Illustration for article on attending conferences
July 16, 2019 by Joseph Di Cesare

The call for conferences: How we stay innovative in the workplace

In an era where we have access to just about anything at the tip of our fingers, leaving the office for information can seem pretty unappealing.

These days, we can watch a TED Talk from the leading expert of any subject from the comfort of our desks. So why spend time travelling just to sit in a lecture room and watch a two-hour PowerPoint presentation, right?

At Banfield, we disagree. We’re passionate about staying innovative in our craft, and we know the best way to do that is to get a fresh perspective from the industry’s brightest professionals. Attending different conferences is our due diligence — it keeps us inspired with new, innovative ideas for our work.

I sat down with some colleagues to discuss their most recent conference experiences:

Kelly Rusk, Digital Director and Partner

What conference did you recently attend?

The Collision Conference in Toronto.

What was the main focus of the conference?

Leading edge technology and innovation. This is a massive conference of over 25,000 attendees and leaders in every industry. It included highlights from all areas of tech and all industries, but did have a lot of focus on startup companies.

Why did you attend this conference? What were you hoping to learn?

What leading brands are doing in tech right now. I was particularly interested in artificial intelligence, and media tech and emerging technologies.

What new, innovative ideas did you learn at the conference?

Three big takeaways I had were:

  1. Embrace challenges and frustrations for creative innovations.
  2. Bridge the gap between technology and human emotion.
  3. It’s OK (even advantageous) to be a generalist in your career.

To read more about Kelly’s takeaways, click here.

What role does innovation play in your job?

I have zero interest in doing the same thing over and over again, so innovation is the only option for me, or I will die of boredom.

Would you encourage people to attend conferences related to their field of work?

Yes, absolutely. Conferences are the easiest way to get out of your own workplace “bubble” and learn from others and meet new people. Everyone should do it at least once a year for fresh perspective.

Timothy Jones, President and Creative Director

What conference did you recently attend?

I recently had the opportunity to join James Victore, artist, designer, activist, author, coach and all-around amazingly creative guy, for a creative workshop retreat at his ranch just outside Austin, Texas.

What was the main focus of the retreat?

The main focus of the retreat was developing and strengthening your creative voice. It was a master class in creative thinking and unthinking, developing through self-knowledge to push past barriers and unleash a “more creative” self.

What was your most memorable experience at this retreat?

My most memorable experience was probably my worst one. Over the weekend, we were challenged to multiple exercises where we were forced to think quick on our feet, and one of those challenges was improv. I hated it. A lot. Some people were so good at it, but every time it was my turn my stomach sank. The only solace was knowing that it would eventually have to end. My first attempt was a disaster, but I got a little better as we went on. By the end, I was very relieved but also proud of myself for pushing through the awkwardness by getting over my own ego (that barrier that I created for myself).

What role does innovation play in today’s work environment?

Innovation is a buzzword that has started to lose its meaning — these days, we want everything to be “innovative”. But what that really means is looking for new ways to make or do something better. Being innovative or creative is just asking yourself, “how can I do this better? Is there a different way to accomplish our goals?”

Kristal Felea, Executive Producer & Partner

What conference did you recently attend?

IABC World Conference 2019

What was the main focus of the conference?

The main focus of the IABC World Conference is to explore the latest trends, challenges and opportunities facing the communication profession.

Why did you attend this conference?

I have attended this conference for the last three years. It’s a great resource for exploring the latest in communications and meeting with comms professionals from around the world. IABC always has a really great line-up of sessions to choose from — sometimes it’s hard to decide which to attend!

What new, innovative ideas did you learn at the conference?

Some new emerging trends and technologies that caught my attention were that:

  1. Smart speakers will soon outnumber tablets, which means an influx in custom skills for Alexa (enhancing audio search profiles for businesses) and custom voice apps for employee engagement. We’re also seeing more audio branding for companies and organizations — companies like MasterCard and Pandora have created sonic logos to function as audio branding.
  2. TikTok is quickly making a big impact on the world of social media. It’s been the App Store’s most downloaded app for 3 consecutive quarters with over 500 million monthly active users. Brands are starting to catch on to this new platform and engage with audiences though Hashtag Challenges.
  3. We’re also seeing the revival of print and curated editorial content.

What role does innovation play in today’s work environment?

Innovation in the workplace is huge. Most companies and organizations seem to be going through some form of digital transformation. It’s critical these days to evolve — not only operationally, but also culturally to remain competitive in the workplace, to spark new ideas and solutions, and find a better way of doing business.

In my job specifically, innovation is paramount for finding new ways of reaching and engaging with audiences. It’s a very exciting time to be in the marcom space.

Hunter Hill, Creative Designer & Art Director and Stephen Pollock, Creative Designer

What conference did you recently attend?

Smashing Conference in Toronto.

What was the main focus of the conference?

User Experience (UX) and Web Development.

What was your most memorable experience at this conference?

There were three speakers that really stood out to the both of us:

  1. Brad Frost, a web designer based out of Pittsburgh, spoke about design systems. He presented his methodology called Atomic Design, where components are created from small to large (referred to as atoms, molecules and organisms).
  2. Jenny Shen, a UX consultant, spoke on designing inclusive product experiences for global users.
  3. Chris Gannon, an animator, illustrator and interactive designer, took an illustrator file and built a perpetual loading animation from scratch, live on stage.

Also, the conference had a zero-slides policy, encouraging speakers to present content using alternative methods like live-coding or Twitter timelines. That was pretty neat.

What new, innovative ideas did you learn at the conference?

When it comes to documenting process and creating or updating your organization’s standards, let staff add ideas using collaborative tools, like Google Docs or Dropbox Paper, so they can contribute to and feel better about the standards of the company they work for.

Would you encourage people to attend conferences related to their field of work?

Absolutely. Conferences have the ability to introduce concepts outside of our job description, and give us a better understanding of some of the sensitivities and concerns that our colleagues and peers face.

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