"There are different kinds of conferences" as a friend of mine in the Social Connections team said to me in the bar the first evening of Social Connections 9. I know he both was and is right.
We had just arrived back from the VIP Reception held for speakers and sponsors at the Mercedes Museum where we took the tour and dined. The tour was quite interesting, even for me who yawns when people start kicking tires. Maybe I enjoyed it most because I'm interested in design and like "shiny things". And there were a lot of shiny, well designed things (cars) on display.
After the tour we gathered in the restaurant of the museum for a delicious dinner. 60 guests who were either speakers or sponsors for the event. Six degrees of separation did not apply here, the ones you didn't know, were only one or perhaps two steps away to get to know. I am always amazed on how this community continues to grow and how welcoming it is. Tight but also loose if you understand what I mean. Like an octopus ready to reach out to new friends with one of it's eight arms.
This was my fifth Social Connections but little did I know what this particular conference had in store.
The next day we arrived at 7 am to IBM and the venue in Ehningen right outside Stuttgart. There was still a lot to do before the registration opened. Signage for all the rooms, sort the badges for easy check-in, set up the registration desk etc. I also had to setup my own booth in the sponsor area where I would demo DomainPatrol Social for IBM Connections. Busy morning!
And BAM!, the bused arrived from the hotels. Immediately I took place in the registration desk with 2 of my coworkers in the Social Connections team. Check-in went well but a bit stressful. We handed out badges, welcome packages and a big SMILE to all attendees as fast as we could.
We then kicked off the conference with Opening General Session and immediately after that the keynote session "Working out Loud" with John Stepper from Deutsche Bank. A truly inspiring session about working in the open for others within the organization to get involved, to add wisdom, to receive feedback and contributions.
It was so rewarding to see how big the audience was. We had an all-time record with 270 registered attendees. Many months we've worked in the team to plan this event. To get people to register, to set the agenda, to work with IBM in Ehningen, to plan 2 evening receptions etc. And to finally see everyone together was a real kick.
The day went on with a lot of good discussions around the buzzing sponsor area. I showed our new release of DomainPatrol Social 8 to customers, resellers and IBM:ers. I was glad to understand that more and more customers are now long time users of IBM Connections and it was, as always, very interesting to hear about their success stories or troubles. I don't have to be shy to say that DomainPatrol Social solves many of those headaches administrators have on a daily basis.
We closed day 1 with the Speed Sponsoring Session. A returning well appreciated happening. The attendees are divided into groups and have 3 minutes in each booth where they get a short pitch from the sponsor about their products or services. It's always super fun and the adrenaline runs high among us sponsors. Can you say everything you want to say in under 3 minutes?! Of course we can! I won't tell you how to best do it, you have to experience it yourself. The extra good stuff for everyone is that there are many fine prizes to win at the end. What's not to like? For us sponsors it's the perfect way to get to talk to everyone. I am particulary glad that I had the best company in my booth to help me out. Mr Victor Toal, our reseller in the US.
After the speed sponsoring we jumped in a car and cruised bravely through and past the taffic jams surrounding Stuttgart on to the venue for the night's Gala Reception Sensapolis. Playtime! We had a couple of fun activities prepared along with dinner. Segway, a climbing wall and karting. After a welcome speach we kicked off the reception with buffet style dinner. I myself had sights set on the climbing wall, and as soon as I finished eating I geared up and went for the top. It was at least 10 years since I hung on a cliff wall last, so it's safe to say I was a bit shaky. But it went well!
When I wandered around all the tables afterwards I was very glad to see that it seemed like everyone was enjoying themselves very much! Good food, good friends, fun activities, good talks. A perfect way to end day 1 of the conference! When the party was over it was some sort of relief. Total success and stars all over the sky.
The next day was much busier for me in the booth. I could now reap the benefits of the Speed Sponsoring last night, when everyone wanted to hear more than the 3 minutes about what we had to offer. Lots and lots of good discussions and talks.
I also took time to visit René Schimmer's session What's coming in IBM Connections Next. It's always interesting to hear how IBM interprets the future and how to translate it into a communication software.
They day went by real quick and soon it was time to head for the airport much to soon because of the Lufthansa strike.
On the plane home I ordered a tiny bottle of Champagne and took some time to reflect over the last 2 days. I realised that I hardly remembered how my hotel room looked like, or the hotel itself for that matter. Nor did I remember the stressful moments in between things much. But what I really DO remember is all the laughter and fun moments I had. All friends I finally got to see again. All the smiles fired away in my direction. The nice feedback I got the day after the Gala Reception. For example one who came up to me and cheered almost like on a football match. The people in my booth telling ME how good my product is. (I know.. LOL). The discussions in the bar after the Gala Reception. And last but definitely not least the fabulous team that makes this possible. And the amazing fact that I am part of it. Like I said in the beginning: there are different kinds of conferences, and this one is one of the better kind.
Until next time.