A Glimpse into ICF’s Recent Global Conference in Malmo, Sweden

by Paul N. Larsen, MA, CPPC

Conferences scare me. Not because of the endless and sometimes pointless speeches punctuated by lukewarm buffets of “chicken surprise,” rather because as a solo coaching practitioner, I am always wondering if the ROI will meet or exceed the time and money I put into attending a conference.

However, that was not the case with my recent participation at the International Coach Federation’s September 2014 Global Conference in Malmo, Sweden. What I invested in my time and my dollars to attend this event, was thankfully returned to me in an enormous windfall of critical professional development, new and valuable connections, and many treasured memories of spirited life discussions with lots of laughter…(which, it turns out is the language everyone understands!)

I committed as a newly Certified Professional Performance Coach to place myself within an environment that would stretch and expand my possibilities. So it made perfect sense that for my first ICF event, I would choose to attend a global conference titled “Courage to Change.”

Although I have been in “coaching” roles for most of my professional life, I had decided, in the Fall of 2013, to focus on deepening my skills as a leadership coach and get certified as a Professional Performance Coach with Source Point Training. Taking that disciplined plunge to becoming a certified coach allowed me to look beyond my current worldview and see the potentials that existed to serve the global communities that I had always enjoyed experiencing when I traveled.

Five ICF Chapters jointly hosted the conference: Sweden, Denmark, Finland, Norway and Poland.   Support was provided by team members from several ICF Chapters from across Europe, Africa and the Middle East, including Bulgaria, Hungary, Ireland, Israel, Kenya, Latvia, Lithuania, Netherlands, Romania, United Kingdom and Mexico.   A truly global team!

The conference program was focused on 4 content tracks so that every type of coach should have been able to find content that resonated with their expertise:

“The Body and Beyond”

“The Brain and Beyond”

“The Spirit and Beyond”

“Coaching and Beyond”

From a networking perspective, I committed to nurture 5 new relationships of coaching peers that I could add to my network of experts and respected colleagues. I came home with 5 times that amount…pretty good for an introvert, who’s first inclination is to choose to network only with my cat.

I will not bore you with the details of each of the programs, but suffice to say, I was able to garner key points and nuggets out of each presentation and for the vast majority of the sessions, my learning has continued well past the conference. As you can see, the topics I encountered featured a wide-range of strategic viewpoints while some offered very practical coaching tools:

Developing Innovative Thinking

Coaching with the Emotional Brain

From Contempt to Curiosity – Creating the Conditions for Groups to Collaborate

Change Your Mind about Stress

Profit from the Positive: 4 Tools for the Coach’s Toolkit

Using the Discomfort Zone: How to Coach from Blind Spots to Breakthrough

Coaching Leaders in Turbulent Times: Dealing with Complexity, Chaos, and Constant Change

I have been to many conferences both as a speaker and certainly as a attendee. Since ICF has only been around for 20 raisedhandsyears, they are still relatively young from an association timeline perspective.  So there was an informality and approachability at this conference that I have not consistently experienced before.  People seemed more open (me included).  People seemed more approachable (me included).  People seemed more willing to share their knowledge, mistakes and successes (me included).  Hmmm, maybe my own openness had something to do with that.

There was a lot of mingling and conversations over lunch and dinner that provided for in-depth interactions beyond the superficiality. In fact, on our last evening, 6 of us, including 2 of the speakers, enjoyed a wonderful and intimate dinner at one of Malmo’s lovely restaurants.  We lingered over dessert and coffee to reflect on the conference and our learnings.  That was a nice way to debrief.

Although the speakers were there to serve the audience of coaches, and most of them exceeded our expectations, by far the biggest gift that I received was the diminishing of my “degrees of separation” within the global coaching community. From all of my conversations, I came away with a better, and shared, understanding of the trials and tribulations of the coaching business from my colleagues in Mexico, UK, France, Latvia, Italy, Estonia, Spain, Canada, Switzerland, Germany, Australia, and China and of course, from our Scandinavian hosts as well.

Did the conference meet my expectations? It exceeded them!

Would I recommend it to others? If expanding your worldview with a friendly group of coaching globetrotters sounds right up your alley, then, yes, sign-up!

Oh, I forgot to tell you about the ABBA sing-along…we were in Sweden after all! And that’s another story in itself…

Feel free to contact me with any questions or feedback at: [email protected]