IABCLA Hosts Holiday Mixer

IABCLA board members and guests at the chapter’s holiday mixer.

Thank you to all who attended IABCLA’s holiday mixer on November 29 at Pearl’s Rooftop in West Hollywood! The happening was attended by chapter regulars, as well as several new faces.

As part of the function, the chapter gathered socks that were donated to our homeless neighbors in LA. Please contact board member Tery Amaya if you’d like to add to the collection. She can be reached through LinkedIn.

The board is now working on a variety of programs for 2019, including other mixers, Coffee Connections, and professional development events. We will, of course, share more details as they become available.

We appreciate all of your support this year, and we wish you and your loved ones the very best this holiday season!

IABCLA Discusses Writing Skills at September Coffee Connection

Grant Skakun led a conversation about writing at September’s Coffee Connection.

IABCLA met for its Coffee Connection meeting on September 8 at Ambrose Cafe in Pasadena. Grant Skakun, IABCLA director of newsletters and instructor at Eucrest Writing, led a conversation about clear and effective writing with fellow board members, IABCLA members, and communications professionals.

Topics discussed included analyzing the audience before writing, achieving the purpose for writing, following a writing process, structuring key messages, using professional word choice, following style guides, and improving writing performance.

Coffee Connections are fun and engaging opportunities to network with colleagues, discuss topics related to our field, and enjoy coffee and pastries. Check the IABCLA calendar for our next meeting.

 

Creating Engaging Content with Facebook’s Newest Update

 

We hosted our first event of 2018 on February 21! Julie Wright, president and founder of (W)right on Communications, moderated our Dine & Discuss focused on the newest Facebook algorithm changes and how that impacts brand strategy.

If you don’t already know, the Facebook algorithm, nicknamed the “friends and family update,” favors content from your friends rather than from businesses. This change pushes for businesses to pay for boosted content in order to still be seen. Although paid boosted content can be very valuable, Julie advises that there’s still a great opportunity to be seen through organic content – that is if you are creating the right kind. In order to still reach audiences amidst the algorithm change it is crucial to create content that fosters engagement, meaning content that encourages comments, conversation and sharing.

Julie shared seven tips on how to do that:

1. Avoid yes or no questions: Julie says to think of social media as a cocktail party. Asking yes or no questions at a cocktail party leaves room for a one word answer and doesn’t allow for the conversation to flourish. Instead, try to ask questions that encourage a longer response and more engagement.

2. Focus on nostalgia: This is great for unique content creation. For example, take part in #ThrowbackThursdays or #FlashbackFridays.

3. Focus on storytelling: Posts that tell a story are more engaging and interesting.

4. Feature real people: Whether this means using user generated content or posting about your company’s employees, showcasing real people and real emotions creates engaging content.

5. Use Facebook Live: Facebook Live achieves 6x the interaction than organic content. Followers are notified when a buisness goes live, encouraging more viewers to watch and engage with the video. Furthermore, the video can live on as a post on your page allowing followers to watch the video long after it was recorded. Julie advises to still prep before going live: decide on an introduction, have a focus for the video and end with a call to action.

6. See First option on Facebook: Facebook users have the ability to check off a “see first” option for a Facebook page. This guarantees that your page’s content will have priority for showing in their newsfeeds. Julie says not to be afraid to ask your followers to check off this option for your page! For example: “If you want all the latest news on our upcoming event, make sure to check off the “see first” option on our page….” More information on how to set it up is here.

7. Turn on the Audience Optimization setting: Facebook allows you to improve your organic visibility on posts by turning on this function in your settings. This allows you to target your posts to specific segments of your page’s audience based on their interests! An easy and effective tool. More information on how to use the function is here.

We want to thank Julie for the invaluable insight and to all those who could make it last night! We all enjoyed great food and even better conversations. To those who couldn’t make it, we hope the above tips will help get your social media strategy focused in the right direction!

Join us at our next IABCLA event: Coffee Connection on March 3!

Leadership Institute Volunteer Opportunities List

The Los Angeles and Orange County chapter members are being called on to form a Hospitality Task Force for the IABC Leadership Institute conference in Long Beach this February, 4-6. Several exclusive volunteer opportunities are available within this committee  for those wishing to be part of an international event while demonstrating leadership skills.

VOLUNTEER LEADER POSITIONS:

  • Hospitality Committee CO-CHAIRS: One member from Los Angeles and one member from Orange County chapters, preferably past chapter leaders. This position(s) will:
    • Name the three positions on the Hospitality Task Force for the Leadership Institute and ensure that they understand their roles:
      • Volunteer coordinator
      • Hospitality coordinator
      • Dine-around coordinator
    • Set up regular meetings of the Hospitality Task Force and establishing a reporting structure to track progress
    • Communicate important information from staff to other task force members
  • Volunteer Coordinator:
    • Recruit 10-15 core volunteers to hep staff registration, hospitality and dine-around tables.
      • These volunteer staff positions are to be organized in shifts for a total of 2-5 hours throughout the LI conference.
    • Assign volunteer schedules at least two week prior to LI and provide instructions about responsibilities
    • Provide IABC staff liaison with a schedule that lists volunteer names, contact information and schedule.
    • Working with the Dine-Around Coordinator to recruit a dine-around host for each of the dine-around restaurants and provides direction for their assignment.
    • Working with Hospitality Coordinator, recruiting volunteers to lead the hospitality activities on Thursday/Friday of the LI conference.
    • With the hospitality and dine-around coordinators, recruit volunteers to staff the hospitality and dine-around tables over four days of the LI conference.
  • Hospitality Coordinator: The Hospitality Team is largely responsible for making sure that the conference’s social programs not only capture the international culture of the association, but also the spirit of the host city and region. The coordinator of this team will:
    • Manage the staffing and setup of a hospitality table onsite to introduce visitors to the host city, including where conference attendees can get information about restaurants, city tours, points of interest and other must-sees.
    • May develop a resource list of city restaurants, attractions and information to help familiarize attendees with the city.
    • Obtains hospitality tale materials such as city maps, transportation information and coupons (if possible).
  • Dine-Around Coordinator: The Friday-evening dine-around, coordinated entirely by the local chapters (LA and OC), has proven to to be of the highlights of the Leadership Institute. The dine-around provides participants with an opportunity to network with one another in a relaxed, informal setting and to enjoy one of the city’s restaurants while learning more about local city. Chapter volunteers serve as hosts at this “pay your own way” dinner. The coordinator of this team will:
    • Coordinate Friday evening dinners to approximately 10 local restaurants.
    • Identify restaurants in a range of cuisines and budgets, make reservations prior to the conference, and reconfirm all reservations on the day of the event.
    • Develop individual restaurant sign-up sheets with sample menus, cost information, and other key restaurant info for the dine-around table at the conference.
    • Works with volunteers to manage sign-ups at the dine-around table at the conference, Thursday-Friday
    • Identifies and recruits volunteers (dine-around hosts) to lead dinner groups on Friday evening. Provides instructions to the hosts.
    • Designs and prints a dine-around guide for onsite distribution at the conference and/or posts dine-around information on chapter websites prior to the conference.

 

SUPPORT VOLUNTEER POSITIONS

CMP Exam Proctor(s): The Communication Management Professional certification exam is to take place on Thursday during the conference. It is preferred that one male and one female volunteer to be present to sit in for this exam, as proctors must escort test-takers to the restroom if needed, in order to eliminate any opportunity for cheating. There will be a 20-30-minute training session provided to the proctors for the exam.

Core Volunteers: 10-15 volunteers to receive LI registrations and participate in the following duties:

  • Provide support at IABC registration desks to welcome attendees and distribute conference badges and materials
  • Checking badges at general session doors
  • Staffing the following two tables:
    • Hospitality Table. The volunteers who staff this table provide attendees with info about restaurants, points or interest and other must-sees. They will host a table with city guides, maps and other visitor info. Hospitality Table hours roughly follow IABC registration hours, Thursday/Friday.
    • Dine-Around Table. The volunteers who staff this table assist attendees in sign-up for the Friday dine-around restaurants. Familiarity with restaurants on the list is an asset. Dine-around table hours roughly follow IABC registration hours, Thursday/Friday.
    • Note: Hospitality and Dine-Around tables may be combined into one table for this event.

Dine-Around Hosts to act as hosts for dinner groups on Friday evening during the dine-around at local restaurants. These volunteers ensure their entire group is assembled and assist the group in traveling to the restaurant by taxis, public transportation, or by foot. All dinner attendees pay for their own meals and transportation to the restaurant. Local chapter current members are preferred. These volunteers do not receive a complimentary LI registration.

 

INCENTIVES AND BENEFITS

IABC will arrange and assist in the delivery of onsite training at the hotel for all volunteers within the week prior to the conference.

The hospitality task force benefits from the opportunity to promote chapter activities and membership to attendees. Further, volunteers have the chance to network with other chapters’ members and demonstrate leadership within the chapter.

IABC’s conference budget does not include funds for any additional initiatives that the hospitality task force may choose to develop. Any initiative that the task force may wish to pursue should first be discussed with the IABC conference staff to ensure that it is in line with programming and sponsorship goals as set forth by the Program Advisory Committee and IABC, and the task force understands that it is responsible for all associated expenses.

Robin McCasland, IEB Chair Provides Outstanding IABC Transparency and Profession’s Global Trends

On Tuesday, April 22, 2014, Robin McCasland, International Board Chair for IABC visited Los Angeles chapter members at RGP’s offices in downtown Los Angeles.  Our chapter members were treated to two outstanding presentations, both substantive in transparency about IABC headquarters and in content in “Who We Are, Where We Are, and What’s Next?”  

“Communicators have evolved into facilitators of the conversation,” said McCasland.  Robin also stated the take-notice fact that communicators, especially in the present glare of 24/7 media exposure, are now being viewed as professionals with highly skilled expertise in the same context doctors and lawyers are viewed professionally in respective careers.

Before Robin pulled us deep into the GPS of exactly what’s happening with communications’ professional and global trends. McCasland invited us into a transparent GPS operations-view of IABC Headquarters. IABC is now 70 countries/9 regions strong! With highest membership in the U.S. and Canada, the organization is expanding even further into Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia, South America, Middle East and Russia!

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Robin worked closely with Ann Lazurus, Interim Executive Director of  IABC, as well as several other “razor-focused” IABC execs dedicated to refreshing IABC and addressing multiple “thorny” issues.  Task forces were created. Issues addressed include an extremely expensive headquarters’ lease to attracting new staff to eliminating or reducing extraordinary budget expenses.

IABC’s ancient website and ABC professional certification are being updated…Gold Quills process has been transformed  and much more. IABC headquarters may transition to a virtual office, be moved locally or completely relocated. Members have positively praised new staff for their customer service and member focus! For Robin’s inside look at headquarters, please access YouTube audio links:

Around the World with IABC
Communications Trends
IABC International Update

On global trends and the profession, Robin provided facts and figures in her Prezi presentation which are “waking up” other industries, viewing communications professionals as extremely necessary in today’s business world. See 2014 Edelman Trust Barometer.

McCasland stated, “Running a communications department today is like running a political campaign.” Social media, workplace environment, clients’ new power in shaping engaged information…and are you ready to respond to a crisis in five minutes? In the current climate as a pro communicator, you need to be. Stories are now told in visual images to evoke an emotional response to get customers or employees to take action.

Moving forward, IABC is looking at how the industry can create consistent standards in certification as a professional communicator both domestically and globally. The org is also exploring the value in creating courses and education for recent young college grads heading into business environments, yet without tools such as Ethics and Strategic Comms.

Huge thanks to Robin McCasland, FRSA, who took on a tremendous amount of responsibility as IABC’s IEB Chair when many would have backed away…and for giving the L.A. Chapter incredibly valuable information to support the chapter and our careers.

Big thanks to Vivien Hughes, Managing Director, Marketing, Communications & Media, and Chris Paik-Phong, Sr. Operations Manager, RGP (Resources Global Professionals), for allowing us to use the cool event space! She’s invited us to use it again at a later date.

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Thanks to Dustin Alipour, VP, Events for catering help, and to Mike Spasoff, President-Elect for photos and tech help.  And appreciative thanks to attendees for supporting these events:

 

 

 

 

 

 

Warner’s Corner – IABC Media Leaders Content Marketing Panel Wrap Up

(Los Angeles) On Tuesday, October 8th, 2013, IABC Los Angeles hosted a networking media panel event with Media Leaders at the ROC Center Santa Monica.

Moderated by Josh Ochs, the integrated communications panel covered everything from effective content creation, industry blunders/lessons learned, content marketing trends to leveraging social media tools.

The panel comprised of Chris Bechtel, Chief Marketing Officer, Make Good Social, Debra Eckerling, Goal Coach,Guided Goals and WriteOnLine, Priscilla Vento, Founder & CEO, 30 Miles North and James Aldous, Communications Director, OpenX.

IABC members and guests mingled with a diverse mix of West LA StartUps, Investors, Marketing/PR & corporate communications pros, social media managers, web developers, entertainment folks, gaming peeps, SEO gurus and much more.

Kicking off the panel, Josh Ochs asked the panel about leveraging online platforms to gain brand momentum, for which panelists cited a variety of tactics.

From hiring guest bloggers to managing editorial calendars, Debra Eckerling shared blogging tips, workflow tools and best practices.

On driving brand visibility, “get your video into the hands of relevant influencers,” said YouTube guru Priscilla Vento of 30 Mile North.

Chris Bechtel and James Aldous agreed Facebook is more consumer driven, and less business to business orientated. Panelists agreed. Aldous cited online chat tool Quora and Linkedin.

“Understanding where your audience lives is key,” said Bechtel.

2013-10-08 IABC-LA Media Leaders Event

 On integrated communications, the panel discussed the changing tides of earned-owned-paid-evolved media silos.

One IABC member asked where the panel thinks social media departments “live” these days. Vento said their social media manager functions separately from their media relations. Panelists agreed.

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In closing, panelists each shared a unique personal story. Turns out Priscilla Vento is an avid skateboarder, Aldous a non-fiction writer, Eckerling a karate black belt with stripe, and my personal favorite…Bechtel, a Bay Area rap video production founder (no longer). “Once clients who paid all in cash wanted their money back, I left town,” said Bechtel. The audience laughed.

For more event details and photos, follow us on facebook or twitter (@IABCLosangeles)

Special thanks, IABC-LA volunteers Stephanie BelskyLinda Arres and event sponsor Angel Launch.

by Warner Boutin, VP, Communications – IABC Los Angeles. Photo credits by Calvin Lee. 

For the complete 1-hour plus event video:

http://youtu.be/Qbl8BHX-OU4

 

June 12, 2013: 2013 Annual June Dinner with Keynote John Kobara of California Community Foundation

IABC Los Angeles celebrated the end of the chapter year in trendy and gourmet style at Le Ka Restaurant in downtown L.A.  What a truly memorable, upscale event and vibe for existing members and new faces to meet, enjoy each other’s company over deeply-flavored red wines, a three-course gourmet dinner and John Kobara’s outstanding commentary on 21st century philanthropy. The IABC Los Angeles board also announced the new board slate for the 2013-2014 year and upcoming plans.
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The board welcomed longtime members Deborah Hawkins of Focus Communications and Past-President (2000) Trish Lester  of  Signature Communications who have been exemplary and dedicated members.  Deborah and Trish sat with our very newest volunteer, Dustin Alipour, VP, Events (2013-2014) and discussed strategies to bring lunch-time get togethers back to the chapter. How’s that for networking and rolling up Dustin’s sleeves already!

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John Kobara, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer, California Community Foundation insisted on no long, formal verbose introductions of his accomplishments! He’s clearly a renaissance man with tremendous professional experience in  managing development, marketing, marketing, grant-making, civic engagement and donor relations functions of the foundation. He provided our attendees with with a glimpse of:

  • what the Foundation truly supports 
  • how Ivy-League colleges are influencing applicants in terms of focusing an applicant’s true interests vs. what’s expected
    by parents or misperceived “balanced” activities
  • how micro-lending changes a motivated entrepreneur’s life
  • statistics in terms of philanthropic giving in Los Angeles…we think the $10 individual gift doesn’t make a difference. It does!

The California Community Foundation provides programs and grant-giving focusing on the most pressing and critical issues in the arts, education, healthcare, housing and human development and has over $1 billion in assets.

 

While John spoke, the otherworldly chocolate bittersweet dessert communicated yet another engaged “Wow!” moment to our senses during the evening.

http://www.flickr.com/photos/iabc-la/9029590551/We also welcomed Betsy Berkhemer Credaire who announced her new groundbreaking book “The Board Game: How Smart Women Become Corporate Directors” featuring how women can get on thriving corporate companies’ boards. The book also discusses Betsy’s movement to make it legally mandatory to have at least three women on a public company board.

I briefly informed members of the progress we’ve made since I took the helm months ago. We are looking forward to a very substantive 2013-2013 year with chapter events in the works featuring a strong line-up of professional development and networking opportunities, including very collaborative events leveraging other associations who would like to leverage themselves with us as well. Our hefty yet very-refreshed strategic plan is being refined and we’ve launched our chapter’s video series on “We Are Diverse Storytellers”.

Warner Boutin, VP, Development gave a preview of some very updated events in the works for members including our chapter’s leveraging of Silicon Beach (Santa Monica) to how agency and content managers are working together in communications. Our student outreach is very much underway and we are working smart to bring students into the IABC family of communicators.

I thanked the existing board members who gave such dedicated time and energy to revitalize the chapter, create momentum and add  outstanding contributions so the chapter thrives at a new level of engagement:

President: Nicole Maury
Past President: Paula Cassin
Treasurer and Chair, Major Events: Christie Ly
Chair, Member Communications: Betty Henry
Chair, Membership: Kerry Bonner
Chair, Website: Mike Spasoff
Chair, Social Media: Warner Boutin
Chair, Student Relations: Kyle Kearney

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We would like to express our sincerest thanks and appreciation for these IABC-LA members who graciously volunteered time and services throughout the year and for the June event:

  • Michael Ambrozewicz
  • Chris Cabrera
  • Bill Spaniel
  • Gerhard Runken
  • Rhonda Sciarra – Pacific Plains Regional
  • Dawn Pace

The IABC Los Angeles board also announced its new slate of all-volunteer board members:

2013-2014 Chapter Year

President: Nicole Maury
President-Elect: Mike Spasoff
Treasurer:  Christie Ly
VP, Membership: Gerhard Runken
VP, Development & Social Media: Warner Boutin
VP, Student Outreach: Kyle Kearney
VP, Events: Dustin Alipour

Finally, we are so delighted to connect with some members and new faces who are interested in volunteering: member Amy Friend of the The Capital Group, and new faces Lucine Ying Chen and Benjamin Kee.

We thank each and everyone of our attendees for celebrating with us. And a very special thanks to Christie Ly who created such an outstanding and engaged event for all of us. There was such a camaraderie with new and veteran friends.

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April 24th – April Networking Event at Big Foot West

If Los Angeles is the land of film-esque lighting, cool props and walking into different worlds, then Big Foot West proved to be a welcome departure from florescent-lit cubicles of the work-a-day world.  Over cocktails, filling appetizers and under dozens of elk antlers, a disco ball and mood lighting, IABC-LA welcomed members and non-members to our conversation-starter April networking event.

I introduced our diverse and highly enthusiastic new board team including Warner Boutin, Development Chair and Big Foot event lead; Mike Spasoff, Chair, Media and Technology; Christie Ly, Treasurer and Past President; Kyle Kearney, Student Outreach Chair and myself, President.  Kerry Bonner, Membership Chair and Betty Henry, Communications Chair, and Paula Cassin, Past President, had schedule conflicts.  We have some very solid and talented filmmakers on our team supporting our media efforts and promotion, besides outstanding experience in tech and communications.

We were delighted to have a “guest of honor,” SCE’s Chris Cabrera, Past President and board member for last few years.  Chris Keough of Belkin enjoyed talking with Cabrera about what it’s like to be a Chris(!)  We welcomed Nancy Profera, Editor, Crosslink Magazine for Aerospace Space, who is very interested in volunteering and participated in one of our Google Hangouts.  Gerhard Runken, Sales Manager of Automation (digital printing), is also getting involved in volunteering with the chapter towards membership.  Great to see Dawn Pace of KPMG, and meet Andrea Wilcox of Davis and Co. and Elizabeth Albright of Pharmavite.  Warner introduced us  to Businesswire colleague Rachel Kaye and Sam Wolk of Cardwell Beach.  (With the magic of WordPress, I shall add other attendee names shortly.)

Whether attendees appreciated Big Foot West’s kitsch-y or retro-trendy vibe, the group enjoyed networking with one another and looks forward to meeting up again.

Big thanks to Warner Boutin for bringing the chapter to a completely different locale and doing much of the legwork to make it happen.  Thanks to Kyle Kearney (www.kyleallenphoto.com) for great still shots of the board pre-and during event.  Mike Spasoff served as wingman getting last minute details in order on location.

IABC-LA Board 2012-2013 at Big Foot West

November 15, 2012 – Erin Dick presents Megatrends in Communications at Il Fornaio, Pasadena

One of my favorite laugh-out-loud commercials of all time is when a then-unknown Jane Lynch (of “Glee” fame) hammers a microchip into the forehead of a new customer at Washington Mutual’s competing bank. A few moments later Jane’s colleague tries to scan some other poor customer’s head over and over.  With all the megatrends in technology moving at lightning speed, we may not be too far behind this commercial…and Erin Dick, Director of Communications for Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne knows this.

Through “The Future is Now…Now What?”, Erin presented some equally amusing demonstrations of just how far we’ve come with communications methods and gadgetry, as well as some very dramatic evidence of how technology supports our message-delivery choices, keeping us connected in ways that were impossible even just a decade ago.  Over appetizer skewers, stuffed mushrooms, and warm red wines at Il Fornaio in Pasadena, about 25 IABC-LA members and non-members listened to how megatrends in communications has evolved.

Erin discussed key elements, especially over the last decade, which includes shrinking gadgetry (think phone booths vs. cell phones and Nanos) and attention spans, transparency and decentralization, socialization and personalization, the need for speed, and the constants that continue to remain in the sea of change.

Besides a humorous overview of past devices such as brick-like cell phones and 8-track tapes, we got plenty of laughs from a spoofed newscast depicting the use and heavy reliance of social media amongst its “anchor and reporters.”  The reporter was up to 88 followers on Twitter yet just couldn’t seem to report the actual news.

On a more serious note, yet absolutely astounding, Erin presented a simulation of tweets that occurred before the earthquake and tsumami hit Japan and just after.  Social media was a means of communication that allowed Erin, who was in Florida at the time, to exclaim “I was in Japan!” meaning she was following the tweets as it was happening. She was stunned by the gravity of the unfolding situation as well as the importance of just how fast Twitter facilitated communications amongst the watching world.

Shrinking gadgets translate to shrinking attention spans to process the barrage of informative overload expected on a daily basis. Admittedly, I’m not a big fan of heavy multi-tasking having experienced the underbelly of it: brain fog!  Both Erin and other studies show our iCrazy “smart’ world is leading to shrinking attention spans, an inability to use imaginations, poor focus and much lower comprehension.  Erin points out we are assimilating data at such a rapid pace, our brains are adapting to this new pace. Instead of memorization, we are analyzing data more.  Yet through these shrinking gadgets, the world just got smaller.  We are globally connected…big time.

Some constants that still endure are:

  • the need for timely and relevant information,
  • the use of both traditional and non-traditional media and
  • the importance of keeping relationships on track

There is evidence that our bullet-train information overload is now creating a welcome backlash through marketing and ads that suggest unplugging, communicating and recharging in the most old-fashioned of ways.  And as Erin concluded, let’s remember to meet face-to-face, write a handwritten note sometimes and be socially connected through one of the best pieces of technology on the planet…our human selves.

We thank Erin Dick for her passion in communicating these megatrends and for bringing her extraordinary experiences from her U.S. Air Force experience to illustrate just how far we’ve come into the future…which is now!

Thanks to Betty Henry, Communications Chair, for connecting and arranging Erin’s guest spot and event postings, thanks to Mike Spasoff, Media Chair, for his experimenting with streaming the event as well as setting up the tech side of things. Thanks to Christie Ly, Treasurer and Past President, for coordinating details with the restaurant and Eventbrite coordination, and thanks to Paula Cassin, Past President for some admin coordination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Event Summary: May 8th, 2012 Master Storytellers: Jet Propulsion Laboratory

Scientists are great master storytellers. One of the Voyager themes at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena is “reaching out to touch where no one has gone before.” IABC-LA members got to participate in an event never before offered through the chapter: “Master Storytellers: Jet Propulsion Laboratory”…an extraordinary look into NASA’s JPL California Institute of Technology where scientists and engineers have so many stories to tell.

Dana Edler, JPL’s Communications Specialist and IABC-LA Chapter President-Elect ’12-’13 led an out-of-this-world event featuring a tour of JPL’s von Karman Visitor Center and Space Flight Operations Facility before members heard insight into the use of storytelling communications.

Our tour guide explained JPL’s focus on robotic planetary spacecraft and astrophysics, not jet propulsion at this time, leading to missions such as the exploration of Mars. When visiting the Space Flight Operations Facility, the precise communications data told a story as code and numbers came through on big screens from satellites.  While we were not visiting the Facility during a launch of a  Mars mission, our tour guide explained the relatively quiet room was a good thing…it meant that all the robotics and satellites, missions and projects are humming along.

Dana welcomed all of us and briefly discussed utilizing storytelling as an alternative to formal, fact-filled yet dry presentations that simply do not get an audience excited.

Stephen Kulczycki, Deputy Director of Communications and Education, and Dr. Teresa Bailey, Information Science Specialist and JPL FIOA Liaison, discussed the methods of JPL’s storytelling to inform, educate and persuade audiences.  While scientists’ and engineers’ data can be as boring as a bad Powerpoint presentation, these two communicators presented just how lively scientists and engineers can truly be when their passion for the planets and for discovery is the focus.  Stephen presented a few videos with different tones…one example was an emotionally-charged video on the history of the NASA space programs and how a disconnect exists between what the U.S. public perceives as too much money spent on space exploration and what is actually spent.  “How much would you pay for the universe?” was the theme.

Dr. Teresa Bailey developed the JPL organizational storytelling program beginning in 2000 and wrote her dissertation “The Experience of the Storyteller: Moving from Personal to Collective Knowledge Sharing.”  Teresa emphasized the importance of experiential knowledge sharing and “stepping into the light”. Teresa shared insights with us that while she had to endure some teasing at first about the very concept of storytelling (“Will there be cookies, Teresa?” came from a few JPL participants!)…these events soon became an engaging part of the JPL communications culture, including a more opened-space remodel and arranging furniture, and using props and audience participation to better serve the storytelling events.  These events allowed scientists and engineers to connect his or her personal experience to a project or mission illuminating knowledge in a way that placed expected facts and figures in their rightful place: as supporting information, not lead information and therefore losing the passion of the “why”.  As Stephen noted, the scientists and engineers truly become stirred up when they are connected to “the why” they want to explore a specific planet or star…dream makers as opposed to machine makers.

Big universal thanks to IABC-LA shining star, Dana Edler, Membership Chair, who did a superior job in pulling all the JPL event pieces and parts together. Thanks also to Cheryl Farrell who was instrumental in helping with event registration and welcoming guests.  Adam Kevorkian also assisted Dana with the event.  Thank you, Adam! Catering provided by Jack M. Smiler of Black Diamond Catering.

We thank JPL for the overwhelming hospitality to IABC-LA during the tour and event.  And finally, JPL really is a cool, quirky place… I walked to my car post-event and was greeted by a live deer in the parking lot.  Perhaps a satellite directed him to go there.