I’ve been back from the IABC world conference in San Diego almost a week, but it feels like ages, thanks to long hours at a client event followed by several pressing deadlines. Congratulations to the IABC team that organized this year’s successful world conference, and thanks to the IABC San Diego people for their hospitality. Here are a few observations from my notes.

Most enlightening keynotes: Jonah Lehrer, author of How We Decide and a contributing editor at Wired, whose rapidly paced talk entertained and stimulated us, and added fuel to my storytelling fire by reinforcing the concept that emotion, not rational thought, often rules our brains. He also gave us something new to consider: meta-cognition, or “thinking about thinking.” I also loved no-nonsense Deborah Tabart, aka the Koala Lady, who lives and works with an unbridled, infectious passion. In her talk accepting the IABC 2011 EXCEL award, Deborah helped us to feel her dedication to the koala, its habitat and to the global environment.


Most valuable breakout session: Nancy Duarte, author of Resonate, who used her own remarkable storytelling abilities and beautiful visuals to help us to become better presenters. I am sure there were many wonderful breakout sessions that I missed, including one by Shel Holtz, which I plan to listen to tomorrow. You can see Shel’s presentation here. Shel and I were speaking at the same time, on the last day of the conference. Oh, and if you missed it, here’s a link to my storytelling presentation too.

Most appreciated refresher course: Each year, I try to get to the writing workshop by Don Ranly, Ph.D., professor emeritus of the Missouri School of Journalism. Afterward, the writer in me feels energized and eager to communicate, keeping in mind the tenets of “What? So what? and What’s next?”

Sharpest slap-on-the-head aha moment: In Kare Anderson’s talk, it suddenly occurred to me that I need to put more thought into my efforts to collaborate with others.  In dealing with people, Kare compared relationships with colleagues to relationships within a marriage, where she suggested that we “Speak to the side you most admire, not the side that irritates you.” (Kare, I hope I haven’t mangled this quote!)

Most awkward moment: When the people at my dine-around table realized that we indeed had to grill our own steaks at the Gaslamp Strip Club. Much laughter ensued. Thanks to host Meghan Umphres, who made us feel welcome and helped us to get to know San Diego a little better, as we tried to not set ourselves on fire.


Warmest reunions: Spending time with Shel Holtz again. I may see him once a year, but his voice in my ears on the FIR podcast  each week makes him feel like a closer friend. Another treat was seeing Mark Blevis, a fellow Canadian podcaster and social media person. This was his first time speaking at an IABC world conference, but I hope not his last. (Mark, you still owe me a coffee for that vintage Saturday Night Live bet. I am rarely wrong when it comes to Gilda Radner!) Last but not least, I was happy to see my friend Kaz Amemiya, president of IABC/Japan, who seems to bring a larger contingent of colleagues from his home country to the conference each year.  Of course there were many IABC friends I saw again this year, and many new connections were made. Too many to mention!

Most laughs at a social event: For me, this year’s photo walk, organized by Suzanne and Chris Salvo and Keith Philpott, was the most fun to be had without a glass of wine in one’s hand. Wonderful fellowship and some darn good photos resulted. You can see some of mine here. For some reason I could not find the larger pool of photos on Flickr.

Greatest roommate: My “conference spouse” Sue Horner – writer extraordinaire and blogger at Red Jacket Diaries. We shared a room for the fourth time at an IABC world conference and are still on speaking terms. In fact, we even traded clothes.

Most rewarding touristy outing: Visiting the USS Midway was definitely a highlight for me – so much so that I wrote a blog post about it in my head on the way back to the hotel.

Most money-saving surprises: Wifi in most of the conference rooms (except the one I spoke in – grrr). And, if you signed up for the Grand Hyatt loyalty program, you could get free in-room Internet access.

Most dashing barista: The Greek fellow in the lobby bar who served coffee, juice and muffins in the morning, and greeted Sue and me with “Good morning, my lady.”


Tastiest food discovery: Fish tacos! Need I say more?

Happiest coincidence: My focus these days is on storytelling, and indeed my presentation was on digital storytelling. So I was delighted that so many speakers – from Kellie Garrett to Mark Schumann to keynoter Sheryl WuDunn – used storytelling to bring their presentations to life. Many explicitly talked about the concept of storytelling in communications. This makes my heart glad.

My photos: Yvonne Callaway Smith and Suzanne Salvo on the photo walk; San Diego streetscape at dusk; pool deck at the Manchester Grand Hyatt, viewed from our room.



  1. Thanks Donna. Every year I look forward to your conference wrap-up. It is exciting to see storytelling getting a prominent role with so many presenters. I’m looking forward to following up and viewing some of the presentations online. With luck, I’ll be able to be with you in person next year. In the meantime, fish tacos? Really?

  2. [blush] Thanks for your kind comments, Conference Spouse! You’re the best.

    As always, what a great recap of the conference highlights, and great photos, too. The one of the Yuma Building reminded me to look it up, and this is what I found:

    Built in 1882, 1886 or 1888, depending on the source, the Historic Yuma Building was one of the first brick buildings in San Diego and was a common playground for Wyatt Earp. Captain Wilcox, a river boat captain, was the developer and named it after his business connections in that Arizona town. It has the dubious distinction of being the first brothel to be shut down during raids in 1912.

  3. Thanks, Dave. I hope to see you in Chicago next year. YES, fish tacos. Tastes much better than it sounds!

    Sue: Thank you for the history lesson. A Wyatt Earp connection and a brothel, eh? Well, you originally pointed out the style of the building! 😉

  4. Wonderful wrap-up, Donna — thanks for sharing! It sounds like a truly colourful experience and I’m sure you’ll be weaving many of the themes you explored into your stories over the next year! Can’t wait!

  5. Great points Donna!

    Nancy Durate is amazing. I saw a presentation from her last year at the IABC Pacific Plains Conference.

    Ad then Kare, good advice. I absolutely agree. I think so many people get lost in connecting via an online tool. But then they forget to actually invest in the conversation and relationship. It takes work.

    Where was that Greek guy when I was walking around? 🙂

    Christopher Swan
    Accidental Information


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