Susan's Super Citizen Showcase

Friday, January 30, 2009

LEGO artist Robin Sather puts the kids to work at Science World

LEGO Certified Professional Robin Sather had a lot of help from the kids who showed up at Science World in Vancouver, B.C. Canada for an exciting new LEGO exhibition that opened this morning. For the next three days (Friday Jan 30 to Sunday Feb 1) from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., groups of kids are volunteering to help build a giant space shuttle that will become a focal point of the latest exhibition at Science World: Wheels, Wings and Waves—a LEGO World of Transportation that runs to May 4, 2009.

Robin and his team at Brickville Designworks have been using LEGO bricks and products to produce events, displays, exhibits, and custom creations since 2004. Today at Science World, it was the first time Robin has ever worked with such a big team of volunteer builders. The hard-working kids (and parents and grandparents) have an important role to play this weekend.

“Without them, we would never get it finished by the end of the weekend,” Robin says, with a laugh. He says kids can enjoy coming back and taking pride in seeing the work they helped put together.

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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Virginia Greene shares a new expression at IABC event in Vancouver

The expression is “hidden wiring.” Virginia Greene, president and CEO of the Business Council of British Columbia, picked it up a few weeks ago at a business event in the U.S. just before the election. She heard the expression used in reference to the bonds that exist between business people who work together from both sides of the border. Their personal relationships are held together by “hidden wiring” that is stronger than a change in the U.S. administration.

Virginia (at right in the photo, with her friends, and lots of business cards) spoke before an audience of communicators at “Networking 101” – an event hosted by the B.C. chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators at Steamworks Lounge in Vancouver, B.C., Canada. She said she likes the expression because it describes a network that is strong and not easy to take apart. It’s hidden wiring that holds the network and its people together.

“These relationships are so deep – so interconnected, personal, and one-on-one,” says Virginia, who networks all day long as a part of her job as Council president / CEO.

Virginia told us Business Council members reported in a recent survey that networking is the main reason they are members. B.C. is unique in that it is the only province in Canada with this type of council made up of companies from forestry, oil and gas, and so many other different industries. The members survey was the first of its kind since the Council formed in 1966, and the feedback on networking is valuable. In response, the Council is stepping up efforts to organize networking events. For some people, evenings and a glass of wine are preferable to a.m. breakfasts.

Virginia described three different networking situations:

1) The optical opportunity – This is a “see and be seen” situation that shows your organization was represented at an event. You might just whip in for 20 minutes, circulate, says hellos to a few people, and get on your way once you have made your appearance.

2) The serendipitous opportunity – You run into someone you haven’t seen for a long time – maybe someone who used to work at a company you just took a job with. Or perhaps the ex-wife of your new boyfriend! These conversations can turn out to very illuminating...

3) The strategic opportunity – This is a situation that is important to your business. You are there to work and you are approaching the event mindfully with a purpose.

Vancouver is a nicely networked community – considerably more casual than other cities. Virginia says our community is friendly, open, and entrepreneurial. People make time for each other and return each other’s calls nine times out of ten. It’s “personal courage” that keeps us going in networking situations, as we follow up with contacts and try to get past receptionists who might say: “Will he know what this is about?” (though now most executives use email and blackberries and iPhones and it’s not as hard to get through the old school "receptionist filter")

I leave you with two final tips I took away from Virginia’s talk. They are just so wonderfully basic and obvious – and important to keep in mind for those of us who might feel shy or “not on” or lacking in “personal courage”… (or self-conscious about our outfit choices LOL)We are all told that "confidence" is attractive and important - and this is very challenging for people who are naturally more introverted. So it helps to be prepared...

What do you do when you arrive at an event? Look for someone you know. That helps to get you relaxed, geared up, and social. Have a bit of a chat, then politely move on to someone you don’t know. What are some good ice breakers? “Hi. How are you?” is always a good stand-by – along with “What business are you in?” or “Where are you from?”

I also like Virginia’s idea that our local IABC hold a networking event with other industries. Do any fellow members have any thoughts on this? (Come on and share your comments!)

Monday, January 26, 2009

Man, 87, feeds ducks at Fraser River Park in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada

Today I meet Jim on a boardwalk at Fraser River Park. He and his 14-year-old black lab stand on the edge of a walkway built over a revitalized riverfront area. Along this riverside greenway, people walk their dogs, coworkers enjoy a lunch time stroll, and in the distance a lone adolescent boy in a ski jacket flings sticks onto an icy, partially frozen, marshy inland section of the riverfront. Some sticks pierce the ice; others skid off.

Jim says he feeds the ducks every day - whistling to welcome them. Big, healthy-looking mallards and drakes swim to the bridge and gobble down Jim's offering of cheerios that bob in the water. The dog seems impatient as he nose nudges his ball up against Jim's foot, wanting to play. Some people pass and say "Hi Jim!" - and that's how I learn his name. Jim, who uses a ski pole as a walking stick, tells us he is 87. My son kicks the ball for the dog, who bats it back to him, back and forth. At least everyone isn't preoccupied with the ducks!

The City of Vancouver website offers this info on the Fraser River Greenway: "It follows as close to the north shore of the North Arm of the Fraser River as possible and when completed, it will connect Pacific Spirit Regional Park to the City of Burnaby's trail system. Several sections of the Fraser River Trail are in place, including trails through Riverfront Park, Gladstone-Riverside Park, Fraser River Park, McCleery Golf Course and Deering Island Park. Industrial roads parallel to the river connect the completed sections of the trail. The remaining sections of the trail will be completed as riverfront opportunities arise."

More info on Fraser River trail. How exciting! My son and I will ride our bikes on this trail when it is done.

Here is a video of the ducks and their friend - a cheerful moment amidst the sadness and tragedy of other stories in the news.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Communicators gotta get messy, says IABC speaker

“Roll up your sleeves and get in.”

Guest speaker Doug Lacombe, VP for western Canada at CNW Group, was referring to the world of social media today as he spoke to a bunch of us communicators while we enjoyed a tasty lunch at Steamworks Brewing Company Uber Lounge in downtown Vancouver, BC. This interesting talk was part of the Vancouver Sun Speaker Series put on by the B.C. Chapter of the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC).

The self-described “Canadian railway brat, ex-newspaper guy, closet tech weenie” advised us to use the tools of social media because “it’s the one guarantor of your future career in this messy, fragmented world.” He suggested a few good starting points as: Twitter, subscribing to some RSS feeds, and joining blogging communities.

Social media tools offer many avenues for communicators to get their message out, but media aggregators need a better process for filtering content. He said it’s problematic that online news consumers don’t really know if they are getting the real deal when it comes to content. Readers may have trouble distinguishing "unfiltered crap" from "real stuff." When we subscribe to aggregator services, we could be getting anything from the freaky conspiracy theorist in his basement to a bona fide journalist who checks facts and admits bias. One simple way to check out the credibility of bloggers is to see if people are leaving comments; if not, be wary… (a-hem, hey there readers, leave a comment okay?)

Doug's newsfeed is dedicated to the VCR generation who might not have known how to change the time displayed on their VCRs and hence ended up with a blinking 12:00. hehe

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