Lotusphere 2010 Feedback – Mini Keynotes

First up, I want to reiterate that Lotusphere 2010 was a great event.  

There was massive business value to be gained, it ran like clockwork as we have come to expect, the community that attended produced a wonderful atmosphere and fun was had by all.  My thanks go out to the team involved in organising it (Sandra, Kristin and many unsung heros and heroines), and Lotusphere continues to be the best tech conference I attend each year.

You know there’s a ‘but’ coming right?  There’s a few areas where I feel that improvements can be made – not big things, just small items that can be tweaked to make it a better conference for all that attend.  We’ve tried collecting these in the Lotusphere community on LinkedIn too, but I think there is no harm in highlighting them on the blog too.  Let me know what you think.

First up…

Mini-keynotes

As Mitch and others have already blogged, there were a large number of mini-keynotes this year, more than ever before.  If we went back 4-5 years there was just the one Keynote session each year at Lotusphere, the OGS held on Monday morning.  The audience knew that all the announcements to be made at Lotusphere would be revealed in that 2-3 hour session, there was massive buzz around the hall, all the attendees/press/bloggers were in attendance and breath was held by all concerned.  

That worked fine when Notes and Domino were 80%+ of the Lotus portfolio and all products revolved around desktop productivity and groupware.  Now that Lotus is so much more with products and solutions in so many sectors, it is clearly felt that it is no longer feasible to jam all the content into the OGS, and so multiple ‘Mini-keynotes’ are required to get the announcements out, customer stories told and to allow a more informal approach in some cases.

I have no problem with this, but…

  • The mini-keynotes are scheduled alongside the rest of the sessions.  If the mini-keynotes are to be in the category of ‘not to be missed’, then it doesn’t work to schedule them alongside regular sessions.  For a start, the speakers in the other sessions cannot make the mini-keynotes, in fast the speakers in sessions before and after the mini-keynote probably can’t make them either due to answering audience questions and setting up for their sessions respectively.  Secondly, there are ‘not to be missed’ sessions in the other tracks – in my case there was the Connections Next session with Suzanne Livingstone and others that clashed with the AppDev keynote.  I would have loved to see the AppDev session (featuring Bruce Elgort and others) but the Connections Next session is probably the most important one I needed to attend this year.
  • They are of very variable quality and tone.  As Mitch has already noted, the Social Software mini-keynote was not up to the mark this year, in fact it has fallen short the past two years.  It was a massive opportunity missed to tell the real story of IBM’s investment in Social Software, the innovation that is coming out of IBM Labs, the ways in which customers and partners are delivering outstanding Quickr and Connections solutions and much more.  Instead we had too many customer stories (including one that was just in the early stages of a pilot) that took too long to tell and the appallingly awful Flarepoint routine.  I spoke to a number of press and analysts in the press room afterwards, and they were not complimentary at all.  Of the other keynotes I attended, the LotusLive one was the highlight with Sean Poulley an excellent host.  Again, as others have discussed, I’m not convinced that the teleprompter is necessary for these sessions, but I bow to IBM/Lotus’ greater knowledge of these things.
  • There are no replays.  Given that the mini-keynotes may feature announcements, are ‘not to be missed’ and have the key executives and customer representatives presenting, it would make sense to me that they are repeated at least once during the week.  I do appreciate that these presenters have tight schedules, and may need to leave during the Lotusphere week, but it seems strange that other ‘less important’ sessions are repeated once and even twice, and yet the mini-keynotes are not.
  • The presentations have not been released.  The majority of the session presentations from Lotusphere have now been released through LotusphereOnline, but the mini-keynotes are still absent.  I understand that the slides and animations used may be difficult to recreate as PDFs for download, but it surely must be possible.

So, how would I improve things?

  • Replay the mini-keynotes each day.  All the mini-keynotes are recorded – cameras are present at all these sessions.  So, set aside a time each afternoon/evening, say alongside the BoFs art 6pm, when the mini-keynotes can be replayed.  Put each of the keynote sessions up in a different room, add them to the schedule, and then attendees that missed them can go an watch the replays before leaving for the social events of the evening.
  • Make the recordings available as podcasts.  My personal preference is that ALL sessions at Lotusphere are recorded (for audio and/or video) and are released as podcasts through the next month of so.  This would be massive free publicity for the Lotusphere event.  However, as a minimum, make the mini-keynotes (and OGS) available to all attendees to download and watch at their own convenience, even on the journey home from the event.
  • Make the mini-keynote presentations available – simple as that, and preferably on SlideShare as well as PDF.
  • Review the quality of the mini-keynote sessions, particularly the Social Software one.  As I found out from the press and analysts, they are perhaps even more important than the OGS in helping outsiders understand the product portfolio, customer wins, strategy and vision for Lotus.  If a journalist, analyst or prospective customer is forced to sit through poorly delivered keynotes then they are unlikely to be interested to find out more.

What do you think? Could the mini-keynotes be improved?

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!