Here's a short and belated report on my recent time in the Big Easy. Got waylaid by weather and had to spend half of Wednesday on the tarmac in Houston and half of yesterday in the Dallas/Fort Worth airport; not the most comfortable way to recover from three days in a city where drinking on the streets is encouraged.
So here are some memories, fuzzy as they may be:
1. The city hasn’t lost its sleazy charm, but one can tell it’s not what it used to be – the usual air of decay and decrepitude is much more pronounced, and the crowds on Bourbon Street are thinner and less attractive these days. But the spirit of the city, which is a heady mix of southern hospitality and fall-of-the-Roman-empire-style debauchery, is as strong and appealing as ever.
2. The food was superb, as always. I’ll never forget the 20-oz bone-in “cowboy ribeye” smothered with crawfish and washed down with vodka martinis at Frank Brennan’s Steak House, or the magnificently refreshing crab gazpacho at The Palace, or the damn-that’s-good jambalaya, fried catfish and turnip greens at Mother’s.
3. Oh yes. The conference. It was good, although some of the sessions were a bit on the dull side, at least for jaded old me. But the best sessions were just great. I heard some fabulous stuff on corporate applications of social media (General Motors is doing some ground-breaking things – their external blogging program is actually driving internal culture change). I learned about a program at Hewlett Packard that connects front line employees directly with executives that’s driving measurable improvements in engagement. And I saw how Royal Bank of Canada completely revamped its internal communications to better serve the company’s business and meet the changing information needs of its employees (they ditched their print newsletter, not to save money or be cool, but because 91 per cent of their employees, who are all wired, said they prefer online communications).
4. My old pal and longtime IABC commentator David Murray predicted that attendees would be brought to tears by a keynote address, and his prophecy was fulfilled in the closing session, in which management guro and author of Go Put Your Strengths to Work, Marcus Buckingham, delivered an impassioned plea to all of us to understand and nurture our strengths rather than focus on our weaknesses (sounds trite, but it was extraordinarily powerful and I think, among other things, my parenting style will be influenced by his message).
5. In attending conferences like this, I am reminded of how proud I am to be a member of IABC. It's my extended family. And learning from my fellow communicators also reminded me of how much I love my work in employee communications.