Day 1 of Conference

Tracks: CS = Communication Skills; L&S = Leadership & Strategy; M&B = Marketing & Branding; R = Reputation; E = Engagement

Monday October 25, 2021

9:30 – 9:45 a.m.    Tradeshow & Networking

9:45 – 10:10 a.m.  Welcome + Opening Remarks from Sue Heuman, ABC, MC, Chair, IABC Canada West Region
and the Master Communicator award for 2021.

10:10 – 10:50 a.m.  Opening Keynote 

Officentricity is Over: How Shopify is Building a Digital by Design Future (R)

A Fireside Chat with Cath Hughes, Director, Internal Communications at Shopify & Shauna Lowry, ABC, Director Transformation Communications and Engagement at Suncor

On May 21, 2020, Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke tweeted “officentricity is over”, ushering in a new ‘digital by default’ way of working in response to the global pandemic. In a company known for its unique culture and thoughtfully designed physical spaces, this was a massive shift. How would the team respond and adapt? Flash forward to today and Shopify is fully embracing the opportunities of working Digital by Design. Learn how this digital first way of working is helping to shape the company’s culture, leadership, and experience of belonging in a rapidly changing environment. Discover how Shopify’s mission and commitment to human-centred design are key to building the future of work.

10:50 – 11:10 a.m. Networking/Tradeshow Break

11:10 – 11:55 a.m.  Breakout Sessions

A. Hidden Robots: How Automation, Chatbots and AI Enhance Engagement (CS, E)

Julie Sobowale, Director Communications, Law Society of Saskatchewan

Introduction: The subtitle of this session could be “Putting Robots to Work: How to Use Automation Into Your Organization.” Whether your budget is $1,000 or $100,000 dollars, building automation into your workflow can be a simple and effective way to enhance user experience, save time and reduce costs.

Objective: We’ll go over how to choose from different plug-ins like Zendesk, Jetpack, and Woocommerce and how to utilize popular communication tools like Constant Contact to bring your communications projects to the next level.


  • How to identify processes that are a good fit for automation
  • Different options based on budget
  • What questions to ask your IT department
  • Getting buy-in from senior management
  • Choosing the best plugin or program for your organization
  • Setting evaluation criteria

B. The Pandemic Pivot: How COVID-19 Sped up the Shift to Online Engagement (E)

Aliya Mohamed, Director of Public Affairs & Vincent Gonsalves, Manager of Community Engagement – TransLink

Introduction: As Metro Vancouver’s transportation authority, TransLink’s community engagement efforts have always involved traversing the region to meet folks face-to-face. With the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic, TransLink’s Community Engagement team had to pivot hard to reach stakeholders and public remotely.

By drawing on new tools like zoom and WhatsApp, and not neglecting trusted means like phone calls and direct mail, TransLink’s team continued to reach out far and deep, and deliver successful engagements throughout 2020.

Objective: Join us to hear what we’ve learned about the varied digital tools on offer, how to adapt your engagement techniques for an online delivery, and how to ensure you keep reaching all your target audiences.


  • Building your digital toolkit and selecting the right tool for the engagement task,
  • Tips and tricks to build rapport and trust online, and
  • Bridging the digital gap to ensure you hear from all the groups you wanted to reach.

11:55 a.m. – 12:05 p.m.  Chair Yoga

12:05 – 12:25 p.m.  Lunch/Networking/Tradeshow Break

12:25 – 1:10 p.m.   General session – Crossing the AI Bridge: Four Trends Transforming Marcomm (CS)

Martin Waxman, President, Martin Waxman Communications

Introduction: If you’re in marketing or communications, your role is about to change dramatically as you welcome a new member to the team: artificial intelligence. AI will help you become more creative and remove some of the repetitive drudge work you hate to do. But it will also alter your workflow and the skills you need for your job. How will you adapt to the new landscape? What are the opportunities, risks and ethical challenges you need to consider? How will AI affect your company’s culture and customer trust? 

Objective: In a fast-paced, interactive presentation, Martin Waxman explores four trends — human-sounding voice AI, deepfake videos and images, natural language generation and relational chatbots — to demonstrate how AI tools are about to transform the nature of marketing and communications and what you can do to keep up.


  • Explain how the application of artificial intelligence in the workplace might affect the role of a public relations professional and an organization’s relationships with stakeholders.
  • Identify tools that professionals will use in their jobs and the opportunities and risks associated with them.
  • Prioritize professional challenges and opportunities for communications professionals in an AI-dominated workplace.

1:15 – 2:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

A. Has Media Relations Changed for Communicators? (R)

Darcy Matheson, Editor-In-Chief, Daily Hive
Alexis Cameron, General Manager – Western Canada, Globe and Mail
Tracy Johnson, Executive Producer, CBC Radio, CBC Calgary

Introduction: Media relations has changed for professional communicators, or has it? With citizen journalism rampant, everyone seemingly online and misinformation hard to recognize, how do organizations get their story heard?

Objective: Hear from three in-the-know Canadian media specialists on what works and doesn’t work for getting your story to your target audiences and cutting through the proverbial clutter. What makes a good story and what doesn’t? This thoughtful, engaged panel has invaluable information for communicators on how, when and why to connect with newsrooms.


  • Learn how to save yourself time and effort while being effective.
  • Understand what role ‘traditional’ media vs social media plays.
  • Find out what strategic communications tools to keep in your kit and what to get rid of in our digital age.

B.  Inclusive Leadership to Build an Inclusive Culture (L&S)

Kimberly Brathwaite, Co-Founder, Chair and Director, Mentorship Development Programs & Danielle Norris, Treasurer and Director of Education
The Ubora Network

Introduction: The presentation will focus on the importance of inclusive leadership to build an inclusive culture in the industry.

Objective: As the go-to network for excellent Black communicators, this presentation draws on our mission to cultivate a widespread culture shift in the practice of communications by elevating and empowering practitioners.


  • How to recognize and interrupt bias so working relationships create a workplace where everyone feels comfortable to contribute.
  • How organizational leaders can create strong internal and external communities and build more goodwill and trust within their organization by inclusively communicating with and considering all intersections of their audience.
  • How to build a pipeline of diverse leaders and hold the organization accountable for the changes they present to themselves and the public.

2:00 – 2:15 p.m. Wellness Break

2:15 – 3:00 p.m. Breakout Sessions

A.  Five Ways to Use Thought Leadership to Drive Brands (M&B)

Maliha Aqeel, SCMP, Founder & CEO, The Ideas Collective Inc.

Introduction: Many people will tell you that thought leadership is a top of the funnel activity. Great for driving leads but not so much for nurturing or conversion. However, thought leadership done well across all stages of the client lifecycle, from top of the funnel to bottom, can help create a positive brand reputation, increase consideration and preference and ultimately drive repeat revenue through advocacy.

Objective: In this session, attendees will learn five ways to activate thought leadership in B2B marketing to capture white space and build meaningful client relationships.


  • Compare characteristics of thought leadership to other forms of marketing and sales content
  • Understand which thought leadership content is appropriate for each stage of the client lifecycle
  • Gain five useful tips to embed thought leadership into your brand marketing process

B. Breaking Through the Noise (CS, R)

Kevin Parent, Program and Project Management Officer, Ottawa Public Health

Introduction: Ottawa Public Health (OPH) utilizes an audience-first approach to social media. We read the replies and comments, we follow local media and influencers and we are constantly using this information to gauge narratives surrounding the topics we discuss.

This strategy led to compliments on their campaign efforts that went viral from Canadian actor Ryan Reynolds and his agreement to  participate in a OPH video (that also went viral with over 400,000 views and international recognition!) This helps us to meet our followers “where they are”, so to speak.

OPH’s Twitter account is the most-followed local public health account in North America, a title we’ve proudly had since before the pandemic.

Objective: Our approach is data and evidence-driven and has been constantly evolving for years. Our social media team employs evidence-based best practice from communications theories, sociological theories, crisis communications practices, behavioural economics and more.

Simply put: there is evidence to support everything we do or say online.

Throughout the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve needed to adapt and pivot numerous times, with many lessons learned along the way.


  • Begin to take a more audience-centric approach to social media
  • Learn strategies to allow your accounts to be more nimble and efficient
  • Follow evidence-based strategies focusing on engagement

3:15 – 4:00 p.m.  Keynote session – The Key to Inclusion; my Personal Journey (L&S)

Michèle Newton, Speaker. Expert. Advocate. 

Introduction: Spearheading the “Fit Out” movement by sharing her Black-lived experience, Michèle Newton is an inspirational catalyst for building equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging.

Michèle’s lifetime of experiences as a bi-racial woman led her to feel unheard and out of place in her own skin.

Objective: Finding strength in her individuality, Michèle adopted a “better together” philosophy, bringing to light the need for inclusion and belonging for all.

Takeaways: Through her raw and powerful storytelling, Michèle activates her audiences to become more inclusive by sharing her personal experiences. Fueling change through hope, her dynamic and passionate keynote shifts mindsets, inspires acceptance and lays out a roadmap to action.

4:00-5:00 p.m. Optional session

  1. Presented by McMaster-Syracuse MCM Program – Have you hit the mid career wall? What competencies/skills do you need to become a CCO 
    Join us for a moderated panel discussion with three panelists who are MCM students and alumni. We’ll have a discussion that is informational and organic.
  2. Elevate Your Communication Career with Global Certification
    Certification gives you a competitive edge, raises your professional profile and marketability globally, and helps you remain current in our profession. It can also give you a great sense of accomplishment. The Global Communication Certification Council (GCCC) offers the only internationally recognized certification for professional communicators. Join Marjorie Huculak, IABC CWR’s Professional Development and Sponsorship Director, in an interactive presentation on how to take this important step to learn, connect with others and stand out from the rest of the communications pack by obtaining your global certification.
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See Day 2 Program
Agenda at a Glance