These were some of the key themes at the World Conference on Drowning Prevention in Potsdam, Germany last week, attended by over 500 people from 58 countries.
My compliments to the DLRG, the Deutsche Lebens-Rettungs-Gesellschaft e.V., for hosting an outstanding conference, with a special shout out to Claudia Mauersberg and Matthias Stoll for their organizing skills. The depth and breadth of knowledge, the passion for the subject, the atmosphere of enthusiasm and dedication was absolutely inspiring. Not a minute passed when I wasn’t wishing I could split myself into about 8 people to attend every session, talk with every person, soak up the information on every poster.
I presented twice. My first speech was “Raising Awareness and Increasing Funding – Applying Business Disciplines to Drowning Prevention”. You can click here to watch a video of the speech on YouTube. I’m finalizing a paper on the subject that I’ll share soon as well. I also had the honor of sharing the podium with Dr. Linda Quan to present “Translating Open Water Drowning Prevention Guidelines Into Global Action Using Social Marketing”. Click here for a written and more comprehensive version of this presentation on ScribD. A special thanks to Di Standley of RLSS UK for doing an outstanding job moderating the management sessions.
In terms of the most inspiring presentations for me, I could barely keep myself from leaping onto my chair and cheering when Norm Farmer of Surf Life Saving Australia and Pärla Salomaa of Finnish Life Saving and Swimming Teaching spoke on how they are making collaboration work in their region. More evidence of successful collaboration was given by Christoph Müller, who spoke about how adopting the Lifesaving Society Canada Swim to Survive program has yielded big results in Switzerland after hearing Barbara Byers speak about the program. I’d like to see this survival swim program replicated in many countries. Christina and Michael Fonfé spoke about their groundbreaking work empowering women and providing them with a means for financial independence in Sri Lanka – an incredible way of ‘marketing’ the need for swimming lessons in a way that will appeal to a wider audience. Hats off to Roger Sweeney of Irish Water Safety for his incredible talk about engaging the media to reach the public effectively. I was writing frantically to capture every word and am looking forward to putting his advice into practice.
In terms of raising the profile of the issue globally, I was particularly excited to see Kimberly Jarvis from the Princess Charlene of Monaco Foundation at the conference. The incredible dedication, passion and skill that the former Olympic swimmer from South Africa, Her Serene Highness Princess Charlene, brings to the issue of preventing child drowning is incredibly welcome and much needed to raise the profile of the issue globally. Kim Jarvis brings truly impressive project management and events planning skills to the Foundation, and to the field of drowning prevention – welcome Kim!
Of course, as is so often the case, everyone commented that ‘the real conference takes place after the meetings’, though I think Will Koon of ISLA summed this up best in his blog. (and thanks for the lovely shout-out Will!) On one night I was fortunate enough to be made an honorary Canadian and joined their large contingent for dinner. Every available moment was spent connecting with old friends and making new friends, though I still managed to leave without saying hello to far too many people. I can’t wait for the next conference in 2015, rumored to be Malaysia!
Here I am with all the cool guys from ISLA, Nile Swimmers, Lifeguards Without Borders and RNLI! (I’m trying to be cool by association 🙂
With the awesome Barbara Lynn Fountain and Dylan Tommy from Lifesaving South Africa! (one of my favorite countries to visit)