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IABC/Phoenix finds earning its ABCs can be fun.

Communicators in Arizona have been queueing up to join a demanding yet enjoyable professional development program. Their enthusiasm - and the success they've achieved - have surprised both chapter leaders and the program's originators, and helped make IABC/Phoenix IABC's Chapter of the Year for 1990.

When two senior communicators offered to introduce other chapter members to IABC accreditation, the IABC/Phoenix roster showed just nine Accredited Business Communicators (ABCs). Now, in less than three years' time, the chapter's accredited member total has grown to 21, the best representation in District 5 and, for the 139-member chapter, the best ABC-per-total-member ratio of any chapter in IABC.

How has IABC/Phoenix achieved this remarkable showing? According to chapter accreditation co-chairs Sally Kur, ABC, and Bill Herr, ABC, the lion's share of credit must go to the enthusiasm and support of chapter leaders. They also believe that guiding candidates through a unique step-by-step series has made the challenge of attaining accreditation far less formidable. Taking One Sep at a Time "There are no secrets to our program's success," offers Kur. "Generally, we follow IABC's suggested guidelines. But we do our best to demystify the accreditation process, to keep it from seeming an insurmountable challenge. We keep our candidates focused on the step immediately ahead and discourage them from even thinking about written and oral exams until their portfolios are completed, submitted and accepted."

Session leaders bank heavily on candidates' own decision making abilities - and on their competitive spirit - to build the level of confidence that will carry them as a team through the months-long process.

In their first meeting, potential candidates explore their own feelings about becoming accredited, review the form and philosophy of the accreditation process, and learn how the Phoenix program works. As the dialogue warms and the mystery begins to clear, participants find themselves not only responding to the challenge but also encouraging others to join them.

"What we're striving for," Herr explains, "is a general agreement through which the individual candidates will commit to completing the process as a team."

Once this important pact is made, dates are identified for discussing the various parts of the accreditation process and the rules of play are spelled out. Says Herr, "We'll provide the forum; it's up to the members to rise to the challenge."

The first assignment is to make application to IABC. Then candidates begin gathering materials for inclusion in portfolios.

One month later, candidates return for a "show and tell" session, presenting samples of work they feel are representative of their professional experience. The discussion quickly becomes lively as samples are freely critiqued by the other candidates. Some samples earn praise; others are given thumbs down. Kur describes the leaders' role in the session as being "more like referees." By the end of the session, members have paired off, agreeing to help their chosen partners plan and assemble portfolios and to critique each other's efforts.

In a third session described by Kur as "pure joy," candidates' portfolios are presented in final or near-final form for group comment or praise. All of the team members have been challenged to "put on their best [professional] face," and many of the packages are impressive and imaginative.

At session's end, candidates pledge to get their completed packages into the mail to IABC world headquarters by the next portfolio deadline. The Suspense Begins Weeks later, with word of portfolio acceptance, the group meets again to hold its first substantive discussions about the written and oral exams. Members reveal their fears and discuss suspected weaknesses, exchange ideas on how to approach the upcoming challenge, and agree on a tentative exam date. This is an important confidence-building session; but encouraged now by portfolio acceptance - attributable in part to the support of fellow candidates - members feel more in control of their destiny, and of a process they once feared would control them.

The weeks to follow are difficult, as the candidates study to shore up less familiar skill areas. Then, one week before the examination date, a final briefing is held to review the mechanics of the exam, to clarify starting times and procedures, to reassure each other and reaffirm their vow to succeed.

Kur describes the exam-day atmosphere: When they arrive, the candidates are already wound up; they're like a team about to take the field in a championship game. Their fears have been dealt with and now they can release all their energy and emotion. It's like the final contest against what has become a familiar foe."

The program is disarmingly simple; but it works. The first Phoenix class of 12 potential accreditation candidates gathered for the chapter's informational meeting in March of 1989. By August, six of seven submitted portfolios had been accepted, and those six candidates sat for the exam in the fall, with four of the six passing.
COPYRIGHT 1991 International Association of Business Communicators
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1991, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

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Title Annotation:International Association of Business Communicators, Accredited Business Communicators, professional development program
Publication:Communication World
Date:May 1, 1991
Words:805
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