In News


IABC Victoria Board member, Lisa Bigelow, talks about how the recent talk55 event got communicators sharing their experiences like never before.


On 4 May, 90 communicators from across the sector gathered in RMIT’s Green Brain building to hear 11 senior practitioners talk all things communication. Each speaker was limited to five minutes (there was even a timer) and five presentation slides… a tall order for communicators. Believe it or not, some finished with time to spare!

The night was MCd by David Henderson of Coral Communications who began with a story about the need for clear communication, especially when you are travelling in a country where you don’t speak the language. Some of David’s gems included talk to people simply, but not like they’re stupid; if you don’t know what something is on the menu, don’t order it; and if you need to buy condoms, don’t try to use hand gestures to explain what you want. Pearls of wisdom indeed!

The first talk55 presenter was Nick Barnes, Director, Coral Communications. Nick spoke on the myth of collaboration, saying that modern business practice actually prevented true collaboration, as people were encouraged to compete to enhance their own professional standing.

Danielle Clarke, Head of Online and Social Media, Telstra explained how successfully activating and empowering social employees drives towards a COC (Culture of Content). Danielle said many employees have ten times more social media connections than many small businesses, so Telstra is identifying those employees and empowering them to share content as brand ambassadors.

Mark Schenk, Managing Director, Anecdote International said that the best way of “fighting the enemies of communication” was to become an elephant whisperer, focusing on the stories that need to be told rather than the language. “We don’t feel bullet points,” he said. “Be more specific and less abstract”.

Gayle Austen, Principal, Gayle Austen Corporate Communications spoke about the fall and rise of authenticity, and posed the question to all communicators, “how authentic are we?” Gayle urged us all to trash the jargon, be human and be original in what we are thinking and saying.

“Forget your KPIs, make me feel something,” urged Isabelle Oderberg, Social Media Lead, Australian Red Cross during her presentation: Five things to consider when creating digital and social content. Isabelle said one of the best ways to communicate was telling the right stories about what is working in your organisation or your projects.

Deb Ganderton, Executive Manager Communications and Engagement, City of Boroondara talked about the journey from the jobs board to the board room and about how choosing an enduring and social goal can create meaning in your professional life.

Jenny Robinson, Lecturer and Program Manager for Media and Communication, RMIT explained how psychology and neuroscience can bring new insights for communicators by looking at how people make choices. Jenny used behavioural economics to show that nothing is rational… but it is predictable.

Andrea Davies, Senior IC Manager, Parks Victoria, shared the value of using powerful case studies and human stories as cut-through communications to enhance safety culture. Andrea urged communicators engaged in change communication to “use real stories filled with emotion, utilise line managers and make information simple”.

Talking about the social media swindle, Jen Sharpe, Director, Think HQ swam against the social media tide. Studies have found that, although two thirds of people had a social networking profile, one-third of those people just used it to keep up with friends. The stats were worse for business. Jen said it was important for business to remember to focus on direct engagement with customers

Helen Nelson, Head of Group Employee Communications, NAB talked about her work getting NAB leaders talking and moving them away from the usual tools they rely on for presentations. The top 200 executives were given a one page graphic of a new product and time to ask every question they could think of. Helen said this process helped them to “be more human, to have a conversation… it’s starting to feel really different”. 

The final word went to Wayne Aspland, IABC Victoria Board member and Principal, The Content Factory. In his presentation ‘Is Scarlett Johansson the future of humankind?’ Wayne talked about the future, relentless change and the growing value of communication. He urged all of us to sell the value of what we do.


talk55 was a fast-paced and insightful night for everyone who attended. And, I must confess, it was also a lot of fun watching our peers struggle with the relentless pressure of the clock.