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Expanding Our Horizons: A Report from this year’s AICI Conference

By: Gillian Armour

From the far reaches of the planet came a gathering of image consultants to Honolulu, Hawaii this past weekend. I was privileged to attend and catch a glimpse of this ever expanding association, and, even though attendance was down this year, I met ladies from South Africa, Holland, China, Kuala Lampur, Guadalajara, Argentina, Paris, Sydney, Manila, Singapore, Canada and of course many from the states.

This year the conference began with an annual membership meeting where board reports were given by the 2011 slate of officers.  Accomplishments were listed – (all these reports are online by the way) and a report given about the strategic planning meeting held last year. Plexis PR has been hired to complete three phases of a roll out marketing plan for AICI. First phase was the series of member surveys (also online) completed in January. Phase 2 a review and Phase 3 is scheduled to roll out by July. Implementation of the PR plan will follow. The Talent Directory will be finished and ready “by the end of the year” reported Yasmin Anderson-Smith (VP Marketing). There is a new non-profit wing organized under AICI – Image Impact International (for Civility philanthropy efforts) and they need volunteers. After the reports the new slate of officers were sworn in. Capping off the member minute was a parade of 8 CIM’s who spoke for a minute each about what being a CIM has meant to them.

Then everyone headed out to the concurrent sessions.  I attended Carla Mathis’s (CIM, Los Angeles) session “The New Esthetics of Human Identity” – Universal Design Language (Line, Shape, Proportion, Scale, Color etc.) and what it means in clothing. She also illustrated and demonstrated Universal Human Characteristics (voice, movement, presence). Her session was stimulating, informative and fun!

The concurrents this year were held to just two hours each so it made for fast learning – a bit of a burden for speakers to try to cram loads of material into the time allotted. After two hours of Carla’s master class I made my way to the next session “Airbrush Makeup: The Future of Make Up is Now” with Judith Graham, (CIP, New York)  – she began by dancing down the aisle singing “Pretty Woman” – got us all laughing and in the mood for fun and she did not disappoint.Her technique and skill with airbrushing makeup is amazing – she showed how to do eyes, lips, cheeks and eyebrows! She also knows how to airbrush on mascara but didn’t want to freak out any of the models who volunteered. Helena Chenn, being a good sport, got her foundation applied by Judith!

The food at conference was excellent, quintessentially Hawaiian dishes for our first lunch: LomiLomi Salmon, Kahlua Pork, Coconut MahiMahi and Haupia (coconut custard dessert). Lunch was in the exhibitor room and there were roughly a dozen exhibitors this year.  Later that night everyone headed out to Hilo Hattie’s MuuMuu factory for a tour and then dinner at Sam Choi’s.

Saturday I attended the Chapter Presidents breakfast in Kimberly Law’s (CIP, Canada)  suite overlooking all of Waikiki! What a view.  That water is so clear and blue green, the surfers on the waves looked like ants from our perch on the 24th floor! We had a lovely continental breakfast and then each Chapter President (there were about 12 of us) had five minutes to talk about our successes for the year. Not nearly enough time and I mentioned this to the incoming President later in the conference (suggesting that next year it be longer!). All the presidents gave glowing reports of their accomplishments for the year; Kuala Lampur raised over $6000 at their education weekend (and they didn’t even serve food). The Paris chapter has been revived and is thriving, the Guadalajara Chapter is growing; the Chinese membership is down by 40% (they lost many members last year). Reason: no translation of AICI documents for one! And, of course, I relayed all the SF Bay Area accomplishments (they really are jealous of our Education Weekend success!).

After meeting and greeting, we all left for the concurrent sessions again. I attended Catherine Ong’s (CIM, Singapore) very fast paced (that girl can whirl) corporate presentation “Gearing Up Your Game Plan to Win Corporate Clients.” Lots of interactivity and a workbook!  We had many exercises to work through including Taking Stock, Know Your Market, Identify Your Target Market, Assess Your Client Potential. Catherine led us through the steps to take to find hidden opportunities for increased business and to find out where your service gaps are (vertical markets etc.). Super good session and well attended.

Then a boxed lunch and a drive around the southern part of the island where I played tour guide!

The following day (Sunday) all conference attendees took part in a brain storming session following a report of Plexis PR’s member survey. There are five key parts of the survey that AICI wants to improve so they asked us to get into groups to brainstorm. I was in the CEU group and the take away from our brainstorm session is that AICI’s policy of approving CEU courses from other educational institutions needs to be promoted more to the membership. Many members do not know, or do not realize that they can get their CEU requirements from courses that fall under the umbrella of “AICI Core Competencies” and can include such subjects as Social Media, Coaching, Graphics etc. Other groups brainstormed around translation efforts, membership dues and conference ideas (since I was not part of those groups I can’t tell you what the talk was about) and I had to leave early to participate on panel at Dr. Weinstein’s session “Beyond the Classroom: Tips and Techniques for Distance Learning.” Presenters Kelly Machbitz (CIP, Florida), Karen Brunger (CIP, Canada) and I had a significant group of participants and took them through the various methods of distance learning including webinars, teleconferencing and e-learning. I have not seen the feedback yet but during class, and after,  I got the impression the session was well received!

Then lunch was a CIP/CIM lunch and talk with Brian Zuchter (Business Coach) encouraging us to reconnect with our businesses on a “compassionate and present moment basis”! He got all of us to breathe in, breath out (“don’t do this with your mouth full,” he said). Meh – not much to add really.  We had about 15 minutes to catch up with each other after dessert and then it was off again to another session.

This time I chose to learn about “Landing Media Coverage” with Kelly Machbitz. She has a lot of experience around this topic and multiple video clips to review with us.  She too covered a lot of ground and I found myself almost breathless at the breadth of her information. She shared material that included “How to Create a Media Database,” and “Top Tips to Pitch Your News to the Media.” Then we had a fun exercise where we had to come up with a newsworthy topic and make it interesting enough to pitch. The group I was in came up with pitching the idea of the “Zoody” (Mark Zucherberg and his hoody) and how it is influencing fashion statements! I know, I know!

By this time I was so tired because in between all these various classes and lunch feasts I saw old friends and spent time rapidly catching up. Looking back, I feel as if I talked for four days straight!  Can you imagine how tired poor Helena Chenn must have been – this was to be her final conference as she is handing it over.  Six years in a row!! Big round of applause as she opened that evening’s Gala Event. Held on the patio of the hotel, under the stars and deep blue sky with the trade winds gently blowing and everyone super pretty and dressed up!  It was so fun to watch the fashion parade and even a couple of kooky consultants dressed in grass skirts and coconut shell tops!!  San Francisco members included  Valérie Berset-Price, Betty Chu, Helena Chenn, Bernie Burson, Alyce Parsons, Eva Koeck-Eripek, Penelope Paik, Cathy Owen and Masako Aoki. I recall a lot of awards presented and our own Helena Chenn received her Certified Image Master awarding!  Congratulations Helena – very well deserved.  She looked so great in her copper sequin dress and danced a LOT!  Think she’s happy? Eva also received an award, well deserved – the IMMIE!! Well done Eva. Other member’s scoring that night – Cathy Owen (Honolulu) won an iPod Touch!  Congrats to all these women.

My seatmates at dinner included Valerie Berset-Price (Oregon) and Masako Aoki (Los Gatos). I had a great time conversing with both of them. Bernie Burson, Alyce Parsons and Judith Graham were also at our table. Then the three trés chic girls from Paris joined us and thus began a rousing round of franglais! I loved it!  Food was awesome and while finishing dinner the DJ lit up the dance floor. Helena and hubby were the first ones out there!

Truly, I had a great time and came back exhausted. The highlights for me were seeing old friends again and then meeting some new ones. Conference is always a chance to do that. We only get to see each other once a year (if we go) and I think it is this camaraderie that resonates with me. I love the fact that conference is the embodiment of what AICI is – social, inclusive, sharing and caring – as Valerie so succinctly put it (and I paraphrase her, don’t mind Valerie!) “This is the best planned conference I have ever been to.” She also said Helena is going to be a tough act to follow! Now where was I?

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