Stacey Smulowitz, Ph.D, ABC is a recipient of one of the Heritage Region's scholarships to attend the IABC Virtual World Conference. She first joined IABC as a student where she served as President of the University chapter. After graduation, she joined the Lehigh Valley chapter and served as the PR Director, Director of Professional Development, President (2 terms) and Delegate. She also served as an IABC Portfolio mentor under the ABC program. Stacy shares her experience with the 2020 World Conference for our blog.
I am sitting on my couch watching…no not Netflix! I am watching an engaging speaker at the first-ever virtual IABC World Conference. Another first is that my conference sweater is also sitting next to me on my couch. If you’re like me, you have a conference sweater for those rooms that are just too cold.
It’s an interesting set up. The Wi-Fi signal in my office just wouldn’t do. After all, I’m competing with two teenagers who really are watching Netflix. I’ve relocated my home office (a-hem, I mean a small table with several boxes and large books used to position my laptop at just the right Zoom height so as not to inflict a view of my nostrils or ceiling fan on anyone) to a corner in my bedroom just above the router.
As odd as it sounds I enjoy reading through the conference agenda over a cup of tea to try to determine which sessions I’d like to attend. Normally this involves a pen and highlighter. But this year all I have to do is click on the “add to my schedule” button and a-la peanut butter sandwiches (thank you, Sesame Street) my conference agenda is full. Yes, I am scheduled from dawn until dusk with not even a lunch break and yes I did mention that my kids are in the house. I wonder what my husband will cook?
After years of wanting to attend the conference I was blessed by IABC Heritage Region with a scholarship to attend this year. I made the best of this experience and fully immersed myself in the conference. I’m happy that I didn’t have to wait in line for coffee and I missed meeting other communication professionals in-person.
Not knowing what to expect I started by “hanging out” in the lounge and exhibitor hall to see what the virtual experience brings. I was excited to see the “Work from Home” contest sponsored by Facebook. Honestly, I may have gone a little overboard trying to win that! To win the contest, conference attendees had to earn badges by participating in workshops.
Let’s face it, the networking is why we attend conferences and the content is a bonus. This conference was a win-win! I was able to network AND hear valuable content. Many of the speakers participated in the lounge discussions and it was easy to catch up with them on LinkedIn or in the chat during their presentation. The lounge was a great way to network with other IABC conference attendees, get advice about projects or issues, ask questions about the conference format and navigating an online conference. I found the chat was also valuable to many attendees to network with their peers. I noticed a group of attendees who met in a chat and set up their own time to chat post-conference.
As an educator, I highly value content that is actionable and experiential. IABC speakers overall were excellent with engagement and content value. I have 31 double-sided notebook pages filled with notes, contact information and a large to-do list.
There were so many excellent speakers it is hard to choose a favorite. I enjoyed hearing Abilgail Posner discuss the three keys to unlock creativity; Mallory Whitfield’s session about creative problem solving and of course Shel Holtz’s discussion about new technology. Really, I could go on and on with an exhaustive list of the many talented speakers.
The IABC conference will surely have an online component in 2021. Jane Mitchell and her team are already planning excellent content. I suggest you dive right in.
Stacy Smulowitz, Ph.D., ABC