EMENAComm was the first ever conference to be held in the Gulf by the IABC and the two-day event brought together world-class communicators from the breadth of the multi-cultural, multi-faceted and metropolitan region of EMENA.
I was lucky enough to have been selected to share my insight with my peers at the conference along with an absolute stellar line-up of experts from EMENA and beyond.
There were 47 speakers in total across the two-day event with 40 sessions to get your teeth stuck into. The itinerary was full-on and with so many amazing opportunities to learn, it was hard to decide which track you’d rather be on.
We kicked off day one with some strong keynote speakers who set the pace for the conference. We learned about purpose from Lewis Woodward of EY. He taught us that consideration of our daily actions is the only way for purpose to truly thrive while a level of transparency and intimacy with senior leaders is a force for profound mutual respect within a huge company.
Dawn Metcalfe taught us to stand up and speak out with lessons from her book the HardTalk Handbook. Afterwards, Tasneem Chopra gave a heartfelt discourse of how we may change to inclusively communicate and how we can work together to extinguish institutionalised, unconscious bias so people are able to bring their whole self to work.
We then learned from Joss Mathieson, former head of international engagement at GSK, how the life sciences behemoth had put employees at the heart of their new strategy. Insights on such a scale are so invaluable to all delegates of a conference at this level and the inspiration taken from GSK’s listening tour, their visible and accessible leadership team, as well as their #LetsTalk champions were key takeaways for me and I’m sure many others in the room.
We then broke off into our separate tracks where it was my turn to deliver a talk on Social Media Advertising for Internal Communications. You can see the slides above.
I then had the pleasure of watching the always theatrical and ever-insightful Jon Hammond talk about the Insider Secrets of Executive Presence, with a little help from Meatloaf.
There were multiple sessions across the tracks throughout the afternoon that culminated in two excellent plenary sessions.
Colin Hatfield, Founder of Visible Leaders advised the delegates on the best strategies to ensure business leaders are great communicators, especially if it’s not their forte. Nick Driver and Joe Lipscombe then spoke about modern-day story telling in the era of post-trust as well as being able to tell if you’re in the presence of a psychopath, with culturally pertinent examples.
The final morsel of communications intrigue came from, EMENAComm’s patron, Bahrain’s Minister for Electricity and Water, HE Dr Abdul Hussain Ali Mirza, who delivered a talk followed by the presentation of certificates to all contributors of the conference.
Dr Kevin Ruck, former IABCUK president Mike Pounsford and current president Howard Krais banded together to really start the conversation flowing on day two in the first workshop session. Working from the findings of a survey carried out before the event, Kevin Ruck shared insight on active listening, body language and the best environments for listening. The full attendee assembly was then divided into groups to facilitate the sharing of ideas on the art of listening.
My afternoon was then one smashing session after another. First, Brad Jennings talked about new mediums for communication and promoted the effectiveness of podcasts and their off the cuff nature as well as lessons on beating bureaucracy. I loved the idea of bringing start-ups in to big corporates to shake up mindsets and processes to keep things fresh.
Yasser Zaki, events and sponsorship manager at Sadara Chemicals then imparted some serious B2B marketing knowledge with his company’s case study of penetrating the Egyptian market. He discussed methods of market standout, how events were key to the campaign’s success and also the importance of researching the market and ensuring you’re using the correct medium for your message.
If that wasn’t enough, Aimee DuBrule of CultureRISE explained how her company navigated a complete shift in viewpoint for two breakfast-time giants, General Mills and Nestle, and how their #TeamBreakfast campaign rose to fit the needs of not only the media and consumer but also growing pressure from regulatory compliance.
Our final group session was lead by Hanisha Lalwani who drove home her findings on how Brave Communicators Say No! She lead with a powerful stance around defining your own boundaries and values and remaining resolute in them. We finished the conference with a lively panel lead by VP of Marketing & Communications at Aviti Insurance, Shreya Krishnan. Shreya put the panel through their paces with a strong line of questioning on how India’s communicators have sought to move from tactics to strategy. Sujit Patil, Rachana Panda and Sunita Venugopal rallied back with considerable insight and thought-provoking rebuttals based on their array of experience and industry knowledge.
Finally it was time to say thank you to the man who made it all possible as we congratulated Alex Malouf on a job very well done.
Day 3 wasn’t really part of the conference but thanks to the 2.30am BA flight back to Heathrow, I had the whole day to kill in Manama! Luckily, I had both Howard Krais and esteemed fellow marketer Joss Mathieson as my companions as we embarked on our tour of Manama. The local souk and ancient fort were on our to do list and we felt quite fulfilled in our mission for culture immersion, at least for a few hours!
I have also given my key takeaways and learnings as part of a round-up post for the IABCUK. There, you can also read the experiences and thoughts of the other delegates from our chapter!