When Mike Arms asked me to speak at the first ACES International Conference here in San Diego last weekend, of course I said yes. One, I always like the opportunity to get to speak about social media, one of my favorite topics. Two, I was honored by the invitation to contribute to a really exciting endeavor. And three, well, I really just wanted to go to the conference.
Helen Woodward Animal Center has been running ACES conferences for years, a series of lectures designed to help shelters and rescue leaders figure out a more effective business model for rethinking how the sheltering world should work. This year, for the first time, Helen Woodward decided to take the conference out of the center, move it to a hotel conference center, and invite speakers from all over the country and participants from all over the world.
The conference kicked off with Jill Rappaport, Today correspondent and major animal advocate. She turned a successful career as an entertainment reporter on its head by deciding to devote her life to animal advocacy starting with her “Bow to Wow” makeover series in some on New York’s most dire shelters, and then grew it from there. She was great.
And then, of course, Mike got up and did that thing Mike does when he makes everyone cry and sniffle, including me, despite the fact that I knew exactly what he was going to say and what he was going to make someone get up and do. What can I say? The man knows how to work a room. Then I went to my talk with panelists Marcie Grube and Lon Jones from Helen Woodward, and Bev Van Zant from Iams.
As you know if you’ve ever been to a social media conference, everyone, including the speakers, insists on taking pictures and Tweeting during the talk. I don’t remember what I said, I think I babbled about the Maasai guy who tried to buy me and showed some pictures of Brody and Koa in a manner tangentially relevant to the topic, but everyone else was great.
Lon brought along a couple of co-presenters for moral support, which is always welcomed.
The rest of the talks were also stellar. Jessica Gercke from Helen Woodward and Dave Koontz from Sea World and one other guy whose name escapes me at the moment gave a great presentation on making friends with the media, which I could really use as I’m still honing my creative skills to get the word out about Estelle. I need to get that dog adopted, man. It’s killing me.
I made poor Steve Dale pose for pictures like the starstruck celebrity fan that I am (he was very gracious, by the way.)
And I got to admire the view of Mission Bay from the parking lot while I pondered the relative ease of getting Brody to do stand up paddleboarding as opposed to surfing.
So who could complain? We lucked out. We had the most beautiful weekend, right before temperatures rocket up again this week up to 100+. I got to watch a delegation from Abu Dhabi sign a memorandum of understanding to improve the lives for animals in their country. I witnessed what I think is the germination of a new breed of animal welfare conferences, one that is willing to challenge the status quo and shake things up even if it means creating some lively debate- which there was. I loved seeing people so fired up and wanting to change the way business is done, and this conference gave them extremely concrete tools in order to do so. Be the Change at its finest, the world over.
And we even had tamales, real ones, from TJ. Thank you, awesome Bahia Resort employee, for getting those over.