Social Connections IV: milestones, challenges and an absolutely awesome team!

It has been a weird couple of months. As some of you might have noticed I haven’t been as ‘social’ as I used to be. Not that I didn’t want to, but simply because I was too busy. Busy with work and busy with organizing Social Connections IV, the IBM Connections user group event that is going to hit Amsterdam in 2,5 weeks time.

Today was a major milestone as with the 180th registration we hit a magical (and unexpected) record number of participants and the maximum we can accommodate this time. When we started organizing this event 5 months ago we set ourselves an ambitious goal to reach 150 participants. Ambitious as it would be almost 50% more then we had ever had before. With a location like Amsterdam though, with it’s international airport and its transport links to the rest of mainland Europe, we felt it was possible. And it turns out it is. Better yet, we passed it and even had to set a maximum at 180! Which we comfortable reached today.

I’m sure it is going to be fantastic. With 34 speakers delivering a staggering 28 sessions to attendees from all over the globe there is going to be enough to keep everyone interested. From deep-dive technical Cognos to High-level community management to practical ‘this is how we do it’ case studies.

The most important to me though is the fact that being at an event like this offers everyone the opportunity to really connect and interact with each other. Being able to share your Social Business experiences and challenges and hearing how others solve them, that is where for me the biggest benefit of attending any Social Connections event lies.

Organizing this has been a real learning experience for me in so many ways too… As a business consultant I’m not exactly used to haggling with event bureaus, ordering booth stands, attracting sponsors and speakers or designing printed materials but over the last few months I’ve done it all… and with great pleasure. It has been (and still is!) a roller-coaster ride but one I’m really enjoying and one I’m not facing alone. The Social Connections team is an amazing group of people without whom none of this would have been possible!

So heading into the last 2,5 weeks before the actual event I can see the finish line, but we’re not there yet. There are still wrinkles to iron out and last minute items to check but overall I think we’re ready. Ready to hit Amsterdam, ready to start Social connections IV.

I can’t wait to see so many of you there!

BLUG for Belux.. ehh BeNeLux Lotus User Group!

Yes, it has happened! As announced yesterday BLUG no longer stands for BeLux (Belgium and Luxembourg) Lotus User Group but now merges with the Dutch user group NLLUG to become the Benelux Lotus User Group!

I think this is great. As most of us who actively visit User Groups know, the one thing that any user group needs is a strong and preferable independent leadership. Someone who will give it their all to make it a success. Sometimes by one person, sometimes by a group of people. Marnix Kemme was that person for the Dutch Lotus user group NLLUG for years. He helped put NLLUG on the map with some really great user group events (who can forget the Keynote in the Amsterdam Arena!) but after he moved to IBM it became silent around NLLUG…. Too silent….

Trying to revive NLLUG a separate track was organized in the IBM Social Business event in Rotterdam last June. Offering user group sessions to customers as part of a larger social business convention. It was great after not having anything since 2010 but it simply couldn’t stand up to the great NLLUG events of 2009 & 2010 and as BLUG was already attracting lots of Dutch visitors it was time to move on. It’s something I’ve personally been feeling very strong about as I really feel that having user groups is important and from experience with Social Connections know first hand how much work it is. I can only be happy that Theo Heselmans and his team are taking on the challenge and I’m sure he will make the Benelux user group just as big a success as the Belgium one is!  At the same time I can only thank Marnix who has always tried his utmost best to keep NLLUG alive and even when his role as an IBM employee meant he had to take a step back still ensured it was not forgotten. From personal experience of working with him on the Social Business event I can only say he truly was Mr NLLUG and I also know he has played a big role in making this user group merger possible.

Times change, we change with them. It’s time for the new and in this case the new BLUG. Leuven prepare for the Dutch because we are coming to BLUG 2013!

 
red. BLUG 2013 will be held in Leuven, Belgium on March 21/22. For more information keep an eye on the BLUG site!

Saying goodbye to Dublin. Social Connections III truly social!

So it is over, a couple of hectic days are coming to a close in the Dublin airport coffee lounge while I’m awaiting my flight back to Amsterdam.

It was a great event in so many ways…

  • The great venue at the IBM Developer labs and the hospitality IBM and especially Fred Raguillat, Eamon Muldoon and Jon Mell showed us opening up their Innovation centre and auditorium, helping us organize this, navigating the bureaucratic hurdles and making us feel welcome at the heart of IBM’s Connections developers facility
  • Meeting so many familiar and new faces (over 100 people signed up!) from all over the world including places as far away as Norway, The United States, Brazil, Poland and Russia
  • The fantastic line up of speakers, eight of which IBM Champions, who delivered a staggering 21 sessions in 2 tracks all in one day
  • The new technical track that opened up Social Connections to a new more technically focused audience
  • The speakers dinner on Thursday night to thank all those wonderful speakers who invested their time and effort to share their knowledge with the community
  • The support and help we got from so many who make it possible to do things like recording the sessions and manning the desk (thanks to Jon, Jess & Huw)
  • The after event at the Guinness Storehouse where everyone could enjoy a pint & good meal while discussing all they had learned that day and practice that one thing that this is all about: building Social Connections.
  •  And last but certainly not least The absolutely wonderful sponsors: IBM, Sogeti, TimeToAct, TeamStudio, Connections101.net and Collaboration Matters without whom it would simply not be possible to organize all this free of charge to participants.

Organizing an event like this is daunting: “Is there a big enough audience for this to justify organizing it?“, “Will they come to Ireland?“, “Do we get enough good speakers?“, “What about sponsors??” and most importantly: “How do you coordinate something like this while none of the organizing committee are actually onsite, or even in the same timezone, until the day itself?!?

The answer to all this is simple, it’s pure dedication, community spirit (so many people and organizations contributed to this in so many big and small ways I can’t name them all) and using a host of social tools to collaborate. With such a globally dispersed organizing committee organizing something like this would simply not have been possible without the internet, chats, phone conferences, a wiki, communities, blogs, twitter and other social tools. After all, what better way to show the power of social connections and collaborations then to practice what you preach!

So… almost time to board and leave wonderful, generous and social Dublin. But I won’t have to wait for long as I hope Amsterdam will be just as wonderful and social come November 30th when it opens up its doors to host the next Social Connections user group event*!

I hope to see you all there for Social Connections IV!

Kudos to Simon Vaughn, Lisa Duke, Stuart McIntyre and Sharon Bellamy for making it all feel so effortless and making me part of a truly social and dedicated team.

 

*provisionally, awaiting confirmation of date & venue, keep an eye out for the SocialConnections.info site or the #soccnx hashtag on twitter!

BLUG, the unknown gem on my doorstep

BLUG, the annual Belgium/Luxembourg user group held in Antwerp was a great success and although Antwerp literally is only 45 minutes from where I live this was only my first BLUG.  It has left a big impression! We are more then a week on but I’m still going over it in my head.

It was a great event. The organization was excellent, the venue catered exactly to the needs of the event, the sessions, the speakers, the food, the socializing, the people, …. I could go on and on. Simplest to say: it just came together. Theo & staff did an amazing job and deserve all the credits (and MORE) everyone has been sending them!

BLUG to me was about learning, meeting people and discussing ideas. Being able to talk to and exchange ideas with so many that are right there in the trenches, implementing Social Business, learning as they go and muddling through all the caveats and problems that they, as true pioneers, encounter on their way. Because lets face it. Although we all talk about it it is still a relatively small contingent of modern businesses that are actually doing it.

That is the funny aspect with things like this. If you focus so much on it you start to lose sight on the larger picture and to be frankly, the larger picture is that a lot of our customers really haven’t seriously thought about implementing Social Business yet. So we try to show them the benefits, take them by the hand and help them grasp this great new concept of….what?

Social?!?“Well what is social, and more important why should I?!?

So I talked and I listened and I discussed. Debating ‘social’ on the social panel with Paul Mooney and Luis Suarez, listening to the Belastingdienst with their amazing business case (truly, if you get a chance to go see one of their sessions: DO! It’s worth it), IBM’s own business case as presented by Laurent Boes, talking to partners, community members and others during intermissions and delivering my own session…

It was all just one big roller coaster of impressions and ideas. And the one thing I found was that although the basic principles are more or less the same to everyone: Respect for the role of the individual within the business Eco-system and empowerment of the employee to participate and connect – the way people envision how it should be implemented still differs greatly.

Do you control, or not? Do you steer or do you let it evolve in itself? Do you need to change your corporate culture first or do you let the social process change your corporate culture? It all just depends on the people, the business and the situation. There is no ‘one size fits all’ when it comes to Social Business and although I already knew this, BLUG has certainly reinforced that to me.

I learned so much from so many these two days. Information I will be taking along to customers, in projects and to my own corporate social environment. So yes, my head is still spinning from two days of BLUG. It is sparking new thoughts, it is exciting and it is daunting. I still know so little and can learn so much. Thank god for events like BLUG, Social Connections, NLLUG, AUSLUG and many others like it for offering this to all those that want to improve their knowledge! Because let’s face it isn’t that what ‘social’ is all about? Connecting, sharing and collaborating!

BLUG March 22-23 in Antwerp

BLUG, the official Belgium – Luxembourg Lotus User Group has announced the line up for their annual user group event in Antwerp this March, and it is an impressive line up! With 44 sessions in 4 tracks (Development, Administration, Business and Sponsor track) and over 35 international speakers.

The event will be held in the Crowne Plaza hotel in Antwerp and admission is free.

For me it will be my first BLUG as I wasn’t able to attend last years. But hearing nothing but good about last years event I couldn’t miss this one! It’s an excellent way of learning, meeting and interacting with and about everything IBM has to offer on Social Business and Collaboration software.

Apart from attending I’m very honored to be a speaker as well. Doing a session on how to weigh company regulation versus personal individuality and how to get employees to be responsible partners in a Social Business.

So if you are in the neighborhood and interested in Social Business & Collaboration then I advise you to check the BLUG site out and register. Hope to see you there!

NLLUG May 15th & 16th Rotterdam (update 2)

Check your calendar and move those dates! NLLUG and the Social Business convention that were planned for April 17th & 18th in the Amsterdam Arena are now to be held on May 15th &16th in the Rotterdam ‘Kuip’. Home of soccer club Feijenoord and traditionally arch enemy of Ajax whose stadion was first booked for this event. Apparently there is a soccer fan at play here seeing as we are moving from one stadion to another but I’m sure it’ll turn out great as both venues have a lot to offer!

For one: It is a lot closer to home for me 🙂

NLLUG April 17th & 18th (site launched!)

 As I mentioned in my earlier blog NLLUG will be back this year as part of a larger Social Business convention on April 17th & 18th in the Amsterdam Arena. The official site just launched and although it still is very empty and doesn’t yet have any info on speakers & program I’m sure we’ll be seeing some major updates soon!
Keep posted.


Lotusphere Comes To You – February 22nd Silverside

It’s time for the annual Lotusphere Comes to You events! This year Silverside will be hosting one in Houten, The Netherlands on the 22nd of February. KeyNote speakers include Brian Cheng from IBM and Daan Quakernaat who will be speaking on building cathedrals.How that relates to Social Business? Come find out!

To see the program or to register visit our site at: http://silverside.nl/lotusphere/

Lotusphere…. what Social is about!

Just home after a very long day/night of traveling it’s finally time to do some reflecting on the past week. It’s hard to put into words what it is I’ve been experiencing this week and while writing this blog post thousands of images, experiences and faces shoot through my head that made this week so special. It was only my second Lotusphere but I felt at home there as if I had been there for at least 20 years. And most of that is due to the incredible community.

How strong that community is was probably best shown in the “NERD101 Spark ideas” session. A very a-typical session as it wasn’t about software or business, it was about life and life’s lessons. With 6 speakers chosen from the community talking about items that inspired them hoping to inspire others. The room was packed and it was a fantastic session. With some very personal stories.

Now what made it extra special to me was that on Wednesday I happened to find myself in the elevator with one of the outside press analysts specially invited. He was on his way out and we got talking (shortly). When I asked him how he’d found the Lotusphere experience and what had surprised him most he mentioned the Sparks session. He’d seen it in the schedule and visited it, not knowing what to expect. He loved the topics and the fact that there was a group of NerdGirls organizing it. But most importantly he was surprised to see how close a community we really are.

@CuriousMitch talking about ‘Get cancer, get social’

So although I’m sure that didn’t make it into his article I can’t help but feel proud of this. Social business is about getting people to work together and connecting in ways they haven’t tried before. Sometimes that means going off the beaten track and exploring new grounds. Having an purely inspirational session at a Tech conference, lead by the community and presented by the community is, in my eyes, definitely going off the beaten track. And I couldn’t think of a better community then the Lotus community to embrace it!

Lotusphere 2012 wasn’t just Social, it showed what Social is about!

Video's!

Just two of dozens of video’s popping up around the web that really caught my eye. Love how they give a sense of the great atmosphere around Lotusphere!

Lotusphere Arrivals

Lotusphere Closer

ps. Still searching for a video of the ‘PretzelCookie’  incident at CGS so if you got some video….post it!