7:30 a.m. Registration Opens
7:30 – 8:45 a.m. Networking Breakfast
8:45 – 9:00 a.m. Opening Address & Welcome
9:00 – 10:00 a.m. Opening Keynote – Embracing the current: Amplifying strategic leadership
Cyrus Mavalwala, ABC, MC, Founding Partner, Advantis Communications
As the world turns more chaotic, the need for clarity grows. For communication professionals the opportunity to lead has never been greater, but so too are the challenges.
Trends are emerging at a faster pace. Social media algorithms seem to change hourly. The amount of data available for decision making has exploded. But don’t worry, AI will help us…or will it make us obsolete?
So how do we keep our heads above water in these swift moving currents? Rather than being overpowered and swept away, can we harness this relentless energy to propel ourselves to higher ground?
By embracing the science and secrets that maximize our leadership potential, we can create a more vibrant future for ourselves, our teams, and our organizations. The stage is set for communication professionals to lead like never before – this is our time.
10:00 – 10:30 a.m. Networking Refreshment Break
10:30 – 11:45 a.m. Concurrent Breakout Sessions
- Woke Marketing & Communications
Tracks: Communication Skills, Leadership & Strategy, Marketing & Branding, Reputation, Engagement
Jefferson Darrell, Founder & CEO, Breakfast Culture Inc.
A fresh perspective on marketing and communications and how the disciplines relate to corporate social responsibility and intersect with diversity and inclusion. What are the “3 Bees of Woke Marketing?”
Be Present. Learn how Woke Marketing will improve an organization’s bottom line in one of three ways:
- Cultivate new audiences and customers.
- Create brand new products.
- Affect real world human rights legislative change.
Includes inspirational real life B2C (business-to-consumer) and B2B (business-to-business) examples covering diversity and inclusion issues that include race, indigeneity, gender and gender identity, sexual orientation, ability, age, and religion.
- State of Mind: Mental Health and Communication
Tracks: Marketing & Branding, Reputation
Darby Semeniuk, Director, Communications, CASA Child, Adolescent and Family Mental Health
Mental health is at the forefront of post-pandemic conversations, both personally and professionally. When CASA Mental Health embarked on an organizational rebrand, new website, and visual identity to better align our stakeholder reputation, everything changed when our key audience – the parents and caregivers of the children and youth we serve – provided us with one important detail: their own state of mind when seeking service and support. In State of Mind: Mental Health and Communication, participants will hear how this new dimension of audience analysis informed and improved the organization’s entire brand – from key messaging to web design, logo and brand placement – and how communicators can apply this information to the stakeholders and audiences of any organization or industry. Session attendees will also hear how detailed stakeholder consultation shaped a new vision, mission, values, and roadmap for the organization based around their emotional needs when interacting with the organization, and the brand story bringing the organization’s goals to life. In addition to audience state of mind, we should also pay closer attention to the mental health and neurodiversity of communications professionals and colleagues. Are team members doing okay after working from home for years? Do they express workplace needs in relation to conditions such as anxiety, ADHD, or other emerging work-life expectations? Let’s have healthy conversations about mental health! Learning Outcomes:
– Participants will understand the importance of including mental health and state of mind in audience analysis and consultation to improve communications plans, products, and outcomes.
– Participants will receive tangible ways to incorporate mental health and wellness into audience analysis, brand development and interaction, reputation, visual identity, and web design.
– Participants will learn ways to engage communications professionals and team members in conversations about their own workplace needs regarding mental health, neurodiversity, and work-life harmony.
- Trust as a Critical Building Block for Culture and Belonging
Tracks: Communication Skills, Leadership & Strategy, Engagement
Priya Bates, ABC, MC, SCMP, IABC Fellow, President, Inner Strength Communication Inc.
Join Priya Bates, one of the authors of Building a Culture of Inclusivity: Effective Internal Communication for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, to talk trust. The Edelman Trust Barometer identified Navigating a Polarized World as the key theme for their 2023 report. As institutional leaders become less trusted, there is an opportunity for Internal Communication to help organizations turn on the power of their people and translate it into strong results and cultures that thrive. In this session, Priya will share a preview of the chapter dedicated to trust:
- Learn to Listen, Learn, and Lean In.
- Be introduced to the trust equation, which encourages reliability, credibility, and integrity.
- Understand the Internal Communication trust pitfalls so that you can avoid mistakes.
11:45 – 12:30 p.m. Lunch
12:30 – 1:10 p.m. Luncheon Address
How to stop worrying and love artificial intelligence
Dan Browne, Media Creator and Communications Specialist, University of Toronto’s Schwartz Reisman Institute for Technology and Society
Large language models (LLMs) like ChatGPT have emerged as a game-changing technology with the potential to change nearly every industry and sector across society. The powerful and wildly popular artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot, and others generative AI systems like it, can be incredibly useful for helping conceptualize, research, write and edit materials, and can aid in everything from supporting administrative tasks to creating strategic planning documents, developing marketing campaigns, and analyzing data.
As AI tools continue to advance, individuals and organizations who can effectively leverage them will have a competitive advantage. This session will help you to better understand how generative AI tools work and the role they can play in business, including:
- How generative AI is reshaping communication and business practices, with real-world examples
- Potential use cases and scenarios that AI tools can help to support and enhance
- The limitations and risks of AI technologies, and how to avoid them
1:15 – 2:30 p.m. Concurrent Breakout Sessions
- How to stay grounded when the ground keeps shifting
Track: Leadership & Strategy
Caroline Kealey, Principal & Founder, Results Map
Let’s get real: it’s been a hell of a time to be a communications leader. Professional communicators are weary. They are tired. And while they are wired for connection, they often find themselves weirdly alone in trying to figure things out and make a positive difference. This radically candid session is based on my tens of thousands of hours supporting and empowering communications professionals. It’s about finding strength in community and sharing practical tips and strategies. It’s about busting out of the pattern of being at once overwhelmed and underwhelmed to make an impact. And it’s about reimagining our role as communications leaders and as difference makers. Join us for a look behind the veneer of “everything’s fine” for a real conversation about leading communications through the most challenging period of our lifetimes. It will be honest, it will be real, and it will definitely be empowering.
- Session to be announced!
- More than just the messenger: positioning digital teams as strategic partners
Tracks: Leadership & Strategy, Engagement
Tracy Tang, Leader Digital Engagement, Island Health Do people in your organization treat your social/digital team like a fast-food drive-thru? Are you the last to know about a strategic announcement but are expected to make it “go viral?” In this session, you will hear examples of how to position your digital team as domain experts, strategists, and reliable voices of expertise. Learn how to lead with a digital first mindset, use data insights to inform decisions, and work with subject experts to plan and implement successful digital campaigns.
2:30 – 3:00 p.m. Networking Refreshment Break + Dine Around sign up closes
3:00 – 4:00 p.m. General Session
Connecting the dots: Insights from Canadian Communications Leaders on the challenges ahead
Dr. Terence (Terry) Flynn, APR, FCPRS, LM, Associate Professor, Department of Communication Studies & Media Arts, McMaster University
From a survey of 110 CCOs in early 2023, heads of communications, senior communications leaders from across Canada, we identified the opportunities and challenges for the sector over the next three years. In this session, Dr. Flynn will highlight the top nine survey findings and lead the audience through an interactive table based discussion and sharing.
4:15 – 4:45 p.m. Keynote – Helping the World See Indigenous Faces
Jenn Harper, Founder and CEO, Cheekbone Beauty Cosmetics INC.
Jennifer Harper has been making a name for herself in the beauty industry for several years but has been gaining popularity quickly after being on the hit CBC show, Dragons Den. Cheekbone Beauty is helping Indigenous youth see themselves in a beauty brand.
Hear how Jenn struggled to accept her Indigenous roots and was estranged from her Indigenous family for much of her child and adult life. After learning about her grandmother’s experience in residential schools, she understood how her family was affected by generational trauma. This drove her to understand and overcome her own struggle with alcoholism. She reunited with her family including her brother B. J. and began to learn about and explore her Indigenous family history and culture.
During the development of Cheekbone Beauty, Jenn researched the current makeup landscape as well as charities that are helping close the educational funding gap that exists between Indigenous and non-Indigenous students.
You will hear how Cheekbone Beauty’s authentic voice and communications is a key driver of their success. Their business supports Indigenous youth by committing to donate 2% of revenue. During Cheekbone’s infancy, Jenn endured a heavy personal loss with the suicide of her brother B.J. This loss, though difficult, has remained a driving force behind the desire to see Cheekbone Beauty succeed with its mission, to empower Indigenous youth.
4:45 – 5:45 p.m. (OPTIONAL SESSION) Communication and Wine: The Perfect Pairing
Paula Kohl, ABC – Level 3 Wine and Spirit Education Trust certified & Fine Vintage Canadian Wine Scholar
What do professional communication and wine have in common? What better place to find out than in Okanagan wine country!
In this fun, interactive tasting and learning session, participants will sample a specially curated selection of 3 wines “paired” with strategic communication insight. You will leave this sessions feeling refreshed, connected and engaged.
Your session host Paula Kohl, IABC Accredited Business Communicator, has more than 20 years’ experience in professional communication. She recently completed the Level 3 Wine and Spirit Education Trust certification at Napa Valley Wine Academy. In 2018, she completed the Canadian Wine Scholar designation. Paula combines her two passions – communication and wine – in this hands-on (hands on a wine glass, that is) session. With many similarities to our work as communicators, wine and communication truly are the perfect pairing. Don’t miss this experience that will engage all of your senses.
Additional fee applies for this session: $35 wine (3 glasses) included, $17.50 non-alcoholic sparkling beverage included.
6:00 p.m. Dine Around Dinner groups (depart from lobby)
7:30 – 8:00 a.m. Networking Breakfast
8:00 – 8:45 a.m. Morning Remarks & Keynote
How to Communicate When you are Always in Crisis
Jenn Houtby-Ferguson, CMP, CMM, Professor, Vancouver Island University
Are you ready? In today’s changing world effectively identifying and communicating risk is a key competency for leaders at all levels. How can you deliver strategic communications when external forces are constantly impacting your community or business? How do we counter misinformation, when everyday issues are quickly amplified into a full-blown crisis? From wildfires and floods to geopolitical issues and incidents, communicators must be ready to lead and respond. #preparednotscared
From this keynotes you’ll have the following take aways:
- Hazard- risk identification: the role of Communicators
- Social amplification of risk
- Misinformation and Meta
- Where to go for help? (Additional resources)
8:45 – 9:00 a.m. Break
9:00 – 10:15 a.m. Concurrent Breakout Sessions
- Driving and surviving a megaproject: building and launching an LRT
Tracks: Leadership & Strategy, Reputation
Quinn Nicholson, CEO, Reverb Communications
Edmonton has a proud history as one of the first cities in North America with a modern LRT system. Today, it is building the brand new Valley Line LRT, an urban-style 27km line that will operate between Mill Woods in southeast Edmonton and Lewis Farms in West Edmonton. The construction of this much-needed public transportation project spans over 10 years, affects 33 mature neighbourhoods in Edmonton, and costs over $4.4B. It is anticipated that the Valley Line will attract 78,000 riders just on the first day of opening.As the largest construction project in the history of Edmonton, the LRT expansion relies heavily on excellent public communications and stakeholder relations to be successful. However, recent LRT projects in the City have not gone well. Patience has run out with citizens and politicians alike. At the heart of this perfect storm, reVerb leads the day-to-day communications efforts, bridging a frustrated bureaucracy and an exhausted private consortium.
- BRAND: Building meaningful partnerships
Tracks: Communication Skills, Reputation, Engagement
Ben Borne, CMP, Co-Founder, COO, and President
Melody Lynch, CMP, Co-Founder, Vice-President, and CCO
Symmetry Public Relations
In this session, you’ll hear about experiences of professional Indigenous communicators and marketers on the road. This session takes the all familiar word of BRAND and reframes it as an acronym for the five considerations for organizations when engaging with Indigenous communities. This session aims to inspire conversation about approaches to responding to the TRC calls to action for building respectful, nation-to-nation relationships. Key Takeaways:
- The five considerations contain both practical tools and abstract concepts to form the basis of a strong Indigenous engagement strategy.
- The five concepts/considerations for Indigenous engagement.
- A resource list for further study.
10:15 – 10:45 a.m. Networking Refreshment Break
10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. Concurrent Breakout Sessions
- Connecting with a Crypto Crew: How Research Informed a Fraud Prevention Campaign
Track: Marketing & Branding
Chelsea Siler, Manager, Investor Education & Engagement, BC Securities Commission
National research from the BC Securities Commission (BCSC) shows that young adults are more likely to turn to social media for investing advice and information. It also shows they’re taking a more speculative and risky approach to investing, with 18 per cent holding only crypto in their investment portfolios. At the same time, the BCSC is seeing an increase in the amount of crypto scams reported by British Columbians of all ages. With this campaign, we wanted to meet a younger audience where they are to help counteract misinformation and scams on social media. Our message was that not all scams are obvious, and there are ways you can learn to spot the red flags and protect yourself. In order to get the message out to all ages (not just the TikTokers), the campaign was tailored to different media platforms to reach all age groups. In this presentation we’ll dig into the research dirt which informed the campaign and understand how brands can use TikTok-style ads for all platforms. We’ll also cover the interactive campaign landing page (cryptoscams.ca) where users visit a so-called ‘influencer’ in his YouTube studio and learn how the five most common crypto scams go down – all in the name of protecting British Columbians. You will come away knowing how to:
- Break down large data sets for use in marketing.
- Stretch creative to reach multiple age groups (without diluting the message).
- Create a research-based campaign that is entertaining, interactive, and memorable.
- Make a dry or boring topic (securities regulation) seem cool.
- Engage an audience who doesn’t think they need your message.
We may just discover a few internet Easter eggs while we’re at it, too. Know the signs, spot the scams.
- AI and Brand Journalism: The Perfect Match?
Tracks: Communication Skills, Marketing & Branding
Natasha Netschay Davies, President, Moonraker PR
With the evolution of technology, AI and machine learning are transforming the media landscape. Companies are beginning to explore how they can exploit these tools to create more engaging content, which has resulted in a new wave of brand journalism that combines traditional storytelling with emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML).This session explores the implications of AI and ML integration into brand journalism, including the potential benefits and challenges of this shift. As these technologies evolve, we expect to see even more innovative storytelling techniques emerge. It’s important to have a clear strategy and plan in place before implementing AI in your brand journalism efforts. Learning outcomes:
- Identify the storytelling goals and objectives of your brand.
- Ability to use AI tools to help you reach your brand goals by generating story ideas using communications prompts.
- Add content authenticity to brand content supported by AI.
- Activating Leaders as a Communication Channel: Unlocking the Power of Four Key Competencies
Track: Leadership & Strategy
Nekolina Lau, SCMP, Managing Director, Strategic Communication, ATB Financial
In today’s fast-paced corporate landscape, effective communication is a cornerstone of successful leadership. In this session, you will discover how ATB Financial’s Strategic Communication team is activating company managers to drive the effectiveness of our leaders as communication channels.
Just like in most organizations, our leaders are pivotal messengers tasked with conveying vital information up, down, and across the organizational hierarchy. The expectations they face as they juggle multiple roles as mentors, peers, and advocates, all while shouldering the responsibility of making sense of strategic and operational updates is challenging. With this in mind, the goal of ATB’s strategic Communication team was clear: to improve leaders’ communication competencies while crafting leader communication that builds trust and drives positive action with internal and external audiences.
During this session, we’ll dive into Communicating to Connect and Inspire, a leadership communication program ATB built in partnership with The Humphrey Group, and the role the program the Strategic Communication team at ATB plays in building leader communication competencies:
- Building strong relationships: Learn how to develop a strategic approach to connect with team members, peers, and stakeholders, fostering trust and collaboration.
- Storytelling to connect and build buy-in: Discover the art of storytelling as a powerful tool to engage, persuade, and gain buy-in for your messages.
- Delivering dynamic presentations: Uncover the secrets behind delivering presentations that not only convey information but also inspire and motivate others.
- Listening to build rapport and resolve conflict: Explore the skill of active listening as a means to strengthen relationships, resolve conflicts, and enhance overall communication effectiveness.
By attending this session, you will:
- Gain access to proven communication tools and resources: See the tools and resources ATB is using to build our leaders’ communication competencies.
- Learn how ATB is addressing leaders’ biggest communication challenges: See how by focusing on building key interpersonal and leadership skills ATB is addressing leaders biggest communication challenges to build a more effective leader communication channel.
Don’t miss this opportunity to activate your leaders as communication powerhouses!
12:00 – 1:15 p.m. Networking Lunch + Role of Master Communicator in your Career Journey presented by McMaster MCM Program
Learn how national programs enhance your career growth and lifelong learning.
1:30 – 2:45 p.m. Concurrent Breakout Sessions
- Elevate Your Executive Presence
Track: Leadership & Strategy
Sue Heuman, ABC, MC, IABC Fellow, Principal/Executive Advisor, Focus Communications
You’ve got that proverbial seat at the table, now what? Define your own personal leadership style, hone interpersonal skills and use Micro MannersTM to both fit in and stand out at the executive level. Learn how to make an effective case, and earn support, for your initiatives. Be smooth and confident in your everyday interactions with peers and team members. Lead with confidence. This workshop is designed for communication professionals, or mid-level managers, who currently occupy, or have been recently promoted to, senior leadership roles.
- Think, do, believe or understand: An audience analysis tool
Track: Leadership & Strategy
Julia Harvie-Shemko, Founder and CEO, Red Thread Connections
Identifying your audiences is only one step in the audience analysis process. After you identify what you know about your audiences, you need to determine what you need your audiences to think, do, believe, or understand. Building these connections helps ensure your project is geared in the right direction and your tactics have impact and meaning. In this session, learn what think, do, believe, and understand mean, how to apply them, and how they are influenced by and influence the rest of your communications plan.
- How Your Communications Practice Can Advance Reconciliation
Alison Tedford Seaweed, Consultant
In this session, participants will learn about how their communication practice can advance Reconciliation, historical factors in the field of communications that have impacted Indigenous people and communities and the TRC’s Call to Action 92 that invites the corporate sector to create opportunities and connection. Learn how to:
- Welcome Indigenous speakers in a good way.
- Practice ethical impact storytelling.
- Do the “heartwork” and “homework” to be in better relationship with Indigenous people.
2:45 – 3:00 p.m. Networking Refreshment Break
3:00 – 4:15 p.m. Closing Keynote
Radical Truth Telling & Leading Yourself Well
Peter Reek, Founder and CEO, Leaderboard Exchange
In this talk, we will examine the benefits of radical honesty (mostly with ourselves) as a means of leading ourselves well. We’ll explore the concept of self-congruence and the importance of aligning our lives with our values, ultimately improving life satisfaction and well-being. We’ll delve into the concepts of being ‘ridiculously in charge’ and ‘response-able’. And, we’ll discuss prioritizing what truly holds significance for us over instant gratification.
Now What’s Next? Develop Your Personal Action Plan
Dana Higgins, Director, Public Programs and Engagement, Science World & Kristin Linklater, SCMP, Associate Vice-President, Communications and Marketing, Simon Fraser University
After attending a conference we come away with new tools and knowledge, but often we’re overwhelmed by the volume and then we don’t act on the learning. When we set too many goals, we usually achieve none. We try to do it all but end up doing nothing.
During this closing session, you’ll have time to reflect on the important learning from the past few days, connect with your peers, and help use your insights to create a personal action plan. When we are specific and commit aloud it greatly increases our chances of taking action.