THURSDAY 31 AUG 2017 5:04 PM


Contemporary life is often played out from behind a screen. Huge advances in technology mean that, where once the telephone or face-to-face meetings were the only options to convey important information, digital platforms are favoured as a hassle-free way to approach communications internally and externally. One team, however, is working to make public and private sector communicators recognise the benefits of real human interaction – while reconnecting with themselves.

Despite the undeniable efficiency of modern workplace technology, numerous studies point to the merits of encouraging employees to interact on a more intuitive level – an approach proactively encouraged by the organisers of the inaugural Comms Unplugged ‘camping conference.’ Taking place 15-16 September 2017, Comms Unplugged connects communications professionals with their peers from around the country. It aims to provide a secluded, screen-free space to share ideas, switch off from workplace pressures and enhance employee mental wellbeing – while enjoying the open air.

Sally Northeast, deputy director of communications and participation for Dorset Healthcare and co-founder of Comms Unplugged, explains how a change of scenery can help remove the distractions which inhibit creative flow. "We created Comms Unplugged to help people take a fresh look at things and remove some of the ever-present distractions that block our ability to think differently,” says Northeast.

As Northeast explains, Comms Unplugged is designed to help communicators recognise the importance of taking time out for themselves. “Top of the wish list for many in our industry is to get some headspace and thinking time – I get my best ideas when I'm out walking the dog,” she says. “But it's also about wellbeing – we need to look after ourselves better. Our world is fast-paced so slowing down a bit and taking time out every now and then is essential.”

To this end, Comms Unplugged takes place in a secluded woodland campsite on the Jurassic Coast of Dorset. Close in proximity to the iconic, Civil War-era Corfe Castle, it provides the perfect backdrop from a true retreat. With keynote speaker Giles Henschel, founder director and CEO of Mediterranean food producers Olives et al, and a raft of workshops led by communication experts from NHS England to Perago Wales, the ‘camping conference’ begins to tackle issues facing communicators in a contemporary workplace environment.

And, with the Dorset countryside providing an important first step towards unwinding, holistic wellbeing in the form of yoga, Pilates and the ever-important pop-up bar is available across the event. For Georgia Turner, head of corporate communication at Bournemouth Borough Council and co-founder of Comms Unplugged, holding the event in Dorset marries the inspiring role of communicators with an inspiring setting – enhanced by its chosen charity partners.

“My involvement in Comms Unplugged is driven by passion for my job and my sector,” Turner explains. “I wanted to create something different and exceptional for the industry, hence our fabulously fresh line-up and unique, inspiring setting. But also, a passion for where I live. Comms Unplugged will show off Dorset at its best, from the relaxing location to the phenomenal array of local produce and other prizes on offer in our charity raffle in aid of Dorset Wildlife Trust and Dorset Mind."

For Darren Caveney, creator of comms2point0, owner of creative communicators ltd and co-founder of Comms Unplugged, the event presents an opportunity for a fresh approach to working in, and appreciating, the communications industry. “I have organised and attended many, many industry events over the years but Comms Unplugged is the chance to do something completely different and to work with a brilliant team,” says Caveney. “I was attracted to the opportunity to learn and develop but also to put something back into the comms community – for free – and all offline in beautiful Dorset. All I need now is a tent.”

Comms Unplugged takes place on 15 and 16 September, with a range of camping options available to suit needs. For more information or to book tickets, visit the Comms Unplugged website.

Read last month's #CommsChat on getting back to basics with comms.