Comms pros set sail on The Boat

Every year hundreds of comms pros set sail on The Aurora ship for the Communication Directors’ Forum for a few days to network, hear from guest speakers and fill up their contacts book with new suppliers. This year was no exception.

It’s a full on and packed agenda. I went on ‘The Boat’ as it’s known colloquially three years ago and blogged about my experience here.

See this video to get a taster of what it’s about:

Among the sessions that took place on The Aurora this year was one by Kate Reynolds @kate_reyn, who is Group Head of Communication and Engagement at Sanctuary Group. She led a workshop on personal branding and you can see her slides online via SlideShare.

The 2013 forum happened from 8-11 October and I spotted via Twitter that Louise Oliver and  Natasha Carrick from Comment8 were there, so I asked them to share their experience with readers of my blog.

I’m delighted they said yes, so will hand you over to Louise, who you can find on Twitter @LouAmbero and who is pictured on the right of the photograph on this page from the safety demonstration. (Pics on this page were tweeted by Louise @LouAmbero).

It’s a marathon not a sprint

As communicators we’re always looking for new ways to share our message and deliver a new experience. CDF13 was the second Communications Directors’ Forum that we’ve attended on board The Aurora.

boat_As we set sail on a round trip from Southampton to Channel Islands, the agenda promised to cover a wide range of issues facing senior communicators and helping them to think about their employees, brand, strategy and personal development.

Here at Comment8 we often draw on inspiration from our sporting heritage (as part Lane4 Group).

I would describe the three-day experience as a marathon rather a sprint. It was a pretty gruelling schedule of four keynotes, six speed networking meetings and 30 business meetings.

In order to get the most from it, delegates and suppliers alike needed good preparation, clear goals and last, but not least, endurance. But what were the key things that we took away that we didn’t already know about the world of IC?

It’s tough at the top

The conference started with a keynote from Former Conservative Minister, Michael Portillo.

Portillo entertained us with tales of the trials and tribulations of his former political life and current career as a BBC documentary maker. He explored why public trust in MPs is at an all-time low and reflected on the pressure on politicians in their role as communicators.

He highlighted the importance of good communication from the top and the role leaders have to play in engaging their people.

Portillo gave insight into how leaders can feel isolated, sharing stories of how Thatcher and Blair used their teams to influence and share their visions to shape the political agenda.

Managing the chimp

The second keynote came from Steven Peters, a psychiatrist who worked with Team GB and played an integral role in the extraordinary performance of the British cycling team at the London 2012 Games.

Peters shared his successful mind management programme, exploring the battle between our logical and emotional ‘chimp’ minds. He shared many insights of how we can optimise our performance and our quality of life by managing the chimp-like part of our mind.

When it came to communication, Peter suggested that if we control our emotional impulses then we will communicate more effectively.

He shared a story of a CEO that he had worked with who suggested that ‘all my staff are stupid’ so they will never understand the messages I’m trying to deliver. Peters explained it was the role of the leader to improve the way he communicated to engage his people at both rational and emotional levels.

(I’ve discovered a video of the ‘chimp’ Steven refers to and you can see it here – Rachel)

Change comms

Managing constant change was the theme that came up as a key challenge for many of the IC professionals over the course of the three days.

In our seminar we considered why 4 out of 10 change initiatives in businesses fail, 5 only get some desired results and only 1 is considered truly successful.

Our research and experiences, as well as the delegates’ insights all pointed towards the people issues being underestimated. The consensus in the room among ICs was that line managers often play the most important role in the communication of change.

So how do we equip leaders and managers to have better conversations? At Comment8 we believe it is a combination of getting the message right with a compelling story, creating a two-way communication flow and developing people’s skills to share the messages in a meaningful and authentic way.

We left our experience on the boat with an overall sense that the internal comms audiences are becoming savvier and that organisations seem to have a big appetite for developing in this area.

We’re hosting a free follow-up event on the role of Leaders as Communicators on 27 November where we hope to see many of ICs we met on the boat to keep the conversations going. For more information please contact me

Post author: Louise Oliver.

Thank you Louise. Did you go on The Boat this year? What did you think of it? The Communication Directors’ Forum happens every year, you can find out more information about it via the Richmond Events website.

Further reading
I regularly feature guest articles from comms pros who are readers of my blog. There’s a whole archive of them available to look through.
If you have an idea for an article, please read my guest article guidelines and get in touch with your idea,


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