Tuesday, April 29, 2014

When communicators consider their experts: My #NACCDOPAN workshop

Ever have a conference experience that tied many loose threads together? I did last week, when I had the honor of leading the first pre-conference workshop of the National Cancer Institute Public Affairs and Marketing Network (PAN) at its joint meeting with the National Association of Cancer Center Development Officers (NACCDO), in Columbus, Ohio. It's one of the best-organized conferences at which I speak, and it was a delight to see old and new friends there.

In the workshop, we had marketers, communications directors, webmasters, media relations pros, branding leaders and more. Some cancer centers sent their entire communications team--whether that was one very talented person or a table full of people. A few of the participants were already regular readers of my blogs, and others became new readers and subscribers, always a thread I like to follow. Everyone was there to learn how to Be an Expert on Working with Experts, something cancer centers have in large supply.

In the workshop, we probed the personality and default behaviors of experts, as well as their default communications styles, messaging tactics to help them translate from the technical, and how to work with big-ego experts versus those willing to show their vulnerability, including providing feedback. Participants had a chance to think through the skills, goals and communications experience of particular experts, so they could better ensure that their communications requests meet the expert's needs--a theme I try to thread throughout the day. No one held back, so we had full and frank discussions about particular issues and challenges these communicators face with some of the experts at their centers.

Then there was time to dive into the conference, which also is a fantastic networking experience. It was a treat to run into Cynthia Manley from Vanderbilt University, also speaking at the conference, and my client Amy Mone of Hopkins, who are not just old friends but two of the people who introduced me to the group long ago. They're irresistible together, and this was a long-awaited reunion, not so much a thread as a tie that binds

Manley then became another thread connecting my circles. Tweeting this photo of the two of them proved the fewer-than-six degrees of separation in our networks, when Charlie Melichar--who has worked with me and with Manley in different contexts--spotted the picture and shared this reaction from afar:
As usual, I learned a lot from listening to participants in the workshop and at the conference, where the hallway and reception discussions rival the sessions for content and ideas. My hat's off to PAN, especially its chair (and my client) Vanessa Wasta, also at Hopkins, for taking the step of scheduling a pre-conference session and for selecting me to offer and lead it, and host committee member Katie Jones of Ohio State University for handling all the workshop logistics and registration. Working with them was a delight.

Best of all, I heard plenty of ideas for more pre-conference offerings from the group. If you missed the PAN pre-conference session, I'm offering another Be an Expert on Working with Experts session on June 19--one for which anyone can register. You can sign up anytime in May but you'll get a $50 discount if you register early, by May 9. And if you want that workshop or one on another topic--social media, media interview tactics, public speaking or presenting--to come to your conference, workplace or city, email me at eloquentwomanATgmailDOTcom. My next workshop at a conference is "How to Give a Killer Presentation" for Aligning Forces for Quality, at its meeting in early May. It's a national program of the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, which is where Amy Mone and I worked together in communications long ago. She's a thread in my career that brings this set of workshops together for me.

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