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Lotusphere and IBM Connect 2012 Highlights – Back to Basics of Conferences! #ls12 #ibmconnect
Luis Suarez    

IBM Lotusphere & IBM Connect 2012 - Orlando, FloridaAs more and more blog posts are starting to come along sharing further insights on some of the major highlights from the recent IBM Lotusphere and IBM Connect 2012 events held last week in Orlando, Florida, I guess it’s now time for me to start sharing my two cents on what both events were like, what I learned, what I thought were some pretty interesting developments and happenings, as well as a bunch of other tidbits that I think would prove useful to share over here in this blog. So over the course of the next few days, perhaps couple of weeks, and in between other blog entries here and there, I will be sharing plenty of those highlights pointing folks out to individual keynote and speaker sessions that I enjoyed quite a bit attending and learning from, but this time around with a slight difference. Not going to give entire details for each of them, since for the first time ever that I can remember, and over the course of the next few days, we are going to start seeing how recordings of live streamed sessions, as well as presentations for each of them will be shared out there publicly for everyone to enjoy, if not already. So, instead of sounding a bit too repetitive, I’m going to be sharing my thoughts and personal opinions about what I gathered from each of the sessions I attended, as well as the overall events themselves. Ready? Let’s go!

I couldn’t start this series of blog posts without mentioning something that I have talked about in the past, while trying to redefine my own Social Web experience, and which from there onwards it’s now pretty much shaped how I view things with regards to technology, connectivity, and all things social, whether attending conference events live or not. I guess, at this point in time, if you have been reading this blog for a while now, you will see where I am heading, but, to be honest, I couldn’t kick-off this series of entries without commenting what, to me, has been one of the major highlights from the overall conference events from last week: once again, and for the zillionth time, the conference wi-fi connectivity throughout the entire week failed big time. Appalling. A mega fail, actually, if I may add!

So, why am I saying that incident was one of the most powerful and empowering highlights from the overall event? Am I crazy? No. Not really. At least, not anymore. If you folks remember, there used to be a time when I tended to get really upset whenever I would be attending technical conference events and the wi-fi connectivity would not be working accordingly to meet up the expectations we all had. Not that I would want to constantly be connected to the Social Web for my own purposes, but, essentially, because for the vast majority of the occasions I always was very keen on sharing along, through live tweeting, further insights and additional thoughts that those of us, who were privileged enough to be there in person, could share with those who didn’t have that opportunity.

Over time one comes to the conclusion that in today’s world it’s almost impossible to host and organise a technical conference without taking for granted that the wi-fi connection will fail. Even for IBM itself. I am saying almost, because there are a couple of exceptions where really relevant events have managed to make it happen consistently over the course of time without failure and the experiences have been phenomenal, for both folks attending the event live and those watching from the distance. Yet, for the vast majority, they haven’t been able to make it consistently. And, once again, IBM has fallen into that trap as well, once more.

Why am I saying “once again”? Well, because, if you folks would remember, last year the connectivity throughout the entire week of Lotusphere was just absolutely brilliant! Yes, there were a couple of hiccups here and there, but overall it was just fantastic! So energising and refreshing seeing how your own employer can get it right with regards to providing a beautiful experience to help connect the dots, those physical and virtual ones, that I guess I was expecting too much this year. You know, if you set up the standard that you know how to make wi-fi work at large conferences, and you succeed big time!, the least I am going to expect is that in following, sub-sequent years you would be able to keep up with that expectation and meet, once again, that standard. No rocket science, right?

Thus what happened this year then? Not sure about all of the details, and I doubt I would ever get to find out more about them, but I can tell you what happened. None of my iOS devices managed to get connected throughout the entire week. None of them! And that means that, for the vast majority of the event, I was in the dark. Frustrated and irritated? Upset and extremely disappointed? Furious that, once again, we have gone back to square one? No, I wasn’t. You know, when life gives you lemons, the best thing you can do is do some lemonade! And that’s just exactly what I did. And, boy, I had a blast the entire week making it one of the best conference events I have attended in a long long while! What happened then, right?, you may be wondering …

Well, this is what happened… I no longer get stressed about that lack of connectivity, nor upset, irritated, frustrated, disappointed, gutted, and whatever else that, once again, the whole world would be missing out seeing Lotusphere, or whatever the event, through my eyes. Yes, a few weeks back, while on holidays, I decided it was no longer worth it stressing about it, losing focus from the real thing, that is, attending the event live!, and perhaps be that loud mouth that no-one wants to keep hearing telling the same thing over and over again. That’s why now I only give it about 15 minutes at the beginning of the event to try to get connected to the Social Web. If it works, great! If it doesn’t, right away I lose the motivation to keep trying and I move on, never coming back. I am done with the negativity and the subsequent frustration that typically comes out as a result of not being connected. Time to move on then …

And that’s why, while I experienced the same disappointing behaviour of not having a working wi-fi connection while at Lotusphere, I remembered this absolutely brilliant article by Mary K. Pratt, over at CIO.com, under the suggestive title “How to Get the Most Out of IT Conferences” where she shares plenty of amazingly good insights on how to get the most out of technical events without having to rely on being connected to the Web. What a great idea! Taking conferences back into the time where we were all involved with a completely different game altogether. Meeting people face to face, and engage on what, as of late, has become one of my favourite activities when I attend live events: physical social networking. It cannot get any better than that! In that article, Mary gets to share hints and tips from various different angles, which I thought would be worth while sharing over here, so that you could see how that game can change for the better, without the hassle, nor the frustrations:

  • Know Your Purpose
  • Do Your Homework in Advance
  • Learn to Network, The Right Way
  • Put Yourself Out There
  • Create Your Own Opportunities
  • Recap and Reach Out
  • Have a Post-Game Plan

Of special interest for folks out there would be the sections “Learn to Network, The Right Way“, as well as “Put Yourself Out There”. Specially, with golden nuggets like this quote:

But networking isn’t about how many business cards you can hand out and collect. Rather, it’s about  building relationships and finding ways to help others. [...] “Networking is the art of building and maintaining connections for shared positive outcomes

Or this other one:

It’s tempting to spend downtime fiddling with your iPhone, but checking email or downloading an app won’t advance your career. So put away your smartphones and laptops and find ways to be more engaged in the event

And that’s exactly what I did! I put down my iPhone and my iPad and started embarking on some pretty massive offline social networking talking and conversing with as many people as I could possibly find and bump into. Whether they were folks I knew from the past, or just recently met, or just got introduced to them, I basically pretty much didn’t stop networking throughout the entire week! And that was just absolutely delightful!! Even if I didn’t have enough physical hours to meet up with all of the folks I wanted to talk to and catch up with!!

That’s when it came to me the realisation that perhaps we need to look with fresh new eyes into how we participate at live conference events. Take for a fact that the wi-fi connection will fail, what’s next? Well, to me, from now onwards it’s going to remain pretty much exactly like I did during the course of last week: network, network, network!

Knowing that there would always be replays for some of keynote and breakout sessions through the live streamed recordings, knowing as well how the vast majority of the presentations would be made publicly available has certainly helped a lot as well in another aspect that I wasn’t really aware till I faced it myself. How many times have you been engaged on an amazing conversation with other fellow attendees, to then realise you need to dash off quickly into the next breakout session. Then the heat of the moment is gone, and the conversation dies right there?!? Far too many times, don’t you think? Well, I missed a bunch of sessions just because of that! I made a conscious choice that I rather prefer to have the human contact, that human touch of the conversation, that sparks that inspiring moment you know you can bump into while meeting other people and be wowed big time than rushing off from one session to another. And it was the perfect choice!

Because over the course of the entire week I have been involved in quite a few amazingly deep conversations on the topics of Social, Adoption, Enablement, Collaboration, Knowledge Sharing, Communities, Learning, you name it, and right now my head is spinning with plenty of ideas that I would want to share over here across with you folks, as reflections, in multiple upcoming blog entries. I guess that’s probably the main point of “Recap and Reach Out, that Mary mentioned in her article, while jotting down these thoughts over here in this blog, which, in a way, doesn’t sound like such a bad idea, don’t you think?

Perhaps that’s my own way to contribute, from here onwards, into the Social Web after attending all of these conference events and see that, since we are not going to be connected, we may as well do something much more productive: stay focused, learn, engage, converse, practice and truly live offline social networking! The Social Web is always going to be there. You might not have another chance of meeting those people, face to face, you are learning from a great deal any time soon! So you may as well take the chance and dive right in!

And that’s exactly what I did! As frustrating and irritating as not having good, reliable connectivity last week at Lotusphere was (By spending those 15 minutes to get connected initially) like I said above, this year, the event has been one of the very best yet to attend and learn plenty more about all things Social, as well as the Social Enterprise.

The most rewarding bit from the overall event was the huge amount of conversations I had with plenty of customers, and business partners, who were very keen on sharing their success stories, their experiences with adoption, their journey to become fully socially integrated enterprises and their passion for helping drive, redesign and redefine the future of the workplace for the corporate world of the 21st century. Not just for their businesses, but also for their own customers’!!  In short, to me, Lotusphere and IBM Connect this year have demonstrated clearly how the conversation has moved from the trying to justify the WHY and the WHAT (Yes, the sempiternal set of inhibitors, showstoppers and ROI related questions) into the more socially transformational the HOW. Biggest key takeaway for me so far has been having learned from them all so much in over the course of one week than the last six months of trying to catch up with the Social Web. Yes, indeed, and I should be grateful to the lack of connectivity to be able to do that, because, from now onwards, I will be coming back for more!

Now, I just need to ensure I do justice to all of those folks I talked with and learned from, as they are about to be featured on upcoming blog posts, from yours truly, where I will be sharing their story, which I guess is just probably as good as it gets… Applying storytelling and narrative to business, and, in particular, solving business problems through the lens of Social. Who would have thought about that, right? As interconnected and networked as we are, we are back to basics: sharing and learning plenty more from one another and from our own stories that we keep telling while meeting up face to face, something that even the Social Web would never be capable of replacing. And perhaps it shouldn’t. It makes us all much more approachable, closer, engaged, in short, humane and that is a good thing!

Thank you much, Lotusphere and IBM Connect, for enabling and facilitating a new, refreshing view for yours truly on how to get the most out of technical conferences from now onwards …

Ohhh, by the way, seeing Ok Go! play live in front of an engaged and riveted audience of several thousand geeks blasting out quite an amazing tunes and positive, energetic vibes surely was one of the major highlights as well! :-D

IBM Lotusphere & IBM Connect 2012 - Orlando, Florida

IBM Lotusphere & IBM Connect 2012 - Orlando, Florida

Jan 26, 2012
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