A Comms Specialist’s Take on Annual Conference 2017

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July 31, 2017

A Comms Specialist’s Take on Annual Conference 2017

Our 2017 communications volunteer, Sara Steffan, playing a major role in the Risk Management Strategies training at the Annual Conference.

By Sara Steffan

Communications Specialist Fintrac

When I arrived at the InsideNGO conference, I wasn’t entirely sure that this was the right place for me. I’m a digital communications specialist at Fintrac Inc., a woman-owned and US-based consulting company that develops agricultural solutions to end hunger and this year, communications wasn’t its own identified pathway at the InsideNGO Annual Conference. No specific speaker mentioned communications as their own focus area. Topics that communications touches, such as knowledge management and learning and development, were pervasive throughout the conference, but no session was specific to the work that I do daily. Despite this, I earned notebooks full of insight and takeaways to bring back to my team.

While no job is entirely one-note, my experience at work primarily involves web design, report editing, and social media tracking with extensive opportunities to produce my own content. From the conference, I learned techniques to put an entirely new lens on my content production. For example, the role of data and our intuition in convincing senior leadership to get onboard with a new idea – generally, my team has to put together multiple-page documents and a presentation to outline the value of a new program. However, I learned in several sessions focused on the importance of data that we can combat management’s hesitations with strategically chosen data and an understanding of why they might say yes or no. We can also indicate a project’s determined success or failure before it’s even off the ground.

Also, I felt at home among my peers in the learning and development sessions, predominantly in the ones about measurement. Almost everyone in the room was struggling with the best ways to present both quantitative and qualitative information about their user, which they mostly gather through surveys or analytical tools. That’s something I take into consideration at Fintrac’s bi-weekly home office-wide meetings– how am I supposed to best communicate information from our social media accounts or our website in ways

a) everyone understands, and

b) is particularly meaningful and shows wide-reaching impact?

One speaker struck a chord when she said, “Learning and development has to prove its value every day. Otherwise, we’re the first to be cut during times of budget restrictions.”

This was the first year Fintrac sent one of its communications staff members to the InsideNGO conference, and based on my takeaways from this year’s sessions, it’s quite guaranteed that we’ll be back.

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