IoICFestival22: The biggest comms pilgrimage

Last week’s conference from the Institute of Internal Communication created a festival atmosphere for IC professionals.

Shalini Gupta has kindly written for the All Things IC blog to share her highlights from day one of #IoICFestival22, having answered my plea via Twitter.

Describing the event as a ‘comms pilgrimage’, she’s here’s to reveal what we missed.

Shalini is Employee Experience Communications Lead, Enterprise at BT. She’s worked internationally for over 15 years across a wide spectrum of internal communications, ranging from shaping and delivering both employee and leadership communication strategies.

She is keen to support others who are new to the world of internal communications and enjoys giving it back as an IoIC #IChooseIC ambassador as well as a mentor with the Taylor Bennett Foundation, supporting underrepresented PR graduates. Shalini enjoys sharing her experience and knowledge and can often be found speaking at industry panels, podcasts or sometimes even writing blogs.

Look out for day two by Mina Dhillon coming soon.

I’ll hand you over to Shalini…

Shalini-Gupta. Day one from IoICFest22

Chicken tikka masala, parenting a teen and all things IC at day one of the #IoICFestival22

I arrived at the glorious Goosedale venue in Papplewick, Nottinghamshire on 5 July, day one of the #IoICFestival22.Surrounded by trees and fields of green for as far as the eye could see. Far from the madding crowd indeed.

Jennifer Sproul, Rebecca Nicholls and rest of the IoIC team are really the saviours for all those IC pros who bring them together at this yearly fest where they can escape the trials of hitting send on that all employee email or working up the nth version of a leader’s script and simply dive into a world where only golden nuggets of wisdom on all things IC reign.

It actually felt very liberating being at a Glastonbury-esque comms fest, cheering, and sharing the love of comms with each other.

The entrance to IoICFest22

With stellar keynote speakers, presentations, facilitated discussions, networking – we shared insights, best practices, laughed together at the wit of our wonderful keynote speakers and just immersed ourselves in the festival spirit.

While we had some very insightful conversations about comms, we also discussed (as we’re only but human!) about the challenges of our work life balance in this hybrid world, parenting a teen, the right recipe for Indian butter chicken  vs chicken tikka masala (believe me there was some debate- sorry Goosedale chef!) and even bumping into some of my ex-colleagues reminiscing the good old days of working together in a previous life – every interaction was valuable.

For me, the real magic wasn’t in the content or the speakers (though I was a speaker this year too, so don’t get me wrong!), it was actually the infectious energy in being around other communicators and sharing and learning from each other.

There seemed to be a theme running through the content for day one – power of human connection. It was great to listen to a wide range of speakers about IC’s increasingly important role in creating those connections and engaging our people.

IoICFest22 interior showing lots of tables and chairs

I left day one with these top five takeaways:

1. Effective communication = happier future of work for everyone

Opening keynote by the very impressive Dan Sodergen aka the ‘Tech Futurist’ from had us all on our feet with his insights about AI and the future of work.

Reflecting on the post pandemic world, he got us thinking about how we’re becoming more individualistic and the answers that we’re all looking for now go much deeper.

We’re looking for trust. For purpose, for vision, for happiness and for a sense of belonging and of being valued at work.

Dan shared some staggering stats about post pandemic employee engagement:

  • 85% employees are not engaged in the workplace. Which makes their jobs harder.
  • Younger people will take a pay cut to go to a better job because 93% of gen Z workers feel that belonging at work is important.
  • 70% of employee engagement scores are directly related to their managers. People leave bad bosses.
  • If your employees think they are heard, they perform five times better.

So what’s the solution. How can IC support?

 “When people meet in offices, cultures appear. When you do stuff together, you like each other more”, Dan reflected on the post pandemic hybrid world adding further, “If you take that away, you need to communicate more passionately and empathically”.

He gave us some examples of how AI and big data can help us do our jobs better and add value (e.g. copywriting sites such as, Lavender and others such as Humantic and  Crystal Knows that can help us use DISC personality profiles to help us better communicate).

However, the need for human connection is not going to fade anytime soon.

Overall a strong case for going back to the basics of understanding your people and communicating with empathy.

This keynote made me reflect about the power of effective communication.


2. Conversations change culture and build trust

A brilliant case study from Johnson Matthey where Mohammed Osman and Nikki Burslam shared about AirTime, a programme where groups of small employees across the globe came together to have conversations about a key transformation programme.

How did they mobilise a large global audience who were sceptical about the change?

A framework was created where leaders were engaged as facilitators, a network of champions were trained to mobilise the employees and work with leaders on actions and what employees wanted to see changing.


  • Using the power of IC, the AirTime gave way to conversations where transformation was understood and became a less scary topic.
  • Informal conversations led by local leaders in the local language led to less uncertain energy on why they were changing.
  • It got people thinking and talking about how they could own their behaviour and drive for change.
  • Change was led by everyone not just leaders.
  • People felt empowered to come up with actions.

 “AirTime felt like a fresh concept. Through discussions, you can identify roadblocks and build trust. But don’t expect only positive discussions”, Mohammad further said,  If you don’t allow people to say things we don’t want to hear, we can’t work to address them”.

Another example of the power of IC. Through conversations and connections, we can build trust. 

3. We’re not ‘spin doctors’!

The IoIC recently launched its guide to ethics, a topic that we as communicators don’t often talk about.

I learned a lot being a panellist for the ‘Ethics in IC’ session along with Wendel Verbeek, head of internal and transformation communication for London Stock Exchange Group and Oli Howard, membership strategy lead at the CIPD.

Tweet from Helen Deverell showing IoICFestival22 panel

I opened the panel answering our host, IoIC President Suzanne Peck’s question about why do we believe ethics are so important to IC practice today?

To this my response was, “We should keep ethics front and centre of everything we do and not just because we’re bound by the IC code of conduct. Why? Because it’s the right thing to do”.

 Here are the other key points that we emphasised in the panel:

  • We have a key role to play in championing, supporting, and monitoring communication to ensure that the highest standards are maintained across all organisational communication.
  • How we communicate in organisations is symbolic to what behaviour we think is tolerable
  • Every content we send out, we should ask ourselves: is this transparent? Is it accurate? Is it misleading our people? Is it inclusive? Are we communicating it at the right time to those people who are impacted?
  • Your audience will catch if there is a hint of spin – it will come back to you and you lose your licence to operate and of being a trusted advisor

The more we talk about ethics as communicators, the greater clarity and support we’ll have to challenge unethical communication. It needs courage to speak up, but not speaking up is not an option.

4. Super connection is our superpower

Mike Klein, founder of We Lead Comms shared how our role is not just to communicate and broadcast messages but to connect our organisation.

“This is reflective of a shift in the power for IC  where connecting people to each other can fundamentally change the DNA of our workplace”, Mike added, “ It’s about getting our audience to think beyond their jobs (with a big potential to avoid #GreatResignation within the organisation) and drive for their personal, professional and organisational growth ”.

In creating these connections within the organisation, Michael said we should think of this as ‘audience of two’:

  • Who are people with stories?
  • Who are people with needs?

Food for thought here about IC’s super connection power to help the organisations supercharge their growth and innovation.


5. Find the heart of your comms

Christina Patterson, writer, broadcaster and critic for The Sunday Times, was our brilliant closing keynote about how IC can make people listen.

She used some of her very personal experiences to talk us through how finding the heart of the communication, shaping the content as a story (and reading more fiction books as the authors understand the reader’s heart!) and really understanding what people care about hits the nail on the head of the content.

“The thing about messages is that it’s all about what people care about and internal communicators’ jobs is understanding what people care about.” A powerful reminder there once again about the importance of REALLY understanding  and building that trusting relationship with our audience.

Going back to the basics of good writing was the final top tip shared by Christina that’ll help us create messages that connect to people’s hearts, “Keep it short and simple, don’t overuse buzzwords, followed by cutting/honing/cutting/honing until you get it just right”.

There is always so much to learn and be inspired at the IoIC Fest. Congrats to Jennifer Sproul and the IoIC team for giving us this platform and bringing us together. I really enjoyed Day one where I was able to create a personalised agenda for myself attending the above sessions. I’m already looking forward to next year!

Post author: Shalini Gupta.

Thank you for sharing your takeaways Shalini, I enjoyed reading them and appreciate you highlighting what we missed at IoIC Festival 2022.

Talking of the Institute of Internal Communication, congratulations to everyone who has been shortlisted in the National Awards 2022. You can see the whole shortlist via the All Things IC blog.

IoIC Awards shortlist announced 2022

First published on the All Things IC blog 12 July 2022.



  1. Dan Holden says:

    What a fantastic overview. Thank you so much Shalini for sharing. I wasn’t able to attend this year but feel as though I’ve been able to learn so much from this article alone.

    The takeaway you’ve mentioned from Michael about an audience is something I’ve not thought about before and keen to explore.

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