Session Spotlight: Keynote Presentations

Read about this year's World Conference keynote speakers below. Additional Spotlight Sessions will be announced soon!

2023 Spotlight Sessions


Communication That Deepens Impact

5 June | 9:00-10:30 a.m.

You can have the best business strategy, product or mission in the world, but without effective communication, it means nothing. Communication is a strategic weapon that can align employees, engage shareholders and influence consumers. Explore the deep impact communicators have and how we can make our seat at the table count in this spotlight panel session moderated by Eleanor Hawkins. 

Kimberley Goode

Kimberley Goode was appointed Chief Communications & Social Impact Officer of BMO Financial Group in 2021. In this role, she is accountable for global communications, media relations, government relations and social impact. She leads a team accountable for positioning North America’s eighth largest bank in assets and managing the company’s reputation as a corporate citizen. As a seasoned communications and social impact executive, Kimberley has vast experience in large global companies across multiple industries, including financial services, health care, consumer packaged goods, travel and technology. She has been a champion of diversity, equity and inclusion in every role throughout her career.

Kimberley is a storyteller at heart. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the Medill School of Journalism at Northwestern University in the U.S. and previously was a journalist for the Grand Rapids Press. She has earned numerous honors as a public relations professional and a corporate leader. Kimberley serves on the following non-profit boards: Chicago Public Media, Carol Shields Prize Foundation, California State University Foundation Board of Governors, and the Board of Trustees for the San Francisco General Hospital Foundation. She is also a member of the Executive Leadership Council, Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc. and the Links, Inc. and is a mentor for students, emerging leaders, and entrepreneurs.  She is a proud mother of three and lives in Chicago, Illinois with her husband Andre, a non-profit executive director for the Kelly Hall Y in Chicago’s Humboldt Park neighborhood.

Megan DiSciullo

Megan was named a "Top Woman in PR" by PR News and a "40 under 40" recipient by PR Week. She is a senior communications professional with nearly 20 years of experience working with global companies to protect, promote and evolve their brands. She has a broad skill-set encompassing corporate brand positioning, executive visibility, corporate responsibility and diversity, public affairs, stakeholder engagement, crisis and litigation communications, issues management, digital/social media strategy, internal communications strategy and change management. Megan has led groundbreaking programs and announcements that have won PR Week, Sabre, PR News and Shorty awards. She is an inclusive leader and mentor who has been recognized for her ability to inspire teams and drive innovation. In 2020, Megan’s team was a finalist for PR Week’s "Best In-House Team'' as well as named a "Best Place To Work''. Megan is currently the US and Mexico Communications Leader, responsible for leading 170+ communications practitioners across a range of disciplines.

Prior to PwC, Megan spent nearly nine years at Edelman in its Business + Social Purpose practice in New York, Chicago and Amsterdam working on clients such as Business Roundtable, VF Corporation, SC Johnson, Darden, Environmental Defense Fund, and Hilton. Megan graduated magna cum laude from Georgetown University with degrees in Marketing and International Business. She has lived on four continents and brings a global perspective to her work. She is passionate about youth education and provides pro bono communications counsel to the Academy of Global Citizenship, an innovative charter school on the Southwest side of Chicago. In her spare time, she enjoys marathon running along the Chicago lakefront and spending time with her husband, two daughters and dog. 

John Yoon

John Yoon is the founder and principal of Hanock Consulting, a specialty practice helping  companies implement marketing initiatives such as category creation, communications and PR strategies, messaging and mission development, demand generation, customer definition and segmentations, fundraising, hiring, and process implementation.





Moderator: Eleanor Hawkins

Eleanor Hawkins is a communications strategist and writer at Axios. She authors the weekly Axios Communicators newsletter and covers topics and trends that impact how leaders, brands and employers communicate. Prior to joining Axios, Eleanor held various strategic communication roles within government, politics, public policy and the media industry. She has a certification in Business Strategy & Execution from Harvard Business School and a B.A. in Communication from Auburn University. She lives in Virginia with her husband and toddler.




Keep It Simple Stupid: Duolingo’s Guide to Calculated Risk on Social 

5 June | 3:30-4:30 p.m.

Duo, a sassy and fiercely loyal owl, has landed countless viral TikToks by riffing off of trending audio clips. Whether it’s fan-girling over Dua Lipa or getting in trouble with Legal, Duo has stolen the hearts of gen-Z and #brandtok. Hear from the brains behind language-learning platform Duolingo’s TikTok account, Zaria Parvez about the entertainment-first account. We'll take a peek into how Duolingo implemented a test-and-learn approach, empowered Gen-Z talent to take the reigns, and flipped the script on traditional marketing.

Zaria Parvez, Global Social Media Manager, Duolingo

Zaria Parvez headshotZaria Parvez is Duolingo’s global social media manager. She leads social strategy, community management and creator partnerships across all major social platforms. She spearheaded the development of Duolingo’s TikTok account. As a direct result of Zaria's work on Duolingo's TikTok strategy and execution, the now-famous TikTok channel grew from 50K followers in September 2021 to 5.1M followers today and was recently recognized as one of AdAge’s Top 5 Brand TikTok accounts. The Duolingo TikTok has 83 viral videos (view counts of 1M or higher) due to Zaria’s creativity. What started as a test-and-learn initiative has become Duolingo's most successful social buzz and word of mouth initiative to date – all because of Zaria's insights, instincts, and expertise. More broadly, Zaria is a role model for a new, diverse class of Gen Z social media talent and has proven what's possible when given creative freedom and trust in the work she does. Prior to joining Duolingo, Zaria was a student at University of Oregon where she majored in advertising, business and psychology. She was recently named in the Forbes 30 under 30 list for Social Media.

The Dangers of Disinformation: How Professional Communicators can Preserve and Promote Civic Order

6 June | 9:30-11:00 a.m.

Disinformation and misinformation kill — both people and society. Disinformation is intentionally communicating dishonestly in order to deceive or manipulate the public in support of a political end. Misinformation is members of the public picking up on the disinformation and unknowingly passing it along without necessary awareness that it is false. Both are implicated in hyper-politicization and violent extremism, in the United States, Latin America, Europe, and around the world. 

IABC's Code of Ethics notes that professional communicators have the potential to influence society and affect lives. And with that power comes responsibility. The first two principles of the Code are:

• I am honest. My actions bring respect for and trust in the communication profession.

• I communicate accurate information and promptly correct any errors.

In May, the head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration warned that misinformation has become the leading cause of death in the United States. In 2020 misinformation about COVID-19 led to the U.S. to experience the worst handled pandemic response in the developed world and caused hundreds of thousands of preventable deaths. Starting in mid-2021 misinformation about the COVID-19 vaccine and vaccinations continued the wave of preventable fatalities. 

The risks of misinformation go well beyond public health. The January 6 Committee hearings show how in the U.S. disinformation and misinformation inspired thousands of people to attack the Capitol on the day that the 2020 presidential election was to be certified. Some of those domestic terrorists sought out and threatened to assassinate the Vice President, the Speaker of the House, and other members of Congress. But misinformation doesn’t just put human life at risk. Misinformation risks killing democracy itself.  

This Spotlight address focuses on the challenges professional communicators face in an environment of increasing mistrust and political turmoil. And it focuses on strategies professional communicators can deploy to avoid becoming misinformation mercenaries and to help their clients and employers more likely communicate honestly and in ways that build trust, rather than erode trust. 

Helio Fred Garcia

Helio Fred Garcia Headshot

For more than 40 years Helio Fred Garcia has helped leaders build trust, inspire loyalty, and lead effectively. He is a coach, counselor, teacher, writer, and speaker whose clients include some of the largest and best-known companies and organizations in the world.  

He is the author of five books on leadership, crisis, trust, and communication. He has worked in dozens of countries on six continents.

Fred has been on the New York University faculty since 1988 and was named the 2016 Executive MBA Great Professor. He has been on the faculty of Columbia University since 2017. In both universities, he teaches crisis, ethics, communication, and leadership. 

He previously served for eight years on the leadership faculty at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) Zurich. He has been a distinguished visiting fellow at Tsinghua University in Beijing. For 23 years he has been a contract lecturer at the Wharton School/University of Pennsylvania and for 11 years has been a contract lecturer at the U.S. Defense Information School. He is an alumnus of the National Security Seminar of the U.S. Army War College.

Fred has received the Public Relations Society of America — New York awards for mentoring and for lifetime achievement.

PowerPoint Improv!

6 June | 4:00-5:00 p.m.

Join Brian G. Smith, award-winning The Second City alumnus, and spend some time laughing your way to professional development and improving your ad-lib skills in this PowerPoint Improv session.

In this session, Brian will choose eight willing participants to try their luck at winning 'Best Presenters' in a friendly competition. Participants will be side-coached to deliver a fun presentation with a deck of PPT slides they’ve never seen before. Dive deep and learn how to be more spontaneous, gain the confidence you need to conquer your next big presentation and let-loose and have fun.

Ultimately, this session will leave you with the tools that will improve your presentations, with 'Improv thinking'.

Brian G. Smith, Head of 'Annex Improv', Centre for Social Innovation and MaRS

Zaria Parvez headshot

Brian G. Smith is an award-winning film-maker, educator, and alumnus of The Second City.  Over the last 20 years, Brian has helped thousands of students exercise their creative spirits, and find their own storytelling voices. ​As head of ‘Annex Improv’ (at the Centre for Social Innovation and MaRS), Brian has created training programs that combine personal and professional growth including PowerPoint Improv where participants deliver impromptu presentations based on a set of slides that they have never seen before.

Brian's creative production company, You and Media, has produced award-winning comedy films & several innovative web series including Media Prize, Festival du DocuMenteur (Quebec), Best TV Ad, Barbados Advertising Awards, and Best Web Series, Canadian Comedy Awards.

​This text is not funny, but he is.


7 June | 11:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.

What can communicators learn from iconic singers, indelible songs, and the unique power of music to connect, inform, and inspire us? Through her unique Communication That Sings™ approach, Karen Gross bridges her experience as a celebrated performer and a communications consultant to influential thought-leaders and executives. In the uniquely interactive presentation-meets-performance Raise Your Voice & Rock the Mic, Karen Gross and distinguished musician Tim Motzer will illuminate how music invites us to raise our voices through deeper, more resonant, and more impactful communication. Through a diverse survey of songs that have made a memorable statement – with nods to artists ranging from Billie Holiday, to John Lennon, to Leonard Cohen, to Adele – Karen and Tim will impart key lessons that business communicators can apply to their work immediately, such as: 

  • Owning your unique voice 
  • Tapping into vulnerability through your personal story. 
  • Making communication catchy through rhyme, rhythm, and repetition. 
  • Reading the room while staying true to the message. 

Karen Gross, Singer, speaker, emcee, and the founder/host of She Rocked It

Zaria Parvez headshotAs an in-demand performer and communications pro for over two decades, Karen Gross has a unique understanding of the power of the voice, and the potential of words and music to connect people. Since 2013, Karen has run a boutique communications consultancy grounded in her signature Communication That Sings™ approach — which brings together her experience as a journalist, publicist, speechwriter, and performer. As a communications consultant, Karen has collaborated with leading organizations across industries, including the University of Pennsylvania, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Philadelphia Orchestra, and Core States Group. She also served as the speechwriter for one of the nation’s most influential and vocal public health officials throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. Earlier in her career, Karen closely collaborated with ABC television as the National Constitution Center’s lead speechwriter and script consultant for the Liberty Medal ceremony honoring Malala Yousafzai. As a singer, Karen has performed at Lincoln Center, in Frank Sinatra’s former penthouse as part of the HGTV show “Selling New York,” and at premier venues in New York City and her hometown of Philadelphia. Today, she connects, empowers, and lights up audiences as a singer, speaker, emcee, and the host/founder of She Rocked It – a media and mentorship platform for creative, courageous women. She also continues to provide behind-the-scenes strategic communications guidance to thought-leaders, executives, and entrepreneurs.

Tim Motzer, Performer

Zaria Parvez headshotAfter two decades of world touring, nine solo soundscape albums, and stunning collaborations including over 100 albums of credits, Tim Motzer continues to “traverse manifold territories in music” (Guitar Player magazine). Tim is widely known for his distinct textural acoustic-electro guitar voice utilizing looping, bowing, electronics, and prepared techniques. He has appeared on distinguished stages around the world, ranging from Madison Square Garden in NYC, to the Montreux Jazz Festival, to Elbphilharmonie Hamburg in Germany, to London’s legendary Ronnie Scott’s jazz club. He has collaborated with a diverse range of musical luminaries including Patti LaBelle, Kenny Lattimore, poet Ursula Rucker, King Britt, Vernon Reid, and David Torn, among others. Since 2016, Tim has also toured the world playing prestigious venues and jazz festivals with Bandit65, an improvising trio he co-leads with acclaimed guitarist Kurt Rosenwinkel and drummer Gintas Janusonis; their most recent release, Searching the Continuum (Heartcore Records), received a rare five-star review from J.D. Considine in Downbeat Magazine. His film/TV credits include the hit HBO series True Blood as well as Miami Vice, a major motion picture directed by Michael Mann. As an in-demand, solo live composer/improviser in the world of modern dance, Tim co-creates alongside master choreographers at Princeton University and the University of the Arts.