The curtain call at the big yak

As organisers of The Big Yak, and organising it for the second year, we wanted this year’s event to be bigger and better than the original.

Was it? Did we exceed everyone’s expectations including ourselves? Well time will tell as we are asking for feedback on how this year went, but, from the three of us we are nothing but proud and ecstatic with our efforts, which spanned over six months through various face-face meetings, Google hangouts, Trello discussions and the odd whatsapp conversation. Yes, The Big Yak was organised in a very collaborative and social way and it was evident on the day of.


Image provided by ego creative

On Saturday, 28 June, close to 150 internal comms pros descended upon Richmond to participant in seven hours of discussion, debate, ice breakers and the odd coffee or three. Kicked off by the excellent Benjamin Ellis @benjaminellis, more than half of the delegates jumped right onto those post-it notes and started scribbling topics. And from there on The Big Yak had officially started.

For people who hadn’t experienced an unconference before this may have been overwhelming, but internal comms is a community of sharing and helpfulness.

Many people took the time to explain what the post-its meant and how even if you have never run a session before that it should never stop them from doing it on Saturday.

The agenda this year was rich in detail, with sessions going into very specific projects or initiatives. No more were the sessions just about engagement or gamification. They were more tangible and combined the right levels of practical and theory.

There were five 45 minute session of six streams. Did you catch that? Even if you didn’t, there were a lot of sessions people could attend:

Session 1:

  • Brand is everything! Engaging employees is the key, how do you succeed in this?
  • Are IC pros the worst at communicating?
  • The changing role and skills for IC
  • Video storytelling as part of your channel mix to engage mass audiences
  • HR Comms How to make HR stuff cool
  • How do you create a credible leader from a poor communicator

Session 2:

  • How do we move from cascade to conversation?
  • IC qualifications, are they worth it?
  • How to engage an increasingly mobile workforce
  • Keeping it global – worldwide comms
  • Breaking down divisional silos
  • Joining up internal and external comms

Session 3:

  • How do Comms teams adapt to changing employee voice on social media
  • How important is authenticity (ghostwriting, should we do it?)
  • Creating a culture that supports innovation
  • Personalistion, making content relevant
  • Connecting to an offline audience
  • Channel effectiveness, what does it mean in a world of social tools?

Session 4:

  • Empowering and engaging employees to share their own stories
  • Proving the value of IC
  • Practical ideas for fun stuff to do at employee briefings
  • Change management
  • Company values. Use them? Lose them? How to use them?
  • How to plan and implement an amazing ESN
  • How to maintain momentum

Session 5:

  • Forget social, what’s next
  • Finding experts in your organisation
  • Reward and Recognition, what works and what doesn’t
  • Design and Creativity in internal comms

There are already a number of blog posts out there from a view of the attendee and we will be posting a list of all those posts on Friday.

The Big Yak isn’t just about discussing internal comms, it is about meeting like-minded people which is terribly important for teams of one. We hope we created a day which was balanced with fun ice breakers, good food, groove movin’ music, new friends and old and of course a drink or two to celebrate the day. And, let’s not forget about the raffle. You generous lot raised £292 for Dana’s 41 km running events. What a difference this will make for Cancer Research. Thank you.

Even though the curtain is calling on The Big Yak for 2014, this is not the final call. This is just the beginning.
Jenni, Rachel & Dana

Post author: Dana Leeson
Feature image by Tony Stewart.