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ITSC guide to conference awesomeness

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, event, presentation, sketches, speaking

Darren Hudgins liked my Shy Connector presentation a lot, so he asked me to put together some quick tips to share with the ~400 people at the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference. Here’s what I came up with:

ITSC Guide to Conference Awesomeness

They’re going to play it live at the conference at 12 PST. =) I’ve kept it short so that I can share a few quick tips and then get out of the way of all that awesome networking. It sounds like a great crowd.

If you’re here from the ITSC, you might also be interested in my sketchnotes from David Zach’s keynote. Click on the image to see the full version.

image

Here are other pre-ITSC conference networking tips I’ve shared:

For more networking tips, check out:

The Shy Connector

View more presentations from Sacha Chua.

(Also see my full notes for the Shy Connector presentation and other blog posts about connecting)

I made the video with the guide to conference awesomeness using Microsoft Onenote, Microsoft Powerpoint, a Lenovo X61 tablet PC, Camtasia Studio 7 (which doesn’t get along perfectly with the Windows 7 on my tablet). I’d love to go back to the free Inkscape drawing program for drawing if someone can help me figure out how to get it to smoothly digitize. =) Thanks to IBM for sponsoring this effort!

Follow me on Twitter (@sachac) for more updates. I’ll be around from 12 PM to 1 PM PST to answer questions or share other tips. Use the #itsc11 hashtag or mention me by adding @sachac to your tweet. If you’re here after February 21, feel free to leave a comment on this blog post for Q&A. Hope this helps!

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Lotusphere 2011 wrap-up

Posted: - Modified: | conference, ibm, lotus

This was my first Lotusphere, and it was a blast. Lotus has such an active, passionate, experienced community around it. Heading to the conference, my goals were:

  • [X] Learn more about Lotus Connections adoption and APIs
  • [X] Learn about IBM’s strategy and innovations
  • [X] Get a sense of the ecosystem around Lotus (partners, clients, etc.)
  • [X] Meet people and make personal connections
  • [X] Brainstorm and share insights
  • [X] Show my appreciation for the cool work people do
  • [X] Learn more about conferences and presentations
  • [X] Fulfill my room monitor responsibilities

Here’s what I took away from the sessions and BoFs I attended:

Clients are interested in collaboration and have lots of adoption insights. We’re starting to see interesting case studies from clients. In addition to reporting excellent returns on their investments, clients shared qualitative feedback, such as stories of pilot groups who couldn’t imagine giving up the tools. Successful clients used executive support, communication plans, mentoring, metrics, incentives, role models, and other techniques to help people make new forms of collaboration part of the way people worked. sketchnotes from the birds-of-a-feather session on adoption

LotusLive is awesome. LotusLive currently includes web conferencing and parts of Lotus Connections. LotusLive Labs includes a technical preview of LotusLive Symphony (collaborative document/spreadsheet editing), Slide Library, and Event Maps. (I wish I’d seen Event Maps when I was planning my Lotusphere attendance!) Granted, Google Docs has been around for longer than LotusLive Symphony, but I’m curious about the ability to assign sections for editing or review.

Activity streams and embedded experiences are going to change the inbox. I don’t know when this is going to go into people’s everyday lives, but the idea of being able to act on items right from the notifications will be pretty cool – whether it’s in an enriched mail client like Lotus Notes or a web-based activity stream that might be filtered by different attention management algorithms. It’ll be interesting to figure out the security implications of this, though. It’s already a bad practice to click on links in e-mail right now, so full embedded transactions might encounter resistance or might open up new phishing holes. Project Vulcan is worth watching.

People are already doing interesting things with the Lotus Connections API. Embedding Lotus Connections content / interactions into other websites, adding more information to Lotus Connections, using different authentication mechanisms… people are rocking the API. The compliance API that’s coming soon will help people do even more with Lotus Connections interactions, too.

The next version of Lotus Connections will be even cooler. I’m particularly excited about the idea blogs and the forum improvements, which seem tailor-made for the kind of collective virtual brainstorming we’ve been doing in Idea Labs. Idea blogs are straightforward – a blog post or question with comments that can be voted up or down – but they’ll go a long way to enabling new use cases. Forums will also have question/answer/best answer support.

Sametime Unified Telephony rocks. I need to find out how to get into that. I like click-to-call ringing everyone’s preferred devices, easy teleconferences, and rules for determining phone forwarding.

Lotus Notes and Domino are getting even more powerful. XPages looks pretty cool. I’ll leave the rest of the commentary on this to other bloggers, as my work doesn’t focus enough on Lotus Notes and Domino for me to be able to give justice to the improvements.

The Lotus ecosystem is doing well. Lots of activity and investment from partners and clients.

Analytics + research = opportunity. Interesting research into attention management, activity streams, social network analysis.

Lotus geeks are a world of their own. It’s amazing to spend time with people who have immersed themselves deeply in a technology platform for almost two decades. There’s a depth and richness here that I don’t often find at technology conferences. There’s also a lot of tough love – people like IBM, and they’re not afraid to call us out if we’re not clear or if we seem to be making mistakes. =)

Notes from conversations

The hallway track (those informal encounters and chance connections) resulted in great conversations. For me, the highlights were:

  • Being adopted by various groups – so helpful for this Lotusphere newbie! Special thanks to @alex_zzz>, @belgort, @billmachisky, @branderson3, @ericmack, and @notesgoddess for bringing me into fascinating conversations.
  • Andy Schirmer walking me through his task spreadsheet with eight years of task data summarized in some very cool graphs. I want to have data like that.
  • Talking to Hiro about crowdsourcing and sharing the cool things we’ve been doing with Idea Labs.
  • Seeing all these people I met online. Finally getting to meet Tessa Lau, Bruce Elgort, Julian Robichaux, Mitch Cohen, and other folks, too! It’s great to be able to connect with people on a personal level, thanks to blog posts and Twitter. (How do people manage to keep up to date and remember all of this stuff? I felt all warm and fuzzy when people congratulated me on the recent wedding, and I wished I remembered more tidbits about them. Working on that!)
  • Being reminded by David Brooks and other early adopters that I’ve been around from the beginning of Lotus Connections. (Okay, David did that in a BoF.) It seems Lotus Connections has always been around. <laugh>
  • Joining the geek trivia challenge. The questions about television and comics went way over my head, but it was good to spend time with other folks, and I had so much fun. Well worth needing to figure out how to get back to the Port Orleans hotel after the conference shuttle service ended.
  • Talking to Jeanne Murray and Rawn Shah about a personal maturity model for social business. Some ideas: control of recipients, trust, transparency, conflict resolution techniques, asymmetric knowledge of others, persona separation/integration, acceptance of change; overlap with leadership maturity models; context dependency of decisions…
  • Talking to Bonnie John about the politics of writing about process improvement. Interesting thing to untangle. More thinking needed.
  • Swapping tips on Gen Y life with Julie Brown, Alexander Noble (@alex_zzz>), Brandon Anderson (@branderson3), and others

If I get to attend Lotusphere again, I’d love to be able to stay at the conference hotel. It would be much more convenient and I’d be able to go to more of the evening get-togethers. The chances of my being able to attend again probably depend on how much of the Social Business adoption consulting we’ll get to do over the next year, and I hope we do a lot. I’d also make time to check out the showcase. I missed it this year, thanks to all that chatting.

Next actions for me

For work, I’ll probably focus on external Web 2.0 / social media site development while other groups figure out the structure for social business adoption consulting. I’m looking forward to learning from the case studies, insights, and questions that people have shared, though, and I’d love to do more work in this section.

Here’s what I need to do for post-conference wrap-up:

  • [X] Go through my index cards and write additional notes
  • [X] Contact people I met and follow up on conversations
  • [X] Catch up with work mail
  • [X] Catch up with personal mail
  • [X] Write further reflections
    • [X] Time analysis
    • [X] Appearance and bias
    • [X] IBM and women in technology
    • [X] Reflections on careers, loyalty, story, and alternatives
    • [X] Presentation reflections (time for questions, presentation style, rapport, morning sessions?)
  • [X] Plan my next steps

Other Lotusphere 2011 wrap-ups you might like: Chris Connor, David Greenstein, Luis Benitez (Day 1, Day 2, Day 3, Day 4, Day 5), Andy Donaldson, Marc Champoux (… where are the female bloggers’ writeups?)

See also: Lotusphere social aggregator, Planet Lotus, Twitter search for #ls11, Twitter/blog archive

2011-02-04 Fri 16:04

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Pre-conference networking tips for the Instructional Technology Strategies Conference

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, sketches, speaking, tips

This is for http://itsc.oetc.org . Thanks to Darren Hudgins for the nudge to make this!

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Draft Lotusphere BoF on working with the Connections API

| conference, ibm, lotus, presentation

My birds-of-a-feather session got voted into Lotusphere 2011, so I’m preparing some conversation starters.

What should we add to this? What should we remove? #ls11

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Blogging and conference networking tips

Posted: - Modified: | blogging, conference, connecting, tips

I promised to put together tips for networking at conferences. While sketching out my ideas, I realized that my conference experiences have probably been very different from other people’s. I had a blog before I started going to conferences, and it was perfectly natural for me to use that blog to share my conference notes. I’ve also spoken at most conferences I’ve attended, which really makes it easier to connect with other conference attendees. All the other tips I can share (custom nametags, easy-to-spot outfits, business cards, notebooks, etc.) are icing on the cake. If I can get people to make the big change to writing or speaking (or both!), that will do far more for the value they get from conferences than any little tip I can share about where to wear the nametag. (On your upper right, if possible, near your shoulder, so that people can see it when shaking hands; barring that, close to your neck, even if it looks a little weird, so that people can see it in their peripheral vision instead of having to obviously glance down.)

Blogging and speaking are probably the two most intimidating things I can ask people to do in this context. Speaking seems like the harder one. There are only so many slots, and people have such hang-ups around public speaking. But we’ve also terrified most people out of posting on the Internet because of all this fuss about personal branding and the infinite memory of search engines. I’m very annoyed about this, because I think so many “social media experts” have done us all a disservice by telling people they have to present a perfect image.

But this is what I have to work with. People might like a few connecting tips (conference conversation openers: don’t go for the dead-end “what do you do?” that requires creativity or coincidence to get the conversation going; instead, use conversations as a chance to learn about other sessions and other people’s experiences, and create excuses to follow up by promising to share notes or follow up on ideas). How do I get people to the point where they can make more radical changes, such as starting a blog – even if it’s only for conference-related things?

Here is a list of conference-related blog post ideas:

Before the conference:

  • What sessions are you planning to attend? Why? What do you hope to learn? Post titles, session descriptions, speakers, and your thoughts.
  • Who are the speakers? Have they shared any presentations or blog posts related to what you want to learn? Post links and what you’ve learned. This might prompt you to revise your plans.
  • Can you find other attendees? Link to their plans and connect with them beforehand.
  • How can you share your thoughts after the session? Share any plans for post-conference presentations or conference reports.
  • Is there a backchannel for connecting with other conference attendees, like a Twitter hashtag you can search for and use? What are the best ways of discussing what’s going on?

During the conference:

  • What have you learned from the sessions you’ve attended? What were the key points, and what are your next actions? You can do a few bullet points or paragraphs per session, and organize your posts by day. If you have detailed notes, you might post one entry per session. You don’t have to take notes on everything, but write down what inspired you or made you think, what questions you want to explore, and what you want to do based on what you learned.
  • What have you learned from the conversations you’ve been having? What are the other sessions you want to look into later? What experiences have other attendees shared? What actions have you promised for following up?
  • Who else has shared their conference notes? Link to them and share what you’re learning from them.
  • What’s working well for this conference? What could make it even better?

After the conference:

  • Overall, what did you learn from the conference? What were the most important insights and actions you took away?
  • What value did you get from the conference? Was it worth the time and effort you invested into it? If your conference attendance was sponsored by an organization, what value did that organization receive? (This is a good thing to include in your post-conference report so that you can increase your chances of attending future conferences. ;) )
  • What actions are you planning to take based on what you’ve learned?
  • Who else has shared conference-related resources? Link to them and share what you’re learning.
  • How did your post-conference sharing go? Share your consolidated report or your presentation notes.
  • What new sessions would you like to attend at the next conference? What would it take for you to learn and present those sessions yourself?
  • What were the results of the insights and actions you had because of the conference? What new things did you learn when you put them into practice?
  • Now that you’ve acted on what you’ve learned from the conference, what new value has your conference attendance given you and your organization?
  • What are you learning from your ongoing conversations with the people you met at the conference?
  • What worked well for you? How would you make your next conference attendance even more worthwhile?

See, there are tons of things to write about that don’t involve trivial things.

I can’t think of anything that’s a better fit than a blog. Twitter and tumblelogs are a start, but they’re not going to cut it. Too short, too dispersed. Facebook updates are too protected. You want these notes to be picked up by search engines so that you can connect with attendees, speakers, organizers, people from your organization, people who are interested in the topic, and so on. A blog is an excellent way to do this, and it’s easy to start one on a site like WordPress.com.

You might have two sets of notes: a fuller set of notes for personal or internal use, and a set of notes without confidential information that you can share on your blog.

Bonus: If you share your notes through blog posts, you’ve got an instant excuse for following up with anyone you met at the conference. Something like “Hi! Just a quick note to say that it was great to see you at CONFERENCE NAME. In case you find these useful, here are my notes from the conference: LINK.”

And if they like what you’ve written and they want to keep in touch, you don’t have to rely on the fragility of e-mail communications that can stop if one person forgets or doesn’t reply. People can subscribe to your blog and keep up with your future updates, even if the next post is only when you share your plans for attending another conference.

See? Blogging and conferences make perfect sense.

But I still have to figure out how to get people past that instant reaction of “Oh, I could never do that, I’m not a blogger, I’m not a public sort of person, I don’t have the time to do this,” and it’s hard because I’ve never had to get over that hump myself. Yes, there was a point in my life when I wasn’t a blogger, and I’m still not a very extroverted sort of person. But because conferences are a weird combination of energizing and draining for me, and because I can’t bear to waste all that time listening without doing and learning and sharing, and because I hate imposing on conference contacts by trying to build the relationship through personalized e-mails instead of just starting it off with a gift of notes and a low-key way to stay in touch if they want to… I can’t help blogging and sharing.

I’ve promised to put together this collection of tips on connecting at conferences. I’m going to keep trying to figure out how to explain this blogging thing, because I want people to learn a lot from conferences and make great connections. Onward!

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Conference tips: planning your attendance

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, tips

Make the most of your conference by planning which sessions to attend.

Think about your objectives. What do you want to learn? What will be useful in the long-term? If your organization is sending you to the conference, it’s a good idea to confirm your priorities, objectives, and session selections with your manager, and to be clear on what you should bring back from the conference.

Look speakers up. You can often get a sense of how interesting a speaker might be with a quick web search. Does the speaker blog? You’ll get a sense of their speaking style and depth. Does the speaker share presentations on sites like Slideshare? You may even find presentations similar to the one you’re planning to attend, which will help you make better decisions about whether you want to attend the session in person.

Consider the alternatives. Do you want to attend a presentation, or can you learn just as effectively from blog posts or articles? Depending on your learning style, you might find yourself fidgeting as a presenter explains something that you could’ve just read. Look for sessions on topics that haven’t been written about yet, or topics where you have plenty of questions. Keep an eye out for sessions that promise plenty of discussion time instead of taking up the entire session with a lecture. You’ll get more from your conference experience if you can ask questions and learn from other people’s questions.

Coordinate with others. Do you know other people who are planning to go to the conference? Coordinate your schedule with others so that you can maximize your coverage by exchanging notes. If your coworker is attending a session on one topic, you can attend a different one.

Identify Plan Bs. Plan alternative things to do or backup sessions to attend just in case a session finishes early, is rescheduled, or is a bad fit for you. (See my tips on the hallway track at conferences.)

Share your agenda. If you have a blog, consider posting your session choices and objectives there, omitting sensitive information as needed. This might lead to conversations with other people who are interested in the conference, other people who are planning to attend, and speakers who can help you figure out if a session is the right fit for you. Speakers might even modify their sessions based on what they read.

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Making the most of the conference hallway track

Posted: - Modified: | conference, connecting, tips

The informal conversations you have in conference corridors in between sessions can help you learn a lot more and connect with more people than the planned sessions do. Here are some tips to help you make the most of the hallway track.

  • Before the conference

    Prepare by looking up people’s names and faces. Make a list of people you want to meet at the conference, like the speakers you’re interested in listening to or other participants you want to chat with. Review their names so that you can recognize them when you read people’s nametags. If possible, look up people’s pictures, too, so that you can spot them in a crowd.

    Make time by managing expectations. The gaps between sessions are NOT the time to check your e-mail or join conference calls. Prepare for the conference by setting your coworkers’ expectations. You’ll get the most out of the conference – and you’ll have the most to bring back – if no one expects you to constantly check e-mail or be available for meetings. Block the time off.

    Make time by being ruthless with conference agendas. If you really don’t see any sessions you might be interested in, or if the session you’re in turns out to be a waste of time for you, leave and check the hallway track. If no one’s in the hallway, you can slip into anohter session you were interested in.

    Be easy to find. Plan to make it easy for people to find you so that they can continue interesting conversations with you or introduce you to other people they think you should meet. One of my friends wears a green blazer to conferences, so that he’s easy to find in a crowd. I wear a hat. Make it easy for people to connect.

    Plan to take notes and exchange information. Don’t waste the time you spend talking. Bring a notebook or a PDA that you can use to write quick notes. Bring business cards, too – they’re still the most reliable way to give someone your contact information as a physical reminder to follow up.

    Set up meetings with people you really want to meet. Reconnecting with old colleagues? Really want to talk to a speaker? Don’t leave it up to chance. Find out where people are and arrange to meet them.

  • During the conference

    Give people excuses to talk to you. Make it easy for people to start a conversation with you about a topic of mutual interest. Write keywords on your nametag, or wear a second nametag with keywords on it. Going to a geek conference? Wear a T-shirt related to your project, and people will almost certainly ask you about it.

    Start the conversation. Yes, it can be scary, but the good news is that conferences give you natural conversation starters. Ask people what session they attended and what they learned from it. Ask people which sessions they’re looking forward to and why. Ask people what they’ve liked the most about the conference so far, and what would make it even better. Ask people what actions they’re planning to take based on what they’ve learned. There’s no need to stick to small talk about the weather or what people do.

    Expand the circle. If you want to open a conversation so that other people feel less awkward about joining it, don’t stand directly in front of the person you’re talking to; open things up so that you’re standing in an incomplete circle. See people hovering near the edge of your conversation? Invite them in and make them part of it. Connect the dots. Introduce people to each other, bring out shared interests, and make people feel comfortable.

    Look for homework. Make following up easier for yourself by looking for opportunities to give yourself homework. Find out how you can help the other person. Can you share your conference notes? Can you introduce them to other people? Can you help them with what they’re working on? Do you want to learn more about something they’re doing? Write that down and swap contact information. Now you have a reason for following up.

    Reinforce the connection. Unless you’re at a huge conference, you’ll probably see many of your new acquaintances a few times. Smile and wave to them. Chat with them and compare notes on the sessions people have attended. Introduce them to other people. Reinforce that connection so that following up is easier.

    Take breaks if you need them. Conferences can be overwhelming, particularly for introverts. Don’t be ashamed about taking a quiet break somewhere to recharge so that you can make the most of the rest of the day. I like taking a walk outside. I’ve sometimes napped in conference hallways so that I can be in good shape to give a presentation.

  • After the conference

    Review your notes and do your homework. Congrats! You’ve gotten through your conference. Now do the homework you’ve promised to do and follow up with the people you promised to get in touch with.

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