“I love how this event brings my personal and professional lives together. We are nothing at work if we are not ourselves.”
“The combination of learning and wellbeing means you get more out of this event than other conferences.”
“this year particularly taught me how valuable this reset is.”
“The mix of interesting workshops, well-being activities and the chance to meet like-minded people.”
“I think I'd not fully appreciated how great the wellbeing and nature side of it would be! I hadn't realised how much good it would do me.”
“The best moments were the ones that made me laugh… including ‘the poo flow chart of comms…’!”
“The connecting and reconnecting with other comms folks.”
“Connecting with others and laughing so much more than once, and in one session I nearly fell over with it - joyous”
“The atmosphere - truly is wonderful meeting like-minded people in such a unique way.”
“The licence to play workshop - pure joy and laughter. More of this please. Also the fireside chat was excellent and should be repeated - great idea!”
“The relaxed atmosphere of the whole event and networking by the fire were the most memorable moments for me.”
“I was laughing so much, I couldn't cope!”
“All round chilled out vibe.”
“People and their willingness to embrace and share.”
“This was my first time, and it really did not disappoint. I met some fantastic, interesting, and inspirational people - and learnt so much. ”
“You embraced and showcased the power of Dorset”
“It really is a fantastic event, combining personal and professional development in a way that is good for both individuals and employers. ”
“Time outdoors does wonders for body, mind and soul, and you really prove that with Comms Unplugged. ”
“I never fail to leave thinking that a) I know how to do my job and b) I have the support of other experts should I waiver from that.”
“Everything I expected and more - you guys do so much and on top of your every day work and lives - thank you so much. I have been and will continue to advocate and tell anyone who will listen that they need to go next year.”
“You just can't underestimate the difference that zero tech and a learning space that feeds the senses rather than depletes will make to your experience, your engagement, your retention.”
“It felt so special. Even more than I expected. I have come back buzzing!”
“I think it's had quite a profound impact on me. ”
“I think I haven't been very good at appreciating nature before and I really felt the benefits of properly noticing it. Particularly wonderful to be right beside lovely woodland.”
“Grateful for all the hard work that goes into CU. Thank you for creating something wonderful!
It's probably fair to say that when Kathy sets out to do something, it's gonna get done!
Her boundless energy, ability to connect people and connect with people, and her smart ideas are all the right ingredients to make things happen.
A multi-award-winning branding, digital communications and PR expert, she focuses on building community and integrated branding programmes to shift public opinion and deliver results. She has over 20 years of international experience in place marketing, digital transformation and advocacy.
The founder of DigiKind, who have been sponsors of Comms Unplugged for the last two years, she first joined us in person in the field in 2022 and a firm friendship was born.
Her community-building instincts and skills have been put to great use working with purpose-driven startups, local councils and businesses on community engagement and empowerment.
Kathy will share her thoughts and experience on building thriving communities - whether it's neighbourhoods or communities of practice or interest. She knows a thing or two about finding her own community too. As a mixed race, native Californian who relocated to the UK to start a new chapter of her life, she'll share reflections on how the communities she's known and helped build have shaped her journey.
What's it like for a city slicker to start over in rural England? You'll find out in this inspiring, energising keynote session in our main marquee.
Dorset Healthcare and Dorset County Hospital
The role of comms and engagement in developing a positive, nurturing organisational culture.
Nicola's workshop will explore the role of comms and engagement in developing a positive, nurturing organisational culture. She'll outline how comms professionals should be front and centre in developing the corporate narrative and how they can ensure staff and stakeholder voice is at the heart of that.
You'll be working through some interactive activities that will give you ideas and tools for influencing brand and narrative development back at your organisation.
Nicola started her career as a comms officer for the then Dorset County Council peripatetic music service, moving on to comms roles in the government's highways and health departments. She then began her love affair with the NHS, with roles in local, regional and national organisations.
As NHS England's Head of Brand she helped protect one of the best-known corporate identities in the world. She also developed the narrative for the then NHSE Chief Executive Sir David Nicholson as his speech writer. Her journey with Dorset HealthCare began with the Trust in breach of its licence and in need of significant improvement. As director of organisational development, she led a major cultural transformation programme which played a part in the community and mental health trust achieving a rating of ‘outstanding’ from the CQC in 2019.
Her current role combines leadership of communications and engagement and the people professions, as well as leading on developing the trust's corporate strategy, and she's recently taken the helm of Dorset County Hospital's people services alongside her role at Dorset HealthCare. She's a champion of mindfulness and coaching, and passionate about working in partnership with staff and patients to achieve the best outcomes.
Outside of work it's two dogs, two kids and getting into the great outdoors, including regular camping trips at our very own Burnbake campsite.
Children are the future, right? So why do we, as comms professionals, spend so little time communicating with them? And do we even know how?
This fabulous workshop will really help you to understand how young people tick, what they want to know about and how. You'll hone your techniques, your language and your whole comms and engagement approach to young people, with tips, techniques and insight from young people themselves. Come along prepared to be challenged and have fun!
Participation People proudly and no doubt disruptively becomes a teenager this year, so there couldn't be a better time to welcome them to the Comms Unplugged field.
About Antonia and Participation People:
Antonia started in the charity sector with St John Ambulance; managing the national youth participation programme. No easy task for an organisation that is over 900 years old.
She then moved to the statutory sector and was the Involvement Manager for London Borough of Tower Hamlets, during an era where there was both lots of money and lots of deprivation.
Thirteen years ago Antonia set up Participation People, an organisation which sets out to youth-proof businesses, charities and local authorities by gathering data and insight into the thoughts and feelings of young people and giving them a voice.
Antonia combines a head for strategy and the bigger picture with immense creativity and passion for involving young people throughout the process of making decisions that affect them. She believes in listening, valuing and acting upon what young people and their families have to say, then co-producing solutions together to create more inclusive and accessible products and services for all.
Alive With Ideas
Lauren's upbeat and thought-provoking workshop will draw on her passions for all aspects of ED&I and how it applies to our communications. With learnings from her Masters in Global Cultures, which have led her to question the unquestioned and unlock exciting new perspectives, you'll get practical tips on how to combine inclusion and comms, be an active ally and of course (as Lauren works with the fabulous folk at Alive with Ideas), make your comms more creative.
Say hi to Lauren on LinkedIn.
The Behaviour Change Network
Dominic Ridley-Moy, founder of the Behaviour Change Network, along with clinical psychologist Doctor Lucy Mersh, will speak about the science behind habits and how they influence our daily lives.
Dominic and Lucy will delve into the psychology of habits and routines; how they shape our actions and our behaviours.
You will come away from their session with invaluable insights to improve the impact of your behaviour change campaigns, for external and internal audiences, as well as tips for your personal and professional life.
Recycling, eating more healthily, exercising, stopping smoking, drinking less, taking more sustainable transport choices and making more energy-conscious choices are just some of the areas where habits can have a huge impact.
However, creating lasting change requires more than just willpower; it requires a systematic approach. Dominic and Lucy will introduce you to how positive habits can be created, modified, and sustained, as well as the science behind cutting out bad habits.
If you would like to learn about habits, Dominic will be launching a new course in the Autumn “Harnessing the power of habits to supercharge your behaviour change campaigns”. Sign-up for the Behaviour Change Network email newsletter to get details of this course before anyone else.
Musings of a former council leader
We're so excited to be joined by the inimitable Peter Fleming, former leader of Sevenoaks District Council in Kent, on which he served for over 20 years before losing his seat earlier this year. On Thursday evening, join Peter for some relaxed discussion around the CU fire about professional loss, change of career and personal reinvention following change. It will be emotional, uplifting and amusing in equal measure.
And remember, what's said in the field stays in the field!
He's back in the field!
Giles Henschel is a Dorset entrepreneur, co-founder of the fabulous Olives Et Al, and a friend of Comms Unplugged since he was keynote speaker at our very first event in 2017. This year, he's bringing us a workshop that will explore how to shift from an inward to outward facing mindset, based on Arbinger Institute theory.
Our mindset drives what we do, why we do it, and the impact we have on the people we work with. Outward mindset helps us to reconsider how we work with people by shifting from the self-focus of an inward mindset to the people-centric, results-focus of an outward mindset. Sampling and understanding this fascinating approach will help attendees bring out the best in themselves, others and build highly-engaged and productive teams.
Giles says: “I am not a total expert on Arbinger and wouldn't want anyone to think that I was holding myself out as one - I simply try and practice the theories in both home and work settings.”
Panel Discussion chaired by Nat Hobby
The communication profession is an ever-evolving beast and much like everything else, the pace of that change is accelerating, fast. In this workshop we'll help you understand the transformation we're all experiencing, and together we'll look to the future and work out how best we can prepare ourselves.
This fascinating panel discussion will challenge and inform you in equal measure.
Panel: Chaired by Nathaniel Hobby, Senior Communications Manager at Bournemouth University.
Matt Desmier, Business Engagement and Knowledge Exchange Manager at Bournemouth University
This will be Matt's fourth appearance at Comms Unplugged. We're starting to think he likes it here…
Matt has designed and delivered workshops for The British Council, The Design Council and Bournemouth Borough Council, mostly trying to understand what makes people tick and how to do things better. He's now a Business Engagement Manager at Bournemouth University and whilst there aren't any council's in sight, he's still trying to do things differently.
Alex Jacobs, Head of Careers and Employability at Bournemouth University
Alex leads the Careers and Employability Team at BU, supporting students as they take their first steps into work. A key part of this role is understanding trends and transferable skills that graduates need to succeed across all industries.
Karen Baker - Functional Excellence Lead, Corporate Relations, Shell plc
Several times an Unplugger, Karen studied public relations and is part of the Bournemouth University alumni. Initially she worked in media relations and corporate affairs roles for FTSE 250 companies before joining Shell in 2002. Karen is a specialist in internal communication of managing changes including merger, bankruptcy, downsizing, work migration, culture change and upskilling. She is a Chartered Public Relations Practitioner (CIPR).
Karen's current role is to drive Shell's global Corporate Relations improvement agenda. This includes horizon scanning to identify best practices worth adopting, capability building and future skills. Karen is a self-confessed comms geek, always on the lookout for emerging trends and continuous professional development opportunities to increase performance and value delivery.
Chief Exec of Great Western NHS
Kevin is that rare beast - a communications professional who's made it to the top job. Building on roles in communications and engagement in other sectors, he moved from a strategic health authority to his current NHS trust as head of communications and stakeholder engagement.
From there he stepped up to be director of strategy and community services, taking on the opportunity to be acting chief exec before landing the permanent job in 2020 and leading his organisation through the pandemic.
With experience and skills like that he's in the ideal position to run a workshop on how communicators can best work with their senior teams, particularly the chief exec.
He's seen things from both sides of the fence and he'll discuss the tactics and tools he's learned along the way that can help comms pros have that all-important strategic influence, supporting leadership teams and engaging the whole organisation.
Elma is an award-winning inclusive engagement and communications expert offering consultancy and coaching in inclusive communications, including communications strategy, community engagement and authentic storytelling.
She's the founder of and advisor for the award-winning community interest company, Aspire Black Suffolk, which was born out of the 2021 Power of Stories exhibition. Produced by Ipswich Museums and co-curated with the Black community, the exhibition featured original costumes from Marvel Studios' Black Panther 1 movie.
Power of Stories won multiple national and regional awards for its excellent practices in co-curation and engagement with the Black community.
In 2022, Elma won the Museums Association's national award for the Museums Change Lives ‘Radical Changemaker’ for her engagement work and local exhibition tour. This followed the original Ipswich exhibition and shared more previously untold Black stories, engaging thousands of additional visitors.
Elma's career includes PR for major brands including Comic Relief, the British Red Cross, Land Rover, BT, Sony Music, and Warner Bros.
Her session at CU23 will explore how we can weave diverse and inclusive stories into our communications in a way which connects, engages and inspires.
Photo credit: John Ferguson
Theatre and play can teach us a lot about who we are - explore how you connect with yourself and others.
Many of us get stuck in our own heads or in a very structured or formal way of thinking about the challenges we face. When we need to solve problems we often go back to tried and tested methods - and as we all know if you do what you've always done you'll get what you've always got.
Children have a very different way of looking at things and one of the most important parts of their development is learning through play. But when's the last time you played as an adult? Vix uses drama and theatre techniques to help us explore ourselves and our relationships with others. Playing with group dynamics and different ways to express ourselves - including non-verbal communication - we'll have an hour of pushing ourselves out of our comfort zones and into new ones.
Vix has a background in performance and teaching. Music has always played an important part in her life and she is currently a member of the Chateau Bateau Band based in Southampton. She taught theatre and drama at University of Reading and has performed in a number of professional theatre productions including Lily and the Albatross and Hug. She is currently a celebrant with Southampton City Council registration service. Vix is also interested in the therapeutic benefits of theatre and play for our mental health and what it means to be human.
A big lover of the great outdoors, she is a regular visitor to Dorset and the Purbecks in particular and is committed to sea swimming at least once a week, all year round!
With John-Paul Danon and Darren Caveney
Share problems, co-create solutions and generally let it all out…
Laugh, share, cry, VENT - it's your choice!
Whether you want to solve a particular work or interpersonal problem, fancy a supportive chat or simply want a good rant, the Vent Tent is for you. Surrounded by like-minded Unpluggers in this safe, supportive space, take a full hour to share and solve together.
Join Carla for a calm yet invigorating session that combines Pilates, standing stretches and gentle moves, followed by relaxation and breathing for mind and body.
After a fabulous, uplifting dance session at CU22, we're delighted to welcome Carla back to the field for some chilled out, grown up ‘music with movement’!
“We all wear masks - metaphorically speaking!”
The Mask (1994)
At CU22 our very own Sally reminded some of our unpluggers how much fun you can have when you get arty crafty. Getting lost in an art or craft project is good for the soul - you can be so immersed in it that time flies by and you're fully in the moment, focussing on your creation.
This year Sally's back with her big box of art supplies - and a different focus for you to enjoy. She'll be leading a workshop in creating colourful masquerade masks using pens and paint, feathers and stick-on gems. Nothing is too bling for this session - go to town and rediscover the joys of messy play! For a taste of what you'll be doing check out Sally's video as she created her test mask.
Sally is a keen amateur artist who started teaching herself to draw when she began bullet journaling. She's dabbled in a range of media including sketching, line drawing, watercolour and gouache painting, colouring, collage and lino printing.
During the pandemic she ran a series of online mindful drawing sessions both for Comms Unplugged and at events for the CIPR and LGComms. She's always learning - being a fan of online courses by Domestika and on LinkedIn - and loves to try out new techniques to develop her art and craft skills.
with Layne Hamerston
Your physical and mental wellbeing nurtured by nature … and Layne
Layne's forest bathing session will awaken your innermost calm, in the relaxing, peaceful surroundings of the Rempstone estate woodland. He'll guide you through a sensual and emotional connection with nature and your deepest self. An hour of reflection, release and reawakening, you'll feel relaxed, refreshed and on top of the world.
Layne has already joined us twice in the CU field, and his sessions are so popular that this year we're delighted he'll be running two back-to-back forest bathing wellbeing workshops. Be sure to book early, as rain or shine, the experience is like nothing else.
Nigel Spring, Reserves Manager, Dorset Branch of Butterfly Conservation
Identify moths with Reserves Manager Nigel Spring
We're very proud that national charity Butterfly Conservation is based right here in Dorset. The charity is committed to:
Our Saturday morning activity will be guided by volunteer conservationist Nigel Spring who is closely involved with the Dorset branch of the organisation. We'll visit moth traps set especially for us in and around the Comms Unplugged field, to see what species we can find. We'll then head off on a walk in the beautiful countryside around Burnbake to explore the various habitats and ecosystems that support butterflies, moths and other Dorset wildlife.Comms Unplugged will be making a small donation to the Dorset branch of Butterfly Conservation on behalf of all Unpluggers.
Live and unplugged in the main marquee
Part of the CU family since our first event in 2017, Tom's set features a brilliant combo of crowd pleasers, both covers and originals. There's even a song inspired by Comms Unplugged - One Night in September - which is bound to be on the set list. Jump up and have a dance, sing along and lose yourself in the music.
If you're really lucky, Darren Caveney might even hit the dance floor….
Deputy Director for OD, Communication and Participation at Dorset HealthCare University NHS Foundation Trust.
After a degree in languages I trained to be a journo at the local paper in my home town. A few years later I hopped the fence into local gov comms, with a stint as a freelance and finally a move to the NHS.
Love the variety and the challenges of public sector comms and engagement, and the great people you get to work with. Value great writing, good humour, funky ideas and positive relationships.
Outside work it's two girls, one dog, one guinea pig, baking, singing (Rock Choir), movies, books, drawing, codeword puzzles and travel.
In 2022, I took the plunge away from full-time employment to set up in consultancy and undertake interim work, as Georgia Turner Communications. After two decades leading communications, marketing, engagement, and consultation & research teams within local government I decided it was time for a change – and it was now or never!
Before that, I was Director of Communications and Marketing, for England's newest urban local authority, BCP Council, serving the 400,000 residents of the city-region of Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole on the glorious south coast. In that role, I created a new directorate, produced and implemented the council’s first communications strategy and plan, and authored an ambitious place narrative for the area.
I studied a PR degree in my hometown of Bournemouth, which included a placement at the council. I loved it so much I went back after the obligatory post-graduation travelling and haven’t left since! Why would I – I get to live by the sea, and within 30 minutes of the glorious New Forest in the east and stunning Purbecks and Jurassic Coast to the west.
Out of work passions - travel, conservation, nature, food, wine, and my cat Marble.
My son claims I “work on The Twitter”. But really, I am a communications consultant, creator of comms2point0, and owner of Creative Communicators Ltd.
My 23-year career in communications, marketing and PR spans 10 years as Head of Communications within local government, a director level role in the NHS and five years in private sector marketing, winning some awards with my teams along the way and I have worked with over 100 communications teams in my consultancy role.
I have hosted and spoken at more than 150 events across the UK, Europe and the Middle East, on integrating social media for business, building communications and engagement strategies, and communicating in a digital world.
And amongst many, many projects I am most proud to deliver the unique UnAwards, now in their sixth year.
I love the communications community and my mission is to fly a flag for it wherever possible.
I'm also passionate about all things Birmingham, including our very average football team, and in between trying to be a decent dad I love music, film & TV, cooking, trips to the seaside and the occasional visit to the gym.