Category Archives: conference

Notes from GBS Learning Week

I just got back from the GBS Learning Week conference held at White Oaks (Niagara-on-the-Lake), and I wanted to write down my notes before plunging back into e-mail and the daily routine. Here’s a brain-dump just so that I get everything out there. I’ll refine some points into blog posts later.

Ideas for improving networking at conferences:

  • People should get the attendee list beforehand. This would be even cooler if we could help people set up networking sessions. The Technical Leadership Exchange conference had some meeting places set up beforehand, but the 4,000+ attendee list was a bit overwhelming. If the attendee list could be mashed up against your contact list and some kind of social recommendation system, then it might be more manageable. Calendar, too?

Main tent, second time: (~200 people)

  • The value of keeping it fresh
  • Adding humor: illustrating generational change through VCR joke. “It used to be that you could tell if you were on the wrong side of the generation gap if your VCR said 12:00. Now, it’s if you know what a VCR is.”
  • Relaxing and connecting with the audience
  • Video
  • Slides: images are very flexible. I didn’t change my slides, I just changed my content and delivery.
  • People liked my presenter remote because it provided good feedback when advancing slides, it had intuitive controls, it had fantastic range, and it had a slim, dark profile.

Web 2.0 tools, third and fourth times: (~15 + 10)

  • I took responsibility for follow-up
  • I used the talk as an opportunity to collect data
  • I changed it from a list of ten things to a multiple-choice quiz to help people think about how they were currently doing things
  • I could really use two easels next time
  • Maybe I might have a webcam watching the audience, to aid with counting and improvement?

Main tent, first time: (~ 200)

  • Not having text means being able to drop in even better statistics and references on the fly
  • Speaker notes are terrific
  • River metaphor frequently cited afterwards
  • Good joke about half-empty, half-full room

Web 2.0 tools, first and second times: (~ 30 + 15)

  • Back to back sessions are hard
  • People liked my energy
  • Second session was a bit tougher than the first – people may be tired, too
  • Need time in between sessions to mingle and recharge
  • Still good, though!

Sowing Seeds: A Technology Evangelist’s Guide to Grassroots Adoption (~20)

  • Remote presentation early in the morning – doubly-tough!
  • Liked the webcam part – Sametime Unyte has added this, but it’s not available for IBM early adopter accounts yet
  • I need to work on this. Who am I being that people’s eyes are not lighting up?


  • My notebook of business ideas turned out to be useful
  • Random sources of ideas: phone book, StumbleUpon, HalfBakery, good questions
  • One of my strengths that I should build on


  • Bernie Michalik told me about two funny IBM ads: “Websphere isn’t for dummies” and “Should’ve called IBM Global Services here.” I can’t find the originals, though. =(
  • Between my own presentations and some client-related work, I didn’t get to attend many presentations. I’m glad I got to see Jean-Francois Barsoum’s presentation, though. He was funny! Particularly clever things I want to steal: roadrunner running across the screen, and a good illustration of the impact of government policies: the Haiti/Dominican Republic border showing the effects of deforestation. I may also find an excuse to use a fake Powerpoint end screen. Also, during the Open Space thing, he used his cellphone to record people summarizing the points, and he played it back during the wrap-up. Terrific idea – showed diversity of input while getting the points across. He recorded a video and put it up on YouTube, actually.
  • Ruth McLenaghan recommended the book “I Can See You Naked”.
  • Met a number of recent hires (same cohort), like Nancy Gabor and Sameer Gupta).
  • Promised to follow up with people through e-mail, will need to get some kind of mailing thing going
  • Difference between culture (how things get done around here) and climate (how we feel)
  • 5y half ValuesJam gone, good way to illustrate
  • Interest in rotational assignments
  • Utilization versus skill development
  • Blue Consulting?
  • Interest in employee engagement, future leadership development

GBS Learning Week: First set

I think it’s amazing that I get to talk about my favorite tools and encourage people to try things out. I’m at the GBS Learning Week in Niagara-on-the-Lake in order to present "The Top Ten Web 2.0 Tools Every IBM Consultant Should Try," and I’m scheduled to do it four times over two days. I’m also giving part of the keynote presentation–a short segment on the demographic revolution, given twice over two days. Oh, and I’ve got an early-morning presentation on Tuesday, an unconference session to facilitate, and another Web 2.0 teleconference workshop on Friday.

I am so going to earn that massage.

I did the first set of presentations today. About thirty people attended the first session, and about fifteen people attended the second.

Back-to-back sessions are tough. I felt more comfortable with the first session because I could chat with the audience before starting. The second was a bit more difficult because I didn’t want to wait too long, but that meant that people filtered in during the start of the presentation. Next time, I’m going to give myself more time between presentations so that I can grab a drink of water, chat with people, and reset myself.

Good stuff, though. I’m tempted to radically restructure the presentation as a story. Might be worth trying–and it’ll be fun! I should ask the organizers if I can get the feedback forms from the first day separate from the feedback forms from the second day. After all, how many times will I get to test presentation styles with the same layout, same type of audience, same timeslot, and things like that? =)

Ooh, this will be fun.

blue horizon 2008: My first IBM keynote!

Aaron Kim, Bernie Michalik, Jennifer Nolan and I gave the keynote presentation at blue horizon 2008, the main conference for GBS Canada. With 700 people in the Toronto Sheraton Centre’s Grand Ballroom, it was one of my largest presentations–and one of my best. I learned a lot preparing and delivering the presentation, and I’m glad I didn’t back out.

I felt anxious about the keynote because we hadn’t had a lot of face-to-face time to prepare for the four-part presentation. Because of the Best Practices Conference, the Technical Leadership Exchange, and the Web 2.0 Summit, I had hardly any time to work on my part of the presentation, much less rehearse it together with the others. After agreeing on the general structure for the presentation, we split up and worked individually. I took the section on the Demographic Revolution because it was something I was interested in and I could use some of the research I’d done for my TLE talk on I.B.Millennials. Four days before the keynote, though, I still hadn’t nailed down the words for my part of the presentation. As we rehearsed, I experimented with what I wanted to say and how I wanted to say it, listening to myself to find good ways to say things. If my teammates were worried about the way I kept saying things differently each time we ran through the content, they didn’t let their nervousness show.

I was nervous about a different thing, too. I like highly interactive sessions, but our presentation would have no opportunities for questions or insights from other people. I wasn’t sure if I’d have enough light to see people react. While giving a presentation, have you ever felt hyper-attenuated to the audience, listening with an almost physical reaction to people as you’re sharing your thoughts? That feeling is one of the things I love about speaking, and I wasn’t sure if I could get into that zone with such a large audience. I was afraid that I might be oblivious to people’s reactions.

On Sunday–one day before our big show–I mindmapped my speech and added keywords to my speaker notes. After sending my presentation to my teammates, I threw a suit into a bag and dashed to the hotel. I checked in for one night and left my clothes in the hotel room. I then headed to the hall to meet up with Aaron, Bernie, and Jen. We rehearsed the entire presentation three times. Each time, it got smoother and smoother. I even practiced getting up on the tall stools on the stage. I didn’t want to trip in front of all of those IBMers! Not the best way to become memorable… =)

Monday was our big day. I ironed my suit and made it down in time to grab some breakfast, hoping that I wouldn’t have any problems on stage. After the opening speech, we went on stage. Then there was nothing to do but reach out and connect.

I loved listening to my team members’ parts. Somehow, things came together in the two days we’d rehearsed. When it was my turn, the speaker notes helped me remember all the points I wanted to make, and my presenter remote allowed me to step away from the podium. There was a hiccup when Aaron’s laptop ran out of power, but the backup computer that Aaron had brought along (hard-won experience!) got us through the rest of the presentation. Bernie ended up speaking without notes, and he didn’t seem fazed at all.

I’m glad I was part of that presentation. It stretched me and made me want to learn even more about giving presentations and reaching out to hundreds of people. I want to get even better at sharing that energy, that fire. So–relentless improvement!

What worked:

  • Presentation style: The four of us agreed to use large pictures to give our presentation a distinctive and consistent style. Aaron used Keynote to make it pretty. (It made me want to get a Mac just for presentations!) 
  • Metaphor: I used the metaphor of a river to describe the demographic challenges of the North American workplace. It wasn’t easy to find just the right image. I knew I wanted a wide river with a narrow middle part, but how do you search for something like that? I searched for rivers, river necks, bottlenecks… Eventually, I found a Creative Commons Attribution-licensed Flickr photo of a river canyon. I cropped and magnified the section that looked like what I wanted. The resulting image was obviously pixelated, but I just couldn’t find any other image that resembled the one I had in mind.
  • Transitions: Our speech connected well with the other keynote speeches and the advertisements. We couldn’t have planned it better. We knew a little bit about the theme beforehand, and we tapped into the zeitgeist.
  • Technology: My totally awesome Logitech presenter remote meant that we didn’t have to worry about being behind the computer to control the slides. It beat the infrared Mac remote, which only worked with certain angles.
  • Preparation: When the main computer died, Aaron’s backup Mac saved the day. The lack of speaker notes didn’t bother Bernie at all. Good work!

What I can do to make this even better next time:

  • Watch out for in-jokes: We assumed people would understand the elephant pictures as references to Gerstner’s “Who Says Elephants Can’t Dance?”. People who weren’t familiar with IBM’s history picked up negative associations, though.
  • Learn from other people’s successes: Aaron’s preparation of a backup computer and Bernie’s smooth transition are two things I’d like to emulate.
  • Get a Mac? ;) Just for Keynote?

That was fun!

TLE 2008: I.B.Millennials: The Net Generation and Those Who Recruit, Hire, Work With, Manage, and Sell to Us

Last Tuesday, April 8, I gave a presentation on “I.B.Millennials: The Net Generation and Those Who Recruit, Hire, Work With, Manage, and Sell to Us” to around 60 people at the IBM Technical Leadership Exchange in Orlando, Florida.

What did I do well?

  • Revision: I stayed up until 4:00 that morning, revising my presentation to improve the flow and include some of the ideas I got from conversations with people from all over IBM.
  • Energy: Because I stayed up so late, I was tired on Tuesday. I didn’t want to do a lackluster performance, so I napped during the session slot immediately before mine, and I had some tea afterwards. I reasoned that I could always listen to the playback of the session I had wanted to attend, but I wouldn’t have another opportunity to redo my session.
  • Presentation structure: After much thinking, I managed to find a good structure that made the presentation flow well. I used the power of three and alliteration throughout the presentation in order to make the presentation more coherent and memorable. I structured the characteristics as “changing childhoods, changing technologies, and changing workplaces”. I listed the challenges as “recruiting and hiring Millennials”, “working with and managing Millennials”, and “selling to Millennials”. Each challenge had three parts: “reach”, “ramp up”, and “retain”. Because of that structure, I hardly needed to glance at my slides to remember where I was, and I didn’t feel the urge to overload my slides with detail.
  • 30-second summary: I put in a 30-second summary at the beginning and end as a courtesy to people who wanted to attend several presentations or review the slides afterwards. This proved to be handy when some people dropped by to say hi and offer encouragement before my session, as I could give them the gist of my talk before they went to a different session. I think it’s a good practice.
  • Presenter remote: I used Jonathan Young’s Kensington presenter remote during my blogging talk at the Best Practices. I liked being able to step away from the podium, and I didn’t need to refer to my speaker’s notes. I also liked how the Kensington presenter fit my hand neatly. I found the same model at the Airport Wireless store in Newark, along with several other presenter remotes. I chose the Logitech presenter remote because it had a built-in timer with vibration alerts at 5 and 2 minutes, which is great in rooms without clocks. I bought it for $75 or so. If you want to buy it now, has it for $37.24 thanks to a mail-in rebate that ends on Monday, April 14. It looks like there are frequent rebate offers, so you should be able to find it on sale somewhere.
  • Stock images: Several people asked me where I got my illustrations. I got some free ones from Stock Exchange, and I got the rest of the images from The images typically cost $1 for a presentation-sized image.
  • Discussion: I knew that I didn’t have the historical perspective or the global perspective to give people the complete picture of Millennials, so I invited people to join the discussion by asking and answering questions. I had chatted with a number of people before the session started, so I knew that people had a lot to contribute. They freely shared their concerns, experiences, and insights. This resulted in a session that was not only more interactive than the jam sessions I attended, but also a lot more educational for all of us–myself included. I think this is a terrific way to do a session, as the speaker gets to learn a lot as well. There, Jim de Piante – I asked for help and I got it! =)

What can I do better?

  • More microphones: It seems my presentation style is highly interactive. Next time, I should request additional microphones so that people can be easily heard and recorded.
  • Better summaries: I need to get better at listening to what people say and quickly summarizing the key points for these recorded presentations.
  • Video recording: I want to save up for a high-definition video camera and a tripod so that I can share the material and improve my presentation skills. Jonathan Young’s setup was pretty good. He aimed the video camera’s LCD forward so that he could make sure he was in frame. Alternatively, I could ask a friend to take care of video recording.
  • Picture: I really should take pictures of my audience so that I can get a better count and so that I can recognize and thank people. Maybe I can ask someone to help me with that next time, so that I’m free to prepare other things I need for my presentation.
  • Audio and screen recording: I have Camtasia on my system, and there’s no reason why I can’t use it to record my non-TLE presentations. Next time!

That was a terrific experience. I’m looking forward to the next presentation!

TLE2008: Networking: A Workshop in Getting the Most from the TLE, Jim De Piante, part 1 of 2

I attended Networking: a Workshop in Getting the Most from the TLE, by Jim De Piante. The session was about becoming more comfortable with networking and learning how to network more effectively.  The key takeaways that more people need to hear are: everyone is a born networker; focusing on helping other people is a great way to get into the mood to network; and the best way to be interesting is to be interested.

It made me wonder how more people can feel the thrill of making a connection between two other people.  Maybe a conference or workshop could have a speed networking event and challenge people to make connections between the people they’d talked to. How would something like that work? Hmm…

His model of building relationships has three steps: create a relationship, cultivate a relationship, and help.  What I found interesting about that is that Web 2.0 tends to invert this process.  You’d start by helping people, directly or indirectly, and other people can then choose to cultivate that relationship with you. Funny, innit?

An audience member asked if networking wasn’t something that needed to be self-serving.  I think Jim handled that question well, pointing out that there’s a little bit of self-interest, but it’s altruism that really builds strong relationships. For people who feel negatively about networking because they’ve run into self-centered networkers or they think they need to be self-centered, I recommend two books: “Love is the Killer App” and “Make Your Contacts Count.” Both talk about the importance and benefits of reaching out and looking for opportunities to help people.

Jim also mentioned Stephen Covey’s point about emphatic listening.  He was careful to add that he was not advising people to fake interest, or to exaggerate signs of interest.  The trick to emphatic listening to actually be interested. When you meet someone, you’re looking for common ground.  On that ground, you can build common experiences, and on those common experiences, you can build a shared understanding–hence the value of small talk. 

I found the idea of looking for common interests to be interesting. I know it’s accepted wisdom, and I encourage people to make it easier to find common interests by sharing more about themselves. What I find interesting is that people’s interests still provide me with many opportunities to connect. First, I enjoy the exercise of applying ideas from one area to another. Second, I enjoy matching people within my network and carrying ideas back and forth, so if someone’s interests aren’t a match for me, they’re bound to be a match for someone in my network (or my future network). It all goes into my head (or my database, if I’ve been diligent), waiting for some future connection.

I have more to write, but I also like sleep, so – tomorrow, then!