduce. For example, the 2009 CA FBLA State Leadership Conference, for which I served as a judge for one of their competitive events, encouraged participants to go green. Many participants wore green ribbons for unplugging electronics when not in use, recycling papers, conserving water and turning off lights and air conditioners when leaving rooms.

As a board member of CCM, I’m committed to helping the organization and our members succeed. Except for our part-time executive director, we’re a volunteer organization. So it’s not easy to do everything that CCM needs when we’re all working full-time jobs.

What else is new though? We all need to think LEAN about our meetings and conferences and make sure we’re providing value.

What are you doing to ensure your participants value their meeting experiences and want to keep coming back for more?

Photo by Bradley Newman


  1. Paula Cassin

    Hi Liz,
    I thought I’d comment about two items:
    First, I don’t believe it’s a shift towards collaboration INSTEAD of disseminating information: it’s ‘AS WELL AS’. So many Communicators dismiss ‘merely informing employees’ as passe, but it’s still a necessary and valid part of the role.

    Collaboration deserves a large portion of Communicator’s resources, attention and strategy. But there will always be key developments and critical info which must be disseminated to employees universally. Broadcast communications can be used to both disseminate info AND spark interaction/invite two-way conversations, (which in turn helps employees bettere understand key messages).

    Secondly, I suggest your public speaking style (which I experienced at the Santa Barbara HR Luncheon) would be a good one to adopt as an alternative to expert/idiot lectures – you definitely engaged with the audience, both with the quiz questions and with our table discussions. You managed to pull out some real examples and anecdotes from the audience, which was great. And not only is it more interactive, it helps your audience engage and retain more!
    And see you soon at the IABC World Conference

  2. admin

    Thanks for your comments, Paula! I agree you raise good points about the importance of continuing to inform–especially sharing new information and providing valuable context.

    I actually saw that in action today as I gave a workshop in meeting effectiveness. Besides disseminating info, I explained the context for it. And to make the content stick even more, I did quizzes and three types of interactive exercises. Several people said the info finally came alive for them, which was terrific to hear.

    Looking forward to seeing you in San Francisco at the IABC World Conference!


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