The Big Yak 2016 and it’s all about leadership


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2016 sees the IC Crowd turn 4 and the big yak turn 3. After a year off it was great to be back with over 120 communicators thrashing out the trends in our industry.

With 30 sessions running throughout the day it was great to step away from the day job and take a deep dive into the issues affecting our industry and talk about the challenges keeping us awake at night.

It was great to see the conversation has moved on from the world of digital and surprising to see some of the traditional topics coming up – leadership comms, measurement, team structures and employee engagement surveys were a few of the sessions that I managed to either attend or hear about.

The big yak is an unconference and for those that haven’t been to one before – this means the attendees set the agenda and if you’re in a session that you aren’t benefitting from you can move on to another.

It was wonderful to see so many new faces and thank you everyone for bringing ideas and topics to the day that meant the conversation and discussion flowed. A big thanks to Luke Mepham for running a session on Office 365 – I now understand so much more about what Microsoft are trying to do and I feel armed with the right questions for IT as well knowing my gut instinct on the approach is right.

Here are a few of my highlights:

  • Pecha Kucha – the art of concise presentations (20 seconds per slide – image only – and 20 slides). One organisation does these for all new employees and links it to their intranet profile page. So every person in the organisation has a video about them – including the CEO
  • Professional membership is really important to our profession – finding the right place for us to learn and grow is paramount to our success. Making sure we continue to look outside London is equally important
  • Creating a brand for leadership style – one example was of a CEO who created a presentation with a drawing style – this then became his style moving forwards so everyone knew it was from him and that it was an authentic piece of comms
  • Who is your leader? For many inside the organisation the leader is not the CEO or the board. There are middle managers that are just as important to those on the frontline and that they see as their leadership. Leaders don’t have to be the CEO of the organisation – remember that for many their leader is very local
  • Not all Execs want to be famous – and that’s ok. Keep the authenticity and find their voice inside the organisation
  • Collaboration at every level – If you have some of the Exec out and about then make sure they are sharing that with their own team within the Exec
  • CAVE employees – Constantly Against Virtually Everything – loved this phrase which I have seen across Twitter since the event
  • The importance of storytelling – the thing that makes us human is our ability to tell stories and recount them. But what does it really mean and how do we embrace this inside our businesses
  • Grappling with the speed of comms from different departments is something many talking about – the scatter gun approach of information coming out to the internal audience can be terrifying – how can we help?

I have about four other blog posts in my head to deep dive on some of these topics which I will post in the coming weeks as well. As one of the organisers it’s easy to get lost in the organisation of the day but I’m so pleased I was able to attend sessions and that both Rachel and Dana were too – we set up the Crowd after meeting up regularly and thinking it would be great for other people to share ideas and challenges – being able to be part of the Crowd on days like Saturday make the whole thing so much more meaningful.

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