The Big Yak

The ‘unconference’ for IC professionals returned last weekend in its fifth incarnation, and the first edition since the start of the pandemic.

Work events - conferences, trade shows, all those types of things - are always midweek (Fridays at an absolute push). So you know it’s going to be a totally different type of event when it’s booked in for a Saturday.  

We were up bright and early for a 5.45am train to London. It arrived on time, and we stood and watched it leave on time from our vantage point on the opposite (wrong) platform. No problem: we’ll just drive on to the next station to try and beat the train. Missed it again. Anyway we got there eventually and in plenty of time, and were greeted by lots of excited smiley IC faces.

Unlike more traditional events, attendees at The Big Yak have the chance to shape the day’s agenda. It means everyone has the chance to input and receive; to facilitate the conversations they’d like to have. Once the topics have been set, everyone breaks out into individual groups according to their fancy, coming and going as they please. What a refreshing approach: if you’re not getting anything out of a particular discussion or topic, vote with your feet and move on to another one. Talk about in-the-moment feedback. 

Drinks followed but it’d been a long day so we were sorry to have to make a move. Nick had some business in the south of France to attend to so he popped off to the hotel he’d booked at Gatwick airport. 

Great stuff… until he realised his morning flight was actually departing from Stansted.  We are the absolute best at planning and creating content that really works for our clients, but clearly less good at planning our social travel arrangements. 

One of the many nice features of The Big Yak is that it’s for in-house communicators only (unless the agency is an event sponsor, like Limehouse was) so the general air of fishing for business is noticeably absent.  

At other events in the past, we’ve looked on in bewilderment as agency account managers spend all day tracking down decision makers, clock-watching their way through the useful bits and pouncing at the breaks. Fair enough, that’s part of what those events are about.  But that’s never really been our style, and we much prefer taking in what’s going on around us and learning new things alongside everyone else. 

It means attendees are free to get on with what they came for - sharing knowledge and learning new skills in an open forum, with a community of like-minded people working on solutions to the big challenges of the day.  It’s a democratic sharing of knowledge and collective skill-building that you will rarely find in the world of marketing or PR, for example.  All this helps reinforce The Big Yak’s position as one of the best IC events in the calendar. Thanks for having us, and we can’t wait for the next installment. 

Event photography by Thomas Jackson from Tynesight