My Visit to Toronto Canada - What a Friendly Country!

I just returned from a speaking engagement for CDECA (Canadian Decorators Association) in Toronto, Canada. They invited me to speak on photography, electronic storyboards, social networking & marketing. I was happy to accept, since these are my favorite things to share! The photograph above was taken during the break after my morning session. It's me doing my next favorite "Answering Questions."

This was my first trip to Canada, so I was not sure what kind of weather to expect. With all of the stories I had heard, I was thinking that Canada was going to have a climate similar to the North Pole, but Barbara assured me the weather was very similar to New York's weather. In fact, the weather in Nashville, TN, and Toronto were almost identical while I was in Canada. Jerry and I will have to go back in the summer and take some time to see the beautiful sights of this wonderful country!

A very funny story:
I have to tell on myself, during my visit to Canada I got myself into a bit of trouble. This was my first trip outside of the United States, so of course I secured a passport. As I flew out of Nashville, stopped briefly in Chicago, and finally landed in Toronto, I thought to myself, "This passport thing is a breeze!" Unfortunately, this was not the end of the story. On the first leg of my flight with American Airlines, the flight attendant mentioned that she was going to pass out surveys to every passenger. I was happy to take one because I love helping companies learn what their customers think so they can make improvements in their business. Then, on the second leg of the flight from Chicago to Toronto, the flight attendant passed out surveys again, but this time she didn't even mention that they were surveys. I thought, "How rude of her to just expect us to fill them out." This is where my smooth trip began to fall apart. I decided not to even look at that paper because two surveys in one day is simply TOO MUCH!! The plane landed and as everyone exited the plane I noticed two people had a piece of paper tucked in their passports. I pondered for a moment and decided that it was some extra personal paper they had with their passport. The plane was a regional jet, which is small, so I had to remove my projector from my small suitcase and then, of course, I had to repack everything once I was off the plane. It took a while for me to repack everything. That's when I looked up and found that I was all by myself in the HUGE Toronto airport. I followed the signs that pointed to Customs for what seemed like a very long journey. There was no one else around and I wondered where everyone went and started hoping that I was still on the right path. Finally, I entered an area with lots of people ... I've finally arrived at Customs and there are lots of lines and lots of people in each of those lines. The people in these lines all had one thing in common, YIKES, they all had that paper tucked in their passport! While I was in the line, I kept surveying the crowd to see if anyone would be exempt from having this paper. I finally spotted one that did not have this paper, so I thought that maybe things weren't so bad. As I finally got to the front of my line, I went up to the counter and say, "I bet you're going to tell me I need another piece of paper." He says, "You don't have it?" I mentioned that this was my first trip outside of the US, thinking that would help me somehow and that I could be exempt from having to have that paper. I then used my best schmoozing skills on him, but still he didn't wave me on. Instead, he tells me I need to go over to the station against the wall where there are extra papers. He also tells me that once I have filled out the paper, I can come to the front of his line. At this point, I am falling in love with Canada, that's customer service! Once I got to the counter with all the papers I realized that these were the papers for me to declare what I am bringing into the county. Oh brother, I could have avoided all of this if I hadn't just assumed that the flight attendant was passing out another customer service survey!

There are two morals to this story.
  • A company should not assume that customers know things the company takes for granted.
  • Never assume anything!

Barbara Cole and all of the CDECA organization were such gracious hostesses. They went out of their way to make me feel welcome. I thought the South had the "Friendly" award all wrapped up, but I guess us Southerners will have to share that title with Canada. Barbara picked me up from the airport. We stopped by the International Centre so that Barbara could be sure everything was going as planned. We stayed for a bit and I even helped with some of the flower arranging!

I was so impressed! They went all out with fresh flowers, fabulous tote organizers, and great food. I love the spike look that Spider Mums give; they are a lot of bang for the buck. They even served healthy smoothies during the day.

The night I arrived, several designers took me out to eat at Scorpio Seafood & Steak. I had the best grilled Mahi Mahi I have ever had and their bread was fabulous! The owner could not believe I was from Nashville, Tennessee. Sylvie Bigaouette, from Plaza Interiors, chimed in to let him know that she had traveled from Windsor (which is over 3 hours away) and the owner looked back at me and said "oh" in a low voice as he raised his eyebrows. We all had a huge laugh as you could tell the owner was not nearly as impressed with her travel time as he was with mine.

After the seminar, several of us headed to downtown Toronto to dine at 93 Harbord. Isam Kaisi the owner and Executive Chef, is a cousin to Nina, one of the designers at the seminar. The homemade pita bread with a green olive mash dressing was fabulous! The Lamb Tagine, Cornish Hen, and Halibut entrees were just as impressive. Of course, if you know me, I talked the table into sharing everything. I LOVE trying new food!

The biggest challenge I encountered during the seminar was time. I had so much to say and knew I would have a really hard time getting it in during my allotted time. As you can see, everyone enjoyed the networking time during the breaks. I received so many great comments from the audience! I think we will be seeing lots more Canadians blogging, joining Facebook, and using Minutes Matter Studio.

To my surprise, after I finished my last session CDECA presented me with the book Spectacular Homes in Toronto. They couldn't have given me a better thank-you gift! I have already taken several photos of pages with my iPhone and uploaded those photos to my Evernote account and filed them inside my Decorating folder. Have I mentioned lately that I L-O-V-E my iPhone? Click on the image above to see some of the photography in this book. Panache publishes "Spectcular Homes" books for lots of different countries and cities. Check them all out.

Thank you CDECA for the warm Canadian welcome! I am looking forward to visiting you again someday soon.

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