Take-aways from Helping Manage an IABC Chapter

After eight years on communication association boards (the last six for IABC/Toronto), I’ve done my last ‘ritual’ as immediate past president. This means time to shift to new priorities, including bringing this blog back to life.

During these years, I’ve been asked why I immersed myself in IABC and what I learned. As an extrovert, part of the attraction was the opportunity to work with smart and inquisitive people. The other reason was to give back and sometimes push the envelope towards change, which may be slightly easier from the inside.

Beyond broad personal development and growth, here are some specific things l learned through my tenure:

  1. Concerns cross continents…while we sleep. I once woke to an email from IABC Chair Barb Gibson asking about a controversial blog post on a Toronto event’s promotion. (Thanks to a pre-planned visit, I was able to alleviate the issue that day in person with the student blogger and online with the chair.)

  2. Sometimes a budget in the red is positive. When a not-for-profit, like IABC, earns a surplus in one year, a loss may be incurred in the following year to spend it. Although accurate and prudent, it’s an awkward message to deliver. (We’re still ‘wordsmithing’ the best way to say it.)

  3. Social media fosters a crowd mentality, which veers toward the positive. It can also bring defenders from the most unlikely places. I was once jarred by two volatile tweets from a member questioning IABC’s value. I invited offline discussion, while several tweets extolled the association’s benefits, including the detractor’s boss (not usually an overt supporter).

  4. Responsiveness counts more than ever, particularly online. Following the incident above, a member sent kudos for the quick response.

  5. For a great volunteer outcome: Start with a passionate volunteer. Provide a base, remove roadblocks and step back. To establish a mentoring program (which was a personal goal), we found a strong director with firsthand appreciation of a great mentor.  We held a ThinkTank to gather primary research, developed an outline and moved mentoring from a heavy portfolio with minimal cycles to a lighter one, with room for support. Our volunteer ran with it, doubling engagement and boosting feedback within two years.

  6. Leverage the expertise of varied generations, particularly when change is involved. We made the leap to social media through demos from Gen X and Y members on how it worked, combined with Boomer and Gen X insights on policies and guidelines to mitigate risks.

  7. Tap into IABC’s Worldwide network to access award-winning solutions for personal and chapter benefits. After grappling with website options, we found the answer in IABC Maritime’s revered site. By emulating it, we cut some corners but upheld quality.

  8. IABC members are welcoming and inclusive worldwide. (Once, when rooms were in short supply at Leadership Institute, I shared with a member and her beloved Labrador Retriever.)

  9. In terms of ‘Be heard,’ less is definitely more, when it comes to IABC.

  10. Setting SMART objectives for a chapter’s strategic plan is a best practice. It also means extensive follow-up to validate metrics and write CMA submissions….with sometimes a glistening award or two at the end.

For me, it was a great experience and one that I would highly recommend. I imagine leaders in other chapters have similar, as well as varied insights.  If you were on an IABC board for a couple of years or more, what did you learn?

(For more about IABC/Toronto, see IABC/Toronto 2008/2009 Annual Report.)

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