Lotusphere 2011 – my review in 6 posts. 1) The stats and the take-aways

As ever, it takes a while to digest the impact of the Lotusphere conference.  It is such a crazily manic 6 days that it is not really possible to sum ones feelings up in a fair and sensible way until the conference is over and Orlando is receding into the distance.  I’m writing this whilst cruising at 35,000ft up the East coast of the USA on the way back to Manchester – no wifi unfortunately, so this will get posted on landing if I get it done before the battery fails me.

So let’s have a go…

First of all, my stats from the conference.  I attended all 5 official days of the Lotusphere agenda, sat in 4 keynote sessions (BDD, plus the Monday OGS, Tuesday and Wednesday), watched three breakout sessions (JMP206, BP303 and BP106) plus the Ask the PMs session and Speedgeeking, and gave two sessions of my own with Rob Wunderlich (SHOW202 and BP105) and I was on the Gurupalooza panel.  I failed to attend any BoFs.  I also took part in a number of private sessions as part of the blogger and press program, and a few roundtable discussions as a result of our BP relationships.

I live-blogged the three keynotes on Monday-Wednesday, having as many as 200 live viewers during the OGS.  As you would expect, I’ve been tweeting pretty prolifically as well.  Through the Lotusphere Podcast I published four interviews (including with Sandy Carter) and have a pile of other recordings to process when I get the time. Finally, we also recorded a live This Week in Lotus episode.

As well as all that, I managed to get to BALD, the Turtle Party, Kimonos every night, the Welcome Reception, UK Night, the Great Geek Challenge (we co-sponsored those last two events), the Showcase Reception, Australia Night, the UKI reception, the Blogger/Press Reception (those last three all very briefly), the Wednesday Night Party and even the Bill Buchan Rotunda Drink-up.

So what does that all mean?  A phenomenally busy 6 days – no doubt.  Very little sleep, very little time to relax, and plenty of exercise!  So here’s my take-away.  That lot is too much – way too much.  Lotusphere is an incredible event and is tough on the body however you manage it.  But for the first time this year, I really felt that something had to give.  Like many others in this community, I wear a number of hats.  In my case, that includes being a partner, a design partner, speaker, blogger/press, podcaster, customer advocate, panelist and more.  I wouldn’t have it any other way – I love doing all that stuff, and is part of my company’s commitment to be social in everything we do.

However, only attending 3 break-outs from the amazing list of sessions on the agenda this year is a massive fat #FAIL.  Given the very high level overview of the keynotes this year, it was even more important than usual to attend the breakouts in order to get the inside track on what is happening in the Next versions of the products, and of course to be educated on the technical details, the best practices and the amazing innovation from around the community.  As a result of my commitment to the Blogger program, to seeing my customers, partners and key IBMers, and probably most significantly to preparing for our ‘Show and Tell’ session, I only made it to three (admittedly great) sessions.  Not good.  In addition, I lost count of the number of good friends and contacts that I met briefly in the corridors and had to say ‘Great to see you, sorry I’m rushing to XYZ event, will catch up with you later on’ and then never did.  Really not good.

So, next year, a couple of things will change:  

First up, no Show and Tell sessions.  Kudos to all those that do them year-on-year, and particularly to Christian/Paul/Gab for managing that track.  But be under no illusion – delivering a new Show and Tell track session at Lotusphere will cost you in the order of 50-200 hours of preparation, and probably make you
go grey or lose your hair too.  They are hard hard work.  By the way, plenty of people (Darren and Paul in particular) warned me of this – I should have listened!

Secondly, for the first time in about 5 years, I tried to compress Lotusphere into 6 days this year – fly from the UK on Saturday and fly home on Thursday/Friday.  For purely financial reasons, that makes sense – additional nights in the Dolphin and Swan plus days away from paid work add up… And of course I miss the family too!  However, that leaves no breathing room in the schedule – it is simply too intense given all those hats I mentioned.  Next year, I’ll find a way to do Friday-Friday/Saturday – it will be worth it.

So that’s it for post 1, more posts will follow.

Coming soon:
2) The Social Business message
3) The Keynotes
4) The people of Lotusphere
5) The social side
6) The future of Lotusphere
7) Where do we go from here?

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!