It must have been the Corporate Communicators Conference, and it must have been 1993.
My fellow rookie Ragan editor Steve Crescenzo came racing up to me in the big suite atop the Marriott Hotel, roaring at me about “Holy shit, Murr, there's this guy you gotta meet. He’s smart, he’s funny and he’s real. I swear to God, you're gonna love this guy!”
What Crescenzo was telling me was that he had met a guy who was … like us.
Except he was far older. He was like 30.
(When you’re in your mid-twenties, 30 feels a long way off. Remember?)
The point was, Steve and I had spent the first year of our weird young Ragan careers thinking of ourselves as wild young kids, and thinking of Business Communicators—God help us—as fully formed, strategic, complete grown-up beings wholly unlike us.
And most of the communicators—gray-templed writers and editors, communication directors and media relations pros—were all too happy to let us go on thinking of them that way.
But this guy Ron Shewchuk had no use for that act. He was too serious a communication thinker, too enthusiastic a conference drinker, and too much of a sincere talker to put on the grown-up act.
At the time I met him, he was working for some outfit called Petro Canada, barnstorming across Alberta from one gas station to another (as I recall) helping people understand—understand what? Like the dozens of wins and losses we've celebrated and suffered since, they mattered then, but they don't matter now.
Ron Shewchuk was the first communicator Steve and I ever met who we could really drink with, talk about books with, listen to music with, pronounce the word “communication” and “adventure” in the same breath with, and laugh with.
I think Ron went a long way to allowing us to think of this communication business as a part of our life’s intellectual and emotional journey, rather than as a semi-lucrative, cynical side job.
And that, as the poem goes, has made all the difference.
Fast forward almost two decades, and now Ron really is old.
We all are.
And this spring he’s putting on a communication conference called RonCon2010 (a name that perfectly fits Ron’s peculiar personality of whimsical egomania, or egomaniacal whimsy, I never could peg it; see photo and judge for yourself).
And he’s invited a number of the other “real” communicators who Steve and I have gotten to know over all these years (and a few we haven't)—to talk straight and funny to the next crowd of up and coming communicators.
Could anything be more appropriate—or more worth looking forward to?
Ron’s worried that promoting the conference too far outside its two locations of Vancouver and Calgary is “spamming."
I tell Ron this is no time to act Canadian, and that people should travel from all over North America—hell, they should travel from South America, and South Africa to see RonCon2010, the conference to which a whole new crop of communicators could one day owe their happy careers.