Majestic buildings. Stimulating conversations. Fabulous meals. Deep laughter.

Yes, I’ve just returned from Ottawa, where I attended the IABC Canada East conference, otherwise known as the IABC Canada Business Communicators Summit. As I unpack my luggage, I’m collecting my thoughts about this gathering. Here are a few notes for you:

Location, location, location
The Fairmont Chateau Laurier is a beautifully ornate and historic hotel. As I exited the elevator to go to my room, another guest told me my floor (five) was haunted. And this was on Halloween. I wish I’d heard the rest of that story.

Kellie Garrett’s keynote address at the Silver Leaf gala, “How a Free Spirit Became a Powerhouse” truly was a personal talk, the most intimate I’ve ever heard Kellie share. Her career advice about finding your passion could ring true for all of us, whether we’re new to the communications profession or “seasoned,” as they say.

Darrell Bricker’s opening keynote revealed fascinating statistics and insights about Canada he has discovered at Ipsos Public Affairs, while shattering some stereotypes. His presentation entices me to read his latest book, The Big Shift (perhaps this was his plan).

I was a bit disappointed by the panel on government relations. Believe it or not, the first two speakers read their wordy slides to us. Fortunately, the two women on the panel saved the day by sharing stories about their experiences: Erika Mozes, Director of Public Affairs and Communications for Coca-Cola Canada and Elizabeth Roscoe, Senior Vice President, Hill and Knowlton Strategies Canada. Thank you, ladies!

The panel on “Social by Design: How Social Media is Completely Transforming the Communicator’s Role” had an interesting mix of speakers. I enjoyed Mia Pearson’s presentation, as well as Farah Mawani sharing the struggle of her social campaign to free three American hikers held in Iran. However, this panel’s showstopper was Melissa Carroll of the Service de police de la Ville de Montréal, who wowed us with her experiences using Twitter during the recent protests in Montreal. Her strategy and tactics, and the confidence of her superiors in her efforts, likely resulted in violence averted and lives

My friend Sue Johnston did a lively presentation on Personal Kanban or “How Sticky Notes Can Save Your Sanity.” I regret missing the first half of Sue’s talk; fortunately she gave us a useful handout. I do like the idea of using stickies to keep myself on track.

Another friend, Martha Muzychka, led a wonderful session on reputation management for non-profits, with plenty of participation from the group. I love this quote she shared from Mark Twain: “A lie can go halfway around the world while the truth is still putting its shoes on.” Martha shared some recent examples of damaged reputation, particularly the Komen crisis.

Before leaving for the airport, I was able to catch Eric Bergman’s talk on media relations, which is not an area I specialize in. Still, I try to always watch Eric in action when I can, because he’s a masterful presenter. He did not disappoint.

Unavoidably, I missed several presentations. Caroline Kealey did a pre-conference workshop on strategic communications at the same that that I was speaking. As well, I was unable to attend Ron Shewchuk’s pecha kucha or Marilyn Barefoot’s brainstorming talk. I heard great things about all of them.

I did get positive feedback on my “Quick and Painless Multimedia” workshop and look forward to connecting with some of the people who wanted to discuss their own organizations’ use of podcasting and other multimedia. You can see the handouts for my session below. A big thank you to Sherrilynne Starkie (pictured with me above) for introducing me so nicely; it was a treat to meet this Twitter friend at last. (If you are reading this post via email and cannot see my handouts, just click here to access them.)

Heavy hitters
Kudos to the event organizers for snagging three high-profile keynote speakers: Jennifer Stoddart, Privacy Commissioner of Canada; the Honourable Tony Clement, President of the Treasury Board of Canada; and Michael Geist, Canada Research Chair of Internet and E-Commerce Law at the University of Ottawa, and Canada’s most well-known expert on Internet law. Ms. Stoddart, or “Saint Jen,” as she was called by one member of the audience, outlined the work done by her office to protect Canadians’ privacy, as well as some of the challenges that lie ahead in the rapidly evolving online world. She recommended that organizations showcase their privacy standards to build consumer trust and avoid breaches that can damage brands. Minister Clement openly shared some of his personal experiences using Twitter, showing the “real Tony.” I don’t think I’ve ever heard such an authentic talk from a politician. Or as Ron Shewchuk said on Twitter: “Coolest. Minister. Ever.”

As for Michael Geist, we can always count on him to keep us up to date on privacy and copyright issues. (I heard him do a similar talk at the mesh conference last year.) He spoke about prominent grassroots campaigns that have defeated ham-fisted (my words) government
attempts to infringe on both privacy and access to information.

The dine-around was terrific; I would definitely return to the Murray Street Café, where I enjoyed conversations with new IABC friends. I also had a lovely meal (with Leslie Hetherington) at Play, which features small plates paired with wines.

Big thanks
Thanks to the sponsors and to conference chair Yasmin Ranade, vice chair Leslie Hetherington and the other organizers, plus the IABC/Ottawa
team of chapter chair Kelly Rusk and all the volunteers for bringing this event together so successfully.


  1. Sue, I missed traveling with my conference spouse. Plus, I had to rely solely on my own wardrobe!

    There was a ghost walk in Ottawa, but I didn’t go. I had to catch up on some client work.

    Thanks for commenting.

  2. You are so very kind and I loved having you in my session. Really appreciate getting your insights on other sessions I didn’t attend. I hope Sue gets to join us on our next IABC outing!


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