The Crookedest Street in the world!

The Crookedest Street in the world!

The 2009 IABC World Conference in San Francisco was a whirlwind of learning opportunities and social events. (Great promotional clip for it here.) Here are some of the highlights:

  • Brian Dunn, COO and soon to be CEO of Best Buy: Down-to-earth, personable, enthusiastic, this year’s EXCEL award winner had many communicators in the audience wishing they worked for/with this man. He used humour and plenty of examples of the cool things Best Buy is doing to reach their Gen Y employees.
  • Robert Swan, OBE: The first man to walk across both the South and North Poles, raising awareness and taking action to save Antarctica. Also plenty of humour and great visuals, although after seeing the almost destroyed heel, I apologize for ever complaining about the tiny blisters I got walking half an hour from the opening reception to the Canada party. Here’s a brief summary of his inspiring message about sustainable leadership.
  • Of course the opening reception at the Ferry Building, followed by the CNW Group-sponsored Canada party. We Canucks have a reputation to uphold (throwing great parties at the IABC conference), and I’m proud to say we did it.
  • The Tuesday evening dinearound is always a fun opportunity to meet new people and get to a restaurant recommended by a local IABC member. I signed up early online, choosing a “North Beach experience” that included dinner at a great Italian restaurant, stops in pastry and candy shops and the City Lights bookstore and a pleasant walk back to the hotel (me in sensible running shoes). My dining companions and I have since connected on LinkedIn. Thanks, Mary!
  • I found the session on communicating with Gen Y interesting. Presenters Leah Reynolds and Anna Whitlow said Gen Y is a “catalyst for change” in the workplace. Something that struck me was the comment that we all want work/life balance; for Boomers, it may be more time with children, while for Gen Y, it may be a sabbatical to volunteer in another part of the world. Another comment: We should ask our Gen Y employees how they want to be communicated with.
  • Angela Sinickas had excellent points to make about measuring communications, including asking the key question, “What do you want people to do differently as a result of your communication?” She commented that the cascading method of communicating (often used in the corporate world, where the top dog shares info with the VPs, who are supposed to share with directors, and on down the chain) is actually the biggest way to feed the rumour mill. She also had good advice on figuring out return on investment and finding low-cost ways to measure. See her top tip here.
  • An interesting talk by BJ Fogg on Design for behavior change: Why Facebook and Twitter are winning. He called Facebook the number one persuasive tool, where even a novice without any particular skill can reach 24 million people. “Big brains probably over-think” campaigns, he suggested, showing a quick “eat a veggie” video he created as an example of simplicity. He said the people you are targeting with your campaigns must have motivation and ability to do what you’re asking, and the often missing piece is a trigger, the “do this now” factor. Look how easily people signed up for Facebook and Twitter, or how you willingly give companies your e-mail address.
  • I always go to a session on writing, since that’s how I spend my days, for inspiration. Again, a conflict, but I chose Ann Wylie on Writing to sell. Some of her advice: Make it relevant to the reader. “More gain, less pain.” Lead with the benefit, support with the feature/advantage. (“Look better naked with David’s Gym.”) Check your focus and how much you are talking about “you” vs. the reader using tag clouds (e.g. TagCrowd and Wordle). Nudge the information closer to the reader. (Not “Death rate drops” but “We’re living longer.”) If the information is irrelevant to the reader, why are you bothering? You want to train people that every message from you is useful and relevant.
  • Building relationships that were started online, as I mentioned in my last post.

Unfortunately, I missed plenty. At least, as an IABC member, I could go online and download some of the presentations, and I’ve been able to find a few recaps on YouTube or individual blogs:

  • I arrived at the conference hotel on Sunday in time to catch just the last 10 minutes or so of Les Potter on Strategic communication planning & management: Fundamentals for success. I already have an electronic version of his The Communications Plan: The Heart of Strategic Communication, but wanted to hear him in person and introduce myself, if there was a chance. Les and I have what I think of as a cosmic connection, having both started our blogs about the same time. (Originally, I thought it was the same DAY, which would have been really cosmic; turns out the date stamp was from the last comment on the first post.) We met, and next day we shared a delightful chat over a latte (thanks again, Les!).
  • Having “all-star” sessions is a great idea, but that means picking just one among a variety of terrific speakers. Even among mainstream sessions, I found several times two sessions I wanted to attend took place at the same time. Thus I was sorry to miss Shel Holtz‘s The news release in the social media era (although I listened to his podcast of the session after I got home); Lee Hopkins on 3D virtual worlds (again, found later); Neville Hobson on podcasting (his one-minute summary here); and others.
  • I was on my way to the airport when the closing keynote speaker — Sir Ken Robinson on Finding your passion — apparently blew everyone away. Here‘s the poor absentee communicator’s substitute.

Other things I learned:

  • Remember to bring lots of business cards. If you’re doing it properly, you’re meeting new people and exchanging cards.
  • Keep your own business cards tucked into your conference badge so they’re always handy, and then your pocket is available for the cards you get.
  • If, like me, you work in a home office and are more likely to be barefoot or in running shoes than high heels, bring bandaids to cover the inevitable blisters.
  • It will seem like a good idea at the time at the Canada party, but don’t put your Canadian flag tattoos on your face or your cleavage. (Thanks for asking, but mine was on my arm, and it took a lot of scrubbing to get it off.)
  • Take the time to sightsee. I arrived early with my husband to see some of this wonderful city. We spent one night in the city sightseeing, then two nights in Sonoma with my brother and almost-sister-in-law. Toured wine country and visited Artesa, Silver Oak, Provenance, Rutherford and Sterling Vineyards. We dined at some lovely restaurants, and did the real touristy stuff like having a bowl of chowder at Fisherman’s Wharf and Irish coffee and eggs Benedict at the Buena Vista Cafe, watched bakers making bread at Boudin at the Wharf (love the alligator loaves) and saw the sea lions camped out like a pile of puppies in Pier 39’s West Marina.

Were you at the conference? What sessions stood out for you? What ‘don’t miss’ sights did you see?

P.S.  I mentioned in my last post rooming with communications/podcasting ‘rock star’ Donna Papacosta, and that was another highlight I should have included in this list. Donna is a great writer and friend, and you should check out her list of highlights, too!