Mike Sorohan: IABC Poster Child

Ned asks Milke for advice on how to make the most of the IABC conference experienmce.

MIKE: Those are rather personal questions. But since a blog is designed to lay bare one's emotions, thoughts and opinions, I shall respond to your rather intrusive inquiries.

NED: When was the last IABC Conference you attended?

MIKE: I last attended an IABC Conference in 2005 when it came to Washington, D.C. Unlike in past years, when the conference had come to D.C., I did very little in the way of helping with the planning and coordination, and instead just showed up to reap the benefits while my IABC/Washington colleagues worked themselves into a frenzy. I took great pains to tell members of IABC/Washington how I would have done things differently. I'm sure they appreciated the feedback.

NED: How many have you been to?

MIKE: This will be my 13th IABC Conference. The first one I attended was in 1985 in Kansas City, back when Kansas City was still the #1 vacation destination in the U.S. Oh, the stockyards…the empty Arrowhead Stadium…the public library…truly an unforgettable conference. I remember two distinct things about the conference: first, the IABC Kansas City chapter was kick-butt efficient, one of the best chapters in the world, and they really put on a good conference. The second was the fact that I actually rented a tuxedo for the Gold Quill banquet because the conference literature said the event was “black tie” and apparently the joke was on me. I was the only person who showed up wearing a tuxedo other than the emcee. I would have worn my formal military dress, but I couldn't since I was never in the military.

Ned: Did they make tuxes in your size back then?

Mike: I was skinner then. I had a tux all through college. I played in the Kent State University Wind Ensemble and we had to perform in tuxes. My mother was proud.

Ned: What wind instrument did you play?

Mike: I played the contrabass clarinet. And in the marching band I played sousaphone. I was bi-instrumental. I could go either way–woodwind, brass. I didn't care, I was in college and was experimenting…

NED: What was the best IABC Conference you ever went to and what was so great about it?

MIKE: I have fond memories of all the conferences, but one that stands out for me is the 1990 Conference in Vancouver. Terrific location; terrific program. The following year I was chapter president of IABC/Washington and the conference took place in D.C. That conference was a blur-so much organizing, so much work-and my son Ben (now 16) arrived during the planning process. I think I got 40 total hours of sleep between February and June 1991.

NED: Mike, I know I didn't ask you this question ahead of time, but since this is a spontaneous blog, can I ask if you have any memories of conferences that took place in New Orleans?

MIKE: New Orleans is one of my favorite cities. I've been there a dozen times for conferences over the years. I have two distinct memories:

First, wandering with a group of IABC District 3 people through the French Quarter and being accosted by a street person who managed to make eye contact with one of our group. He then proceeded to create a song about this person and then demanded $20 for his “creative talent.”

The second memory was being pick-pocketed in the French Quarter. That was scary, until I got a call from my wife who said she'd just gotten a call from someone in a bar who found my wallet. This wonderful person gave my wallet back, intact, except for the $7 that had been in it.

NED: So people who are coming to New Orleans for this conference should expect to be harassed by street people and pick-pocketed?

MIKE: Absolutely. It's all part of the character-building experience. I know it's made ME a better communicator.

NED: What advice do you have for newcomers to the IABC Conference Experience?

MIKE: I have several pieces of advice: First, bring plenty of small bills-the hookers don't like to make change. Second, stand in front of the Cat's Meow bar on Bourbon Street. They have a cool web-cam known as the “Bourbo-Cam.” When I was in the French Quarter a couple of years ago I called several of my friends and told them to log on to the site (www.nola.com) at a designated time so they could see me waving at them.

One of them preserved a copy of me standing there and now superimposes my face on all kinds of Photobucket images. My favorite is the one where he makes me Saddam Hussein's former information minister (“everything's fine, no problems”).

NED: With all due respect, Mike, that's not very helpful advice.

MIKE: You're right. I would also tell people this: don't be shy. Talk to your fellow communicators. Find Ned and me at the conference. We love talking and more importantly, we love hearing ourselves talk. Attend the sessions. And by all means, take advantage of the social opportunities that include having fun and networking. You won't find a better event to do live networking than here.

NED: Mike, is there a flip side to that?

MIKE: Yes, Ned, there is. If you make yourself too visible at the IABC Conference, you will find yourself designated a “volunteer” and will not only end up running your chapter within two years, but you will also be organizing future regional and international conferences, with very little help. You will be burnt out within five years and will spend the rest of your career as a bitter curmudgeon whose only redeeming features is by making blog entries on JOTW.

NED: Whoops, our time is up! Thanks, Mike-that was…helpful.

MIKE: I charge by the word, by the way.

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