Well, now I can cross a few things off my bucket list:

  1. Visit Chicago
  2. Enjoy dinner in a celebrity-chef restaurant
  3. Speak to a standing-room-only crowd at an IABC conference

Chicago was the perfect choice for an IABC world conference host city: stunning architecture, warm and friendly people, astounding restaurants and sunny weather. Yes, it was windy, but no more than Toronto in June.

Pressing deadlines preclude a long and detailed post, but I do want to capture some thoughts.

First of all, kudos to the organizers from IABC international and the local IABC Chicago chapter. The conference ran smoothly. My only lament: the poor Wi-Fi in the conference area. I could barely squeak out a tweet. In this era, connectivity is a must.

Keynote speeches
The opening keynote by Kevin Carroll was inspiring and uplifting, as an opening keynote should be. After a horribly grim childhood, Carroll became well educated and multilingual, and is now a successful author, speaker, father and agent for social change.

The audience reaction to Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s speech was mixed, at least according to the chatter on Twitter. I found his message compelling. However, he didn’t seem aware that he was addressing an international group. His message about “our environmental destiny” was aimed squarely at a U.S. audience.

After EXCEL award winner Irene Lewis spoke, many of my colleagues gushed: “I wish she were my CEO!” The president of SAIT Polytechnic is a visionary with a magic touch for communicating. She also highly values the communicators on her staff.

The closing keynote by Lyn Heward of Cirque du Soleil was beautifully crafted and illustrated by captivating videos. To me, the whole hour-long speech could be distilled into one sentence: “Complacency is the single biggest risk you’ll ever take.” So very true in business and in life!

One of the best (and most practical) sessions, in my humble opinion, was Joe Thornley’s “Throw me a life preserver; I’m drowning in a sea of data.” Joe showed us that we don’t need a huge budget to monitor social media, and mentioned a couple of tools that were new to me: Engagio and Epilogger.

Since I don’t do media relations, Diana Degan’s topic wasn’t one I’d normally be interested in, but I was curious about her approach to “A good story is never good enough.” (Plus I wanted to support her as a friend.) She did a nice job, and I discovered that many of her points apply to writing and marketing communications. How many times does a client say, “I want you to write about topic X,” when you know that NOBODY cares about topic X?  Using examples from her award-winning projects, Diana talked about how to find the story that the audience will actually be engaged in.

I never miss Shel Holtz’s presentations at IABC world conferences. This year he talked about “Mobility: The next communications frontier,” which included a discussion of “Bring Your Own Devices” programs within organizations. This was fascinating, exciting stuff. I was especially interested in the stats on the use of smartphones vs. tablets. Think about it: you’re more likely to employ a tablet in the living room or bedroom, while the smartphone gets more use while traveling or in restaurants.  Here’s the money quote: “The value of any product or service increases with its mobility.” If I were you, I’d watch Shel’s blog for more on this hot topic.

Ten minutes before my presentation on content curation began, about a dozen people had ambled into the room. By the time Mark Schumann and Anna Willey had graciously introduced me, we had an SRO crowd. I was gratified to see so many people interested in this topic. In the spirit of sharing, here is my presentation on Slideshare.

And here are some of my curated links on curation.

UPDATE: Here is the video version of my talk on curation.

With eight concurrent tracks, it was often a challenge to pick sessions throughout the day. A couple of times, I flitted from one to another; this isn’t always the best tactic. There was a lot of buzz around some of the speakers I missed. I’ll have to catch them in New York for IABC13.

Fun times
Overall, this conference was a very positive experience for me. It’s such a blast to see old friends and to meet new ones, from Cyprus to Scandinavia to the Philippines. Our For Immediate Release podcast meetup was small, but that was OK by me; it meant more time to talk and laugh with Shel Holtz, Kris Gallagher and Roseanne Belczak.

I’m looking forward to getting back to my food and fitness routine after enjoying memorable meals and drinks at Frontera, Emilio’s, The Gage and other Chicago establishments with my “conference spouse” Sue Horner (aka the best roommate EVER), our partner-in-crime Martha Muzychka and other good friends. What a town for foodies!

After the Architectural Boat Tour on the river, I’ve added a new item to my bucket list: Visit Chicago again to see more of the architecture and the museums, the aquarium, the Navy Pier, and…



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Writer, speaker, podcaster, communications and social media consultant, workshop leader and part-time university instructor. As a consultant, I emphasize the importance of storytelling and relationship-building, and enjoy helping people understand how today’s technology, combined with tried-and-true tactics, can help them communicate better with employees, customers and prospects.


  1. For a “quick report,” that was remarkably comprehensive! Great summary of the highlights, and how generous of you to share your own presentation.

    As usual, rooming with you just added to a great conference experience! Can we meet for a muffin and a latte soon?

  2. Thank you for the kind comments on my presentation, Donna. And as the Twitter feed showed, I took more than a few great ideas away from your presentation. You gave the standing room crowd every reason to be satisfied with their decision to attend your session.

  3. Thanks for the shout out Donna. It was so wonderful to have you in the audience, skilled IABC Conference presenter that you are. And I walked away from your presentation with more than a few things to do.


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