Unleash your inner rebel – five takeaways from the Inner Rebel conference 

Have you ever found yourself looking at a conference agenda thinking ‘It’s the same old topics again’ and not feeling energized about attending?

Well, the Inner Rebel hybrid conference organised by Advita Patel certainly set out to shake things up. 

Whether you work in Internal Communication, PR, Marketing, HR or Operations, the high energy speaker line up and agenda set out to help change the workplace and it certainly delivered!

All Things IC Communication Consultant Dan Holden joined 150 professionals in-person in sunny Manchester to unleash his inner rebel. 

Having worked with Advita as part of our time together on the CIPR Inside committee when she announced the launch of the Inner Rebel conference, I knew this was going to be something special and would break all the traditional expectations of a conference. I have enough notes in my Inner Rebel journal to write a few articles, but I’ve kept this article to my top five takeaways. 

Dan Holden and members of the CIPR Inside committee.

Dan Holden and members of the CIPR Inside committee.

I am a catalytic converter

I’m going to be a rebel and start by talking about the end of the conference.

Firstly, what do Alfred Nobel, Tina Turner and the Inner Rebel attendees have in common? They are all catalysts for change, and we should think of ourselves, as one attendee described as “a spark that drives change’. I loved this and thought it’s something as internal communicators we can relate to.  

The closing note by Sharon Amesu really got me thinking about how we can do more to work with colleagues from other teams such as Human Resources, to create environments where people come into the workplace and leave feeling better, a bit like a catalytic converter!

I feel this really highlights the impact internal communication can have on workplace culture and if we step up to the challenge, can really show our worth within organisations. 

You’ll see from the video people, even at 5.30pm as the day was ending, the energy in the room was fantastic. 

The importance of belonging

It’s very common to hear various terminology used when it comes to the topic of diversity and inclusion, and it can be very confusing for colleagues as to what some of the terminology means.

Nichole McGill-Higgins delivered an inspiring session on the importance of belonging within the workplace and getting us to think about what diversity, inclusion, equality and equity means for us. 

I loved this quote which sums up the difference between equality and equity perfectly. 

The BRIDGE model from ‘Inclusion on Purpose‘ by Ruchika Tulshyan also stood out to me, showing a way to cultivate an inclusion mindset.

It’s a great model that I can see working well for organisations, both at a company wide level but also down to individual teams, whether that’s at department level or with management peers.

The first point on ‘Be uncomfortable’ is something very few of us find easy to do yet we need to learn to be accepting of this feeling more, otherwise we can’t change for the better. 

Tweet showing a slide saying BRIDGE

Take yourself to where your people are

During a panel discussion of internal communicators and Human Resource professionals, Priya Bates shared a golden nugget, and I felt the whole room scribbling furiously to capture.

“Meet people where they are and respect that they have more knowledge than you think”.

It struck me as one of those obvious statements yet one that organisations don’t do, even though it delivers great value and insight. 

Priya Bates speaking at a conference

As internal communicators, it’s our business to know our business and this means we should be putting our people at the heart of what we do.

Yes, working remotely can be a barrier but flip this over and make it an opportunity. Many of you who previously would have had logistical nightmares trying to visit sites can now speak with colleagues online.

We should remember the challenge of communicating with frontline and remote workers isn’t new and keeps coming up every year. Now is the time we need to step up to the challenge. 

Think about the journey

Kicking off the conference, author and journalist Matthew Syed talked about the power of diverse thinking and I’m sure I could write another article from the notes I took.

One comment he made though that I want to share is his quote following a conversation with professional footballer, David Beckham:

“People don’t see the practice, they just see the performance”.

I thought how true it is to our profession. We often get judged based on the final intranet article we publish or the latest Town Hall for colleagues, yet do our management teams appreciate the efforts we went through to reach the finished product?  

Matthew Syed speaking at Inner Rebel conference

It’s disheartening when you spend time writing an all-staff announcement, go through 1001 people for sign off and then after hitting send, you spot a missing comma or capital letter and that becomes the focus of feedback, never mind that the draft copy went through 100 versions by the time everyone wanted their say.

We should hold our heads high, knowing that yes, in that moment you made a tiny error, but you know what, given the challenge of getting from A to B, you did a great job. 

He mentioned his book ‘Black Box Thinking’ about when things go wrong, it’s an opportunity to learn and get better. Next time you find yourself in a situation where something didn’t go to plan, pause for a moment, take a breath and see it as a learning opportunity. 

Alignment and understanding

One of panel events explored the theme of ‘The future is now’ and People Director Sasha Watson shared some thoughts about how the expectations of colleagues’ has changed, in terms of what they want from their workspace, flexibility, contactless environments and limitless boundaries.

As communicators, we need to be ahead of the curve, making sure our people have a voice and help to align expectations between the organisation and its people. 

Screenshot of speakers

I also took note of an equation shared by Alastair Swindlehurst who was also on the panel. Now, I’m not a mathematician by any means but I know from conversations the subject of measuring engagement comes up a lot.

I like the way he’s linked the vision through the emotions that colleagues may experience to that of their reactions.

You could apply this for example into a change comms situation to think about what your key messages might be, how in particular incident, such as launch day of a new IT software, people might feel and their potential reaction. 

E3 end user engagement equation

What’s your Inner Rebel going to do?

I’d encourage you to be an Inner Rebel and challenge your previous thinking around challenges you face at work or projects you’re working on. Take a new approach and be the rebel that challenges the status quo. As you’ll see from this video, the conference gave people the confidence to speak up and importantly, put their hands up to mistakes. 

Search on Twitter #InnerRebel2022 where you’ll find more posts and insights from the day. You can also follow Advita on LinkedIn and Twitter (@CommsRebel and @Advita_p) and Instagram.   

Credit to Tyne Sight Photography for all the photos unless otherwise stated. 

Post author: Dan Holden.

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First published on the All Things IC blog 16 June 2022.

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