photo of Rob Cottingham at Interesting Vancouver

Leadership communications, online engagement and humour

I’ve been speaking about strategic communications and the online world for most of my adult life, in keynotes, trainings, panels and standup performances. I have emceed awards galas and conferences, taught at UBC and Emily Carr University, and performed standup comedy in tiny clubs and at major conferences.

I speak on:

  • leadership communications, from finding your voice to delivering powerful presentations
  • online engagement between organizations, leaders and their publics
  • staying human in the digital era, and finding the humour in our online lives.

I co-founded the social media strategy firm Social Signal, and launched the new media practice at The NOW Group, where I work as Director of Integrated Communications. I have more than 25 years of experience as a senior communications strategist and speechwriter for national political, business and labour leaders. And I draw Noise to Signal, a cartoon about the way we live and work in the digitally networked era.

My talks include...

Talk like a human

We have this incredible gift for making an instant connection with each other: conversation. When we talk and write conversationally, and show a little genuine emotion, we earn trust and deepen relationships. So why do so many people turn into soulless robots the moment they have to communicate to the world? From crisis communications when compassion is most critically important, to the everyday kindness that turns transactions into conversations, Rob shows you where communicators and leaders go wrong… and how you can keep talking like a human.

Champions: Use great stories to turn curious onlookers into rabid advocates

Why do people take a cause or a brand, and adopt it as their own? I argue it’s because it lets them tell a compelling story — with themselves as the hero. And I show how organizations and individuals can learn to find the stories that cast the audience as protagonist… and the cause or brand as a valued ally.

Finding your authentic voice: in person and online

Leaders can’t hide behind institutional roles any more. Your message only has power if the people it reaches can see and hear the genuine person behind it. But authenticity isn’t always easy to attain — especially in an era where retweets and Likes are easier to count than minds changed. I show you how leaders can avoid the temptation of pandering, and speak with the kind of conviction and honesty that reaps long-run personal and professional rewards.

Alignment: Communicating leadership in the digital era

Managers and CEOs as well as political and community leaders have a dilemma: how to lead an emerging generation with no apparent interest in being led? The answer lies not in commanding compliance, but inspiring alignment based on shared values and purpose. I show you how alignment means that what organizations lose in control, they can more than make up for in the passion and loyalty of employees, supporters and customers.

Who killed social media? The life, death and life of the social web

Remember when the social web first launched? That hierarchy-flattening, silo-busting revolution of authentic expression, creation and connection was going to transform the world. Fast-forward 10 years: instead of a revolution, we got a more efficient way to shop — and all those “authentic” relationships are being strip-mined for marketing data and monetization. Rarely has such enormous promise been betrayed so thoroughly… but I argue it isn’t too late. We can still reclaim an open web with room for both human connection and honest commerce.

Oversharing: from TMI to OMG

In the era of tweeting what you just ate and taking selfies at funerals, is there such a thing as TMI? I deliver a ringing defence of conscientious oversharing… and I may just convince you to forgive that next here’s-what-I’m-having-for-lunch photo.

Reviews and testimonials

Rob has the uncanny ability to convince us we’re just having a good time, when secretly he’s implanting the game-changing secrets we’ll need to help our organizations change the world. He’s like that movie you enjoy the heck out of and think about again and again for years, as opposed to anything by Michael Bay. Substance PLUS fun.
—Holly Ross, Nonprofit Technology Network

Thank you! You got us all thinking and laughing, and set the perfect tone.
Julie Szabo, Fireworks Factory conference

Rob is inspiring. Once he’s on the stage, everybody relaxes, knowing they’re about to be stimulated intellectually AND laugh their heads off.
—Linda Solomon, Vancouver Observer

An excellent instructor, drawing on his industry expertise and skill as a facilitator of social media. Our students who are professionals in their own careers benefited greatly from Rob’s insights, strategies and references to real-world situations in the social media realm.
—Fiona McAuley, UBC Continuing Studies

Some groups I have spoken to

  • Rogers
  • Canadian Institute
  • Canadian Marketing Association
  • International Association of Business Communicators / BC
  • NTEN Nonprofit Technology Conference
  • Canadian Public Relations Society – Vancouver Island
  • NetSquared
  • Acuity Forums
  • Ragan Speechwriters’ Conference
  • Persuading to Win
  • Fireworks Factory conference
  • Massive Technology Show
  • BC Technology Industry Association
  • Special Libraries Association WCC
  • Northern Voice
  • BC Teachers Federation
  • Women’s Franchise Network Vancouver
  • Vancouver Twestival

Video clips

Cartooning, humour and finding your creative voice

What I’ve learned in my communications career

What’s so funny about the social web?

Contact me

You can book me for speaking, training or emceeing through The NOW Group:

Rob Cottingham
Top photo credit: Interesting Vancouver. Used under a Creative Commons attribution license.