Magazine article Communication World

The Power of Connection: Presenters and Attenders at This Year's IABC Conference Find That Communication and Connection Are One and the Same

Magazine article Communication World

The Power of Connection: Presenters and Attenders at This Year's IABC Conference Find That Communication and Connection Are One and the Same

Article excerpt

It's no secret that everyone communicates, but not everyone communicates well. We all see examples of poor communication, miscommunication and irrelevant communication every day. But like any skill, communication can be improved. And that goal is what brought more than 1,480 communicators from 39 countries to Vancouver, British Columbia, in June for the 2006 IABC International Conference.

The 83 well-attended sessions covered a variety of vehicles and strategies, and emphasized the unique differences and challenges that communicators might need to understand for their industries. And there was recognition of all that IABC does for its members--the research, the skills training, the camaraderie. But what brought everyone together was an overarching desire to make their work more meaningful, more relevant and more powerful. And that connection pervaded every aspect of the conference.

Perhaps no single speaker or presenter demonstrated that more clearly than Stephen Lewis, who implored attenders to one general session to use their skills and power to help stem the spread of HIV/AIDS in Africa. Lewis, the United Nations' special envoy for HIV/AIDS in Africa and commissioner for the World Health Organization's Commission on the Social Determinants of Health, delivered a powerful, passionate speech about the impact the pandemic is having on Africa--and the dismal future of the continent, and the world, unless more is done to stop it.

In his work, Lewis said, he learned early on that putting a human face on what it is you want to convey was one of the best communication strategies he knew. Describing the efforts of organizations and individuals alike, Lewis shared positive and negative stories--of HIV-positive women banding together to grow and sell cabbages; of millions of orphans being raised by their grandmothers; of celebrities, including Bono, Angelina Jolie and Bill Gates, who have done much to raise awareness and money.

Lewis challenged the audience of communicators to direct more corporate social responsibility efforts to organizations and causes that work to stem the pandemic. Commending the IABC Research Foundation for its comprehensive studies, he also suggested that similar studies might be done to help explain why we are "finding it so difficult to change behavior. …

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