This is Orlando, so it's all about Disney. And they are a major conference sponsor. So not surprising that one of the keynotes works there. But Joe Rohde is not what you would normally expect. The long, dangling earring made up of trinkets given to him from his travels is one thing. His experience developing the Animal Kingdom theme park and the Hawaiian resort, Aulani, is another.
Theme park takes on new meaning when you think about it like you did in lit class. In fact, according to Joe, much of the planning, or imagineering, that is done is very much framed around those literary notions of theme, character, setting and so forth. Again, if there is a thread to this conference, it is storytelling and the primal effect it has on people.
We use narrative to see, imagine, experience emotion and reactions. Developing themes expands opportunities, some of which can't be envisioned until the creative process unfolds. The melding of creativity and practical goals is an ongoing challenge at Disney. For example, how do you incorporate a thrill ride into Animal Kingdom, which theme is the intrinsic value of nature? Though usually a disconnect at first glance, they managed to do this in a way that did not detract from the original concept. His presentation was well recived.