Session Descriptions

CONVERGENCE Summit 2019 – Thursday, March 28, 2019

View the Final Program:  IABC Convergence Program 2019 FINAL



Keynote 8:00 -9:00 a.m.

Mindset of Discovery — How to use the micro-behaviors of improvisation to think differently and build a culture of innovation

Brave New Workshop

Your industry is changing, your audiences are changing, the world is changing. Sometimes change can feel uncomfortable, but the truth is, it also creates new and exciting opportunities for growth and innovation. In this hands-on, laughter-filled session, you’ll practice the Brave New Workshop’s “Big Five” behaviors of improvisation and learn how to foster a Mindset of Discovery to innovate and embrace the ever-present change. Led by facilitators from the oldest comedy theater in the U.S., who train and inspire thousands of professionals each year, you will laugh, learn, and safely stretch a bit outside of your comfort zone. Whether you consider yourself an introvert or extrovert, this session is an opportunity to increase your self-awareness, creativity, and ability to thrive in a rapidly changing technology and business environment.


Breakout Sessions #1  9:15-10:00 a.m.

The Culture Factor: How Organizations Buy Communication Strategies, Ideas and People

Steve Wehrenberg, Teaching Professor of Strategic Communication; Program Director of the Professional MA in Strategic Communication, University of Minnesota – Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication

After 33 years in the advertising agency business, presiding over hundreds and hundreds of pitches, which often seemed like trips to the roulette wheel, and being on the receiving end of what often seemed like illogical, if not capricious agency buying decisions, Steve Wehrenberg discovered the ways organizations buy, select or hire communications. These organizations’ decisions are often heavily influenced by these Jungian psychological drivers and the Culture Factor. Four classic organizational archetypes are keys to knowing how to sell into organizations.

Key Points to be Learned:

  • Drivers of organization selection and purchase
  • Four classic organizational archetypes
  • How to sell into these archetypes

Is your Bias Showing?

Amy S. Tolbert, Ph.D., CSP
Patricia Jesperson, MBA; Partners, Spectra Diversity

Knowing we are all biased may be a hard pill to swallow. Unconscious bias, a key component of diversity and inclusion, impacts our communication and our workplace relationships every day. It is not a question of if we are biased, but knowing which bias is at play is the first step to awareness. With that understanding we can then make a conscious choice to shift thinking which in turn allows us to change behavior. To understand bias, we have to understand ourselves, our own implicit bias and our target audience.

Chances are there is a respectable gap between where you are now and where you need to be if you want to be an effective communicator that is bias-free using inclusive language. Language is one of the greatest perpetuators of culture – it reflects and affects our corporate identities.

Key Points to be Learned:

  • What is unconscious bias and why should I care?
  • Increase your awareness of your own bias
  • Apply techniques and strategies to limit the impact of bias in your role

Visual Storytelling: What Research Tells Us, and How to Make it Work in the Real World

Regina McCombs, Senior Fellow, Hubbard School of Journalism, U of M
Chris Havens, Manager, Communications, Best Buy
Boua Xiong, Sr. External Communication Advisor, Best Buy

Is using visuals the preferred way of telling stories today? How do you know which visuals will be most effective with audiences? Is video worth it? How do you deal with practical budget realities? What’s working for other organizations?

In this session, professor Regina McCombs will present the latest research on what makes images effective in print, online and social media settings, ways people judge images, and how to make decisions about which images to use to tell your organization’s story.

Best Buy communications team members Chris Havens and Boua Xiong will share their new strategy for telling stories with visuals to internal and external audiences, explain how and why they make particular decisions, and talk about how they’ve overcome challenges and what has been most effective for Best Buy’s visual storytelling initiatives.


Breakout Sessions #2  10:15-11:00 a.m.

A spark of creativity to fuel your career and organization

Glenn Karwoski, Managing Director, Karwoski & Courage, and adjunct professor, University of St. Thomas Opus Graduate School of Business

Creativity is the lifeblood of an organization and a successful career. For creativity to happen and flourish, a number of variables must come together. Glenn Karwoski shares the facts and techniques on creativity along with advice based on his thriving career within the Twin Cities creative agency scene. This information and a participation exercise will immediately spark your personal and organizational creativity.

Key Points to be Learned:

  • How to be more creative
  • What creative people do every day
  • The key attributes of high-performing creative organizations
  • How to increase organizational or team creativity

Libel Proofing Your PR Campaign

Leita Walker, Partner at Ballard Spahr LLP

From #MeToo accusations to claims of bias or financial misdeeds,  management and PR teams have an extra challenge when charges come from inside the company. Learn more about how you can protect your reputation and how to work with attorneys to counsel managers in communications to avoid missteps as the company navigates these claims. Leita Walker will review recent libel cases that have arisen from the #metoo movement and the complexities that arise from whistleblowers inside an organization.


Lunch Keynote 11:15 a.m. – 12:45 p.m.

Edelman Trust Barometer + Earned Brand

Kevin Cook, Chief Operating Officer, Edelman Chicago

 As political unrest and unbridled advances in automation threaten job security and the vitality of global supply chains, people are increasingly expecting business to ease their fears and lead the way forward. Against this landscape, consumers are also making buying decisions based on a brand’s principles and values – making it no longer an option for brands to stay silent on societal issues.

Kevin will present the findings from the 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer and share insights from Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand study to explore these shifts. We’ll discuss how CEOs and business leaders can take actions to prepare workforces — and society — for the future, build trust inside and outside their organizations and successfully engage consumer attention in a time of increasing disruption in media and changing consumer behaviors.

Key areas of focus:

  • CEOs expected to lead on change: 76% say CEOs should take the lead on change, rather than waiting for government to impose it. Not surprisingly, the last year has also seen a sharp rise in belief-driven buying – buyers that will choose, switch, avoid or boycott a brand based on where it stands on the political or social issues they care about.
  • Companies can improve society, and also do well: 73% agreed that a company can take specific actions and both increase profits and improve the economic and social conditions in the communities where it operates.
  • The new employee-employer contract: Employees’ expectation that prospective employers will join them in taking action on societal issues (67%) is nearly as high as their expectations of personal empowerment (74%) and job opportunity (80%).

Corporate Social Responsibility Panel 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

CSR and Linking Brands to a Cause: Choices, Risks and Rewards 

  • Kirsten Morrell, Senior Manager of Issues Management, Best Buy
  • Karin McCabe, Outreach Director, McGough Construction
  • Ed Kamrin, Communications Manager of Corporate Citizenship, McKesson

According to Edelman’s 2018 Earned Brand Study, nearly two-thirds of consumers now choose, switch to or boycott a brand based on its stand on societal issues. Belief-driven buying is now a mainstream mindset. This panel will explore the implications of the Earned Brand Study along with the risks and rewards of a brand’s willingness to live by its values, operate with purpose and make the leap into activism.


Breakout Sessions #3  2:15-3:00 p.m.

Ethics in a “Trust Crisis” Era

Scott Libin, Hubbard Senior Fellow, University of Minnesota—Hubbard School of Journalism & Mass Communication

How do we address today’s “trust crisis” in the information we receive — and in the information we disseminate? As communicators, how do we make ethical decisions in both traditional and social media settings, and in dealing directly with the public? In this session, you will participate in an interactive case study experience to role-play as a group what you would do, and to discuss how these principles might apply to your own organizations in your day-to-day work.

Key Points to be Learned:

  •     Principles of ethics to apply in your organization
  •     Ethical decision making

Capturing Attention in an Algorithmic World

Greg Swan, Director of Digital & Social, Fallon

In 2019, modern marketers increasingly find themselves walking the line man and machine. With the rise of the attention economy, A.I.-powered algorithms, the 24/7 news cycle and cluttered newsfeeds, it can be a confusing time to craft messages and content that creates breakthrough. However, this tension between consumer habits and changing technology is also ripe with opportunity for modern brands that are ready for the next generation of communication arts. In this presentation, Greg Swan will share the latest research on A.I. and consumer attention trends, specific examples of content designed to maximize this environment, and advice for how you can capture consumer attention in today’s algorithmic world.

Crisis Communication – An internal perspective

Allen Sommerfeld, Senior Communications Officer, Minnesota Department of Agriculture

Crisis communication is an often-studied topic. However, most of that research focuses on external communication. This presentation focuses specifically on internal crisis communication through research and theory. The best practices we’ll explore are based on interviews with communicators that have faced crisis in their organizations and communication professionals who help others during times of crisis.

Key Points to be Learned:  

  • The three stages to internal crisis communication
  • The relationship between internal and external messaging
  • 10 best practices for internal communications during a crisis


Final Keynote 3:15 – 4:00 p.m.

Human Communications: How putting people first benefits business

Victoria Dew, Incoming IABC Chair, CEO Dewpoint Communications

We hire smart people, expect them to be innovative, collaborative, productive and engaged, and then treat them like robots on an assembly line. But until robots actually do come for our jobs, companies will be a lot better off embracing and nurturing their human employees.

How can we, as business communicators, be change agents and help to create better, stronger human-centric business?

In this session we’ll explore how communications leaders can leverage our own uniquely human talents and skills to have a big impact on both business and society.


Closing Networking Reception 4:00 – 6:00 p.m.