Well not really of course, but lets face it, it’s an interesting way to start an article about a conference that will be held just short of German October Fest in the heart of Munich. Especially knowing that I might be Dutch but work for an Austrian/German company and just happen to have a dirndl (don’t ask, it was a dare)….
So what am I really talking about? I’m of course talking aboutSocial Connections. The user group for users working with Connections (what was formerly known as IBM Connections). This event is organized roughly every 6 months somewhere around the globe and brings together customers, partners and HCL to talk about and present about the platform. Most importantly though this time is special as it will be the first major event completely focused on the Connections platform since the announcement of the sale of the platform to HCL. It’s also being touted by HCL itself as a flagship event and THE place where they will be talking about the plans they have for the future. Some of which has already been discussed at the Factory Tours and other events as well of course….
To be honest, it has been a whirlwind. Of impressions, of meeting new people, of learning LOADS of new stuff, of getting really excited about the new product which is going to be launched next Monday (at Social Connections :)) and of getting my feet back on the ground.
Sometimes in life you need to take decisions without knowing where they will lead and when I did so a few months back in deciding to say goodbye to my old job I really wasn’t sure yet what the future would bring. I think I can now safely say I made the right decision.
It is amazing to work with passionate people and somehow I’ve always had luck in landing in really good teams. In that respect the panagenda crew is definitely not an exception! On top of that, working with a company that not only does consultancy but is very strong in delivering software products is a totally new and thrilling experience to me. Seeing how fast ideas and concepts get transferred by the development team from thought to real live, operational products is mind boggling and stirs all the creative impulses I have.
So yes, I am really enjoying working with panagenda. My German is improving rapidly (as is my previously non-existing knowledge of Austrian/Bavarian dialect) from all the chats flying across in the various online conversations and I’m starting to find my place in this new, mostly virtual work environment (my nearest coworker is a good 470km from here).
I’m also really happy about my ‘other team’: Social Connections, with which we will be organizing the 10th Social Connections user group event in Toronto this Monday & Tuesday. As we speak (Friday night) most of us are still finishing last minute arrangements and answering last minute requests from attendees before heading off to Toronto tomorrow. With panagenda being spotlight sponsor and ConnectionsExpert being launched there it truly will bring together two very important sides of my life so I can’t wait! Being able, on top of that to do a session with Francie Tanner about adoption & innovation is just the icing on the cake 🙂
After not having traveled much over the last few months it is promising to shape up to be quite a busy fall this year!
21st/22nd of September – London:
In little over a week I will be attending ICON UK, the UK user group for IBM software users where I will be co-hosting a session with ICON UK organizer Tim Clark on the art of requirements gathering as well as doing a session on my own about file & document management in IBM Connections. ICONUK is a great conference with a fantastic lineup of speakers and I’m really honored to be accepted to be among them. The conference is held at the IBM Client center in the heart of London which is a fabulous location right next to the London Eye. If you haven’t booked a ticket to go yet, do it now. This is one you don’t want to miss!
28th of October – Zürich:
Another user group which I will be attending and speaking at is SNoUG, the Swiss user group for users of IBM/Lotus Notes/Domino, Connections and WebSphere products which will be help in the IBM Client center in Zürich. The session I will be doing here will be focused on the question what to use when it comes to file management in IBM Connections and the differences between the different options like CCM and community files. Andrew Magerman is doing a great job making SNoUG into a a worldclass event and I’m definitely looking forward to going there!
5th/6th of November – Stuttgart:
And last but certainly not least I will be attending Social Connections in Stuttgart. I’m hoping to get a session slot there too but more importantly I will be helping out around the conference. After not having had the time to be involved with the Social Connections team for the last three episodes of this great conference I’m very happy to report that I’m back on the team. It is humbling to see how much this team has done and achieved in the last two years and the conference in Stuttgart is definitely shaping up to be one of the biggest ones to date.
Apart from these three conference I will also be traveling for work so all in all it will be a busy and exciting couple of months for me and I hope to see many of you at one of these great conferences or during the other work related trips I will be taking this fall.
The 5th Social Connections in Zurich last Friday was a great success. It is always a joy to see when things come together and they certainly did this time!
I flew out of Schiphol airport on Wednesday night after dropping off my car at the massive car park to meet up with the rest of the Social Connections team in the Zurich airport arrivals lounge for a short commute to the hotel. A celebratory drink ensued as this was the first time in over 4 months we’d been together. Most people don’t realize this but all the organizing of these events is done primarily through social media, mail, a Greenhouse community and Skype. Due to the geographical dispersion of the team (England, Wales & The Netherlands) most of us only get to see each other during the events themselves so in a sense they are our little reunions too.
Thursday morning started with a very early arrival at the IBM Client Centre at the “Vulkanstrasse” (“vulkan street” or as the English SatNav hilariously called it: “VulkanSTRESS”) for our first glimpse of the venue.
We’d seen pictures but it is almost impossible to get a really good impression and always a bit nerve wrecking to not have seen a location until you get there. Luckily it turned out to be a fantastic location with more then enough room for our 11 sponsors and the 185 people we were expecting.
First thing required was to prepare one of the three auditoriums for the Michael Sampson Masterclass on collaboration strategies that would kick off the two days of Social Connections as the first of the 16 participants for this masterclass were expected to arrive around 8:30am At 9am sharp the masterclass started.
At this point it was time to start inspecting the materials that had been ordered and delivered to Zurich ahead of time and start preparing for the Friday event. I won’t go into details but it involves a lot of tedious work folding folders, creating & sorting badges, checking and back-checking lists, then editing those lists and checking them again and handling lots of mails with last minute questions from participants. Culminating in setting up the sponsor area and sponsor booths and discussing the best possible layout and locations for each of the sponsors (the closeness to the catering forms an important factor).
You might be surprised but this took a 7 person team (thanks Brian, Klaus and Nathan!) most of the day. So after a full day of preparations it was time to head over (through Zurich rush hour) to the other side of Zurich for a short inspection of the Friday night dinner venue, and another traffic jam filled mad dash back into the city to the hotel. Where I had just enough time to change clothes – and head back down to the hotel lobby for the Speaker/Sponsor dinner. Our speakers & Sponsors are what makes Social Connections possible so having this complimentary dinner is our way of saying ‘thanks!’ to them. It was great to see no less then 47 of them where there for this occasion and that many of them were first time speakers/sponsors. I my eyes that diversion shows just how vibrant this community really is!
At around 1am it was time to head back to my room for some last minute mails (things I thought of during the dinner) and one last round of editing of my slides and then it was time for lights out. The alarm would go off at 6am.
Arriving at the IBM Client Center at 7:15 on Friday morning, it was time to get ready. Instruct the volunteers, help sponsors to their stations, welcome speakers and guest and getting ready for the opening. After having told the speakers several times to NOT forget their AVG and power adapters it of course was no surprise that I had forgotten it myself. Luckily Michael Sampson – organized and perceptive as he is – produced one before I even noticed I had forgotten it.
The day was started by a welcome by Stuart McIntyre, a few notes from me on the days logistics and a general welcome by Peter van Buul, Sales leader for IBM Switzerland. Followed closely by an excellent opening Keynote by Heidi Ambler, Director of Social Computing at IBM.
It is very special sitting there looking around and realizing that the day that we’ve been working on for so long is finally there and that people from all over the world (we had people traveling in from locations as far as South-Africa, Japan, Australia, Russia and Saudi-Arabia!) are there to enjoy it. That really is the moment when you realize what you are doing it all for!
The day flew by in a flurry of conversations, checking up and making sure everything was ok which unfortunately also means that I didn’t get a chance to see many of the sessions myself. I made sure though that I got to see the great “Pardon the interruption” panel with Louis Richardson, Michael Sampson, Brian O’Neill, Sandra Buhler and moderated by Stuart McIntyre as well as Helen Crumble’s excellent Case Study session on SSP’s -no pilot- implementation of IBM Connections. After closing the program off with the Keynote by Michael Sampson on collaboration strategies & adoption it was time for a group photo (a tradition started in Amsterdam) and then the drinks reception and speed sponsoring.
There were some excellent prizes to be won during the speed sponsoring although some prizes posed a bit of a problem (how do you get a bottle of excellent Tasmanian wine safely back to Japan?!? And what do you do when you win a Swiss army knife but only have carry-on luggage?!?) but all was solved in the end (the wine was consumed, the knife will be send by mail).
Social Connections wouldn’t be Social Connections if it didn’t include a ‘social’ component too so after the speed sponsoring a double decker bus was ready to bring those that had registered for it to the Lake Side restaurant for a fantastic dinner with a view over lake Zurich. A great way to have some quality time discussing the day with those you’ve just met. At 22:45 the bus waited for us to take us back to the IBM Client Center & hotel while others choose to head into town for some extended Zurich night life.
At 23:30 we dropped off the last people at the Client Center with the bus and returned to the hotel lobby bar. And that is the moment when you sit back as a team, smile at each other and finally relax. It’s done, and it was marvelous.
Organizing these events is a long and not always easy process. It involves lots of discussions, phone calls, mails, thousands of Skype conversations and a fair amount of sleepless nights. It also involves a team of people to do this as this absolutely is a team effort.
I feel very fortunate to be a part of this excellent team that helps organize Social Connections. It’s the diversity and different angles we all bring in that make each one such a success.
So a big Kudos to Stuart McIntyre, Simon Vaughan and Sharon Bellamy for allowing me to be a part of that amazing team for the last three Social Connections. It’s their friendship and humor that have often kept me sane & going and seeing them is as if we never said goodbye…
also a BIG thanks to all the volunteers (Sandra, Rachel, Brian, Klaus, Christian, Nathan and many others…), to the speakers (without whom we wouldn’t have a program!), the sponsors (who make it possible) and not in the least all the participants… You make Social Connections a success!
I got home from the many ‘stresses’ (that SatNav kept cracking me up) of Zurich on Saturday feeling a bit lost and lonely. I will have to wait another few months before I get to see my friends again. Luckily I don’t have to miss them completely and Facebook, Twitter and Skype have already fired up again (after going quiet for a few days while we were onsite).
Social is what keeps it going and Social is what makes Social Connections tick!
If only I could remember where I parked my car now….
After months of preparations, endless Skype chats, mails and phone calls, lots of hard learned lessons and some of the funniest situations I’ve found myself in ever, Social Connections IV, the IBM Connections user group event is now a fact. It was a lovely day with great speakers, fantastic sponsors and most importantly with lots of people there to make it real, to make that social connection….
Sitting on my couch going through the pictures, the tweets and the blog posts written about it I can’t help but be proud of what we as a team managed to get together. It was so much better than I could ever have hoped for. Thank you everyone but especially Stuart McIntyre, Sharon Bellamy, Simon Vaughan, Jon Mell and Janneke Kamhoot for what you guys have done. It was a fantastic day!
getting ready for opening session & keynote…
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.