Reflections from a week on the road

New York and Amsterdam are just 6 hours and 20 minutes apart with a good tail wind so my flight home overnight on Saturday felt a bit like a commute.

KLM flight 644 was completely uneventful: it left JFK on time on Saturday evening and arrived at Schiphol ten minutes ahead of schedule on Sunday morning. Can’t really expect better than that. As I always have trouble getting to sleep on red-eyes, I tend to catch up with some light reading, watch a movie or two and generally reflect on the meaning of life. At least, the meaning of life on the road for the past eight days in Canada and the USA.

As always when flying on any airline in economy, it’s practically impossible to use your laptop. As soon as the person in front of you reclines his or her seat – and that person always does that – there goes your opportunity to even get the computer fully opened up. I have observed some people going through astounding contortions with laptops in such circumstances, but it’s just not worth it. Better to relax and reflect.

I took a few photos (118) during my trip including some great shots on the polar-route 11-hour direct flight to Vancouver from Amsterdam at the start of my trip, passing over Greenland, Baffin Island and the north of Canada. In fact, quite a few snaps from aircraft windows. Just uploaded the complete set to Flickr. I need to spend a bit of time tagging them (the FIR/ATS Geek Dinner is tagged: more on that in a minute) but they’re up there in the meantime.

So some thoughts about a week on the road.

New York City – Wed to Sat

The prime reason for being in New York for three days was participating in the 2006 Innovative Marketing Conference at Columbia University.

Shel and I were there as the event’s official podcasters, recording interviews with some of the movers and shakers who were there. Ten have been published and they really are worth listening to:

We actually did eleven interviews, but we’ll need to do the eleventh one again as we had a little hardware problem with that recording. We’ll also be doing a couple more by phone.

Shel and I were also on a panel discussion about the changing face of PR, together with John Moore and Lois Kelly. A pretty broad topic title but we had a lively discussion.

Speaking of Moore, it was great to meet John Moore and Johnnie Moore, two people whose blogs I read via RSS. Yet another example of the marvellous social aspect of blogging – you read people online and when you meet them, it’s as if you have known them for ages.

You can read all about the many presentations and discussions in the 35 or so posts on the Fast Company blog.

Francois Gossieaux and Hylton Jolliffe at Corante, together with Bernd Schmitt at Columbia University’s Center on Global Brand Leadership, did a terrific job in putting together this conference.

In between the two days of the conference, on Thursday night, was the FIR/ATS Geek Dinner at Isabella’s, a really great Italian restaurant on the Upper West Side, not far from my hotel. What an event that was! Seeing old friends like Chris Carfi and meeting new ones like Bryan Person, Mike Bellina, Brian Spelman, Renee Hopkins Callahan and Patti Birbiglia was a treat.

Plus, of course, meeting Joseph Jaffe for the first time. What a guy! It’s as though I’ve known Joseph for ages. We had a great time including excellent food and a lot of wine (too much as I definitely needed an Alka-Seltzer the next morning). That might be apparent in the conversations we had that Joe recorded… I’ll be including at least one of those in today’s edition of FIR.

Bryan, Mike and Joseph have already posted commentaries about our get-together. It was an absolute blast, guys and can’t wait to do it again!

So on Saturday, I had much of the day to see a bit of the city. I’d decided to visit the American Museum of Natural History as it is just a couple of blocks from the hotel I was staying at, The Excelsior. But through a little navigation error – turning left on Columbus Avenue instead of right – I didn’t make it. Instead I ended up in Lincoln Square and so decided to go to a movie.

That movie was Poseidon. And it was showing at an IMAX theater. Wow! What a high-definition spectacle on a massive screen! And a good story, too, with believable characters. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing it.

Vancouver – Sat to Wed

What can I say about Vancouver? A delightful city – one I definitely want to visit again – even though I saw little of it beyond my 10-block walk each day to and from my hotel and the Hyatt and Fairmont hotels where the IABC conference was taking place.

The conference was a tremendous experience. It’s the only place I can think of where over 1,400 communicators from around the world (from 40 countries this year) get together. My prime reason for being there was the pre-conference workshop I led on Sunday the 4th. The best commentary about it comes from Joseph Thornley.

Lots of posts about the conference and the many sessions.

It was a great pleasure meeting Joseph – yet another example of meeting a fellow communicator/blogger for the first time and feeling I already know him. The same feeling went for meeting Donna Papacosta for the first time. That was especially a treat as Donna’s a fellow podcaster.

Both Joseph and Donna were among the participants in the FIR Dine-Around on that Sunday evening at the Cafe de Paris restaurant which also included Tudor Williams, Tom Keefe, Allan Jenkins, Jerry Stevenson and Charles Pizzo. Terrific company, great food and wine and stimulating conversations.

I met many great people at the conference, old friends as well as new ones. Not as many as I’d hoped to, though. One of the difficulties with mega-conferences like this is that they are so large that it’s just about impossible to get to do all you want to, including meeting all the people you’d like to.

Still, it was a superb event, an exercise in outstanding logistics planning and execution by Chris Grossgart, Vicki Yim, Tonia D’Amelio and others at IABC headquarters in San Francisco. And it was great to see IABC President Julie Freeman again as well as Natasha Spring, executive editor of CW magazine.

Two big highlights for me were Shel’s and my podcast interview with Glenda Holmes, the new IABC chair for the coming year, and doing FIR #143 live from the conference. That was great fun!

One person I was pleased to meet and enjoy lunch with was David Murray of Ragan Communications. This is the David who I first knocked heads with back in December 2004 and who was the stimulus for the formation of the International Association of Nobodies. Anyway, it was good to meet David finally. Nicer for the meeting!

Three major things I’ve learned from this North American trip:

  1. By and large, communicators wherever they are and in whatever specific discipline they work want to learn about social media and how it can work for business.
  2. The get-togethers with people who enjoy the podcasts Shel and I do are tremendous examples of micro-communities in action.
  3. Meeting people face-to-face is an essential, indispensable element in building and cementing effective relationships. If ever you need reminding of this.

So in all, a tremendous week away.

Neville Hobson

Social Strategist, Communicator, Writer, and Podcaster with a curiosity for tech and how people use it. Believer in an Internet for everyone. Early adopter (and leaver) and experimenter with social media. Occasional test pilot of shiny new objects. Avid tea drinker.

  1. Joseph Thornley

    It was a real treat to meet you in person. I’ve read your blog and listened to your voice on FIR for so long that I felt that I already knew you. And now I do!

    Knowing someone in person adds an additional layer of depth to the online relationship. While virtual communities really are being formed, there is nothing better than face to face contact.

    I look forward to our next meeting.

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