Lotusphere Europe 2000 begins next week in Berlin. This annual information-packed, five-day conference and exhibition for Notes and Domino devotees, like other big conferences, can often be overwhelming with all the different sessions, product vendors and announcements -- not to mention finding your way around a European capital. We may not be able to help you with Berlin tourist attractions, but here's a handy guide to make the most out of your time at Lotusphere and get the biggest bang for your company's buck.
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For resolving specific technical problems: Attend Birds of a Feather sessions in the evenings and Technical Labs throughout the day. Birds of a Feather sessions concentrate on particular technology areas, like security or scheduling and calendaring, and offer an opportunity for attendees with common interests to congregate in one place. Some feature formal expert panels where the audience can ask questions. Others are informal discussions. All offer an end-of-day cocktail and snacks. Technical Labs feature Lotus products, like Sametime or QuickPlace. They're set up throughout the conference area and are staffed by the key product experts from Lotus who offer hands-on help to resolve your problems.
For finding new products: Check out the vendor exhibits at the Product Showcase; follow up at a vendor cocktail party for the juicy details.
For a high-level look at Lotus technologies and strategy: Visit the breakout sessions, organized into tracks aimed at various job functions. Lotusphere Europe, for example, features four tracks, aimed at IT managers and execs; applications developers; infrastructure pros such as systems architects and administrators; and Ebusiness professionals. For nitty-gritty technical details, however, don't miss the Technical Labs and Birds of a Feather sessions.
For networking: It's an all-around schmoozefest. Cosmopolitan, anyone?
The Inside Track: Tips From Past Lotusphere Attendees
Prepare ahead of time, but don't over-plan
"There's no way you can absorb every piece of information or even hope to, so target a couple of specific areas," says Doug Dillaman, co-founder and principal of Boom Vang Consulting, Portland, Ore., a Premiere Lotus Business Partner. Jot down a few of the issues you've been trying to resolve with Domino, and let those be your guide throughout the show. When you get your registration packet, look for Birds of a Feather sessions and Technical Labs that deal with those issues. Having a few specific issues in mind will also help you navigate the exhibition floor more efficiently. But don't get too hung up on your game plan, advises Jeff Smith, vice president and senior consultant with Decision Management Systems, Inc., Oviedo, Fla. Go with the flow, and don't be afraid to diverge from it if the right opportunity comes up. And, "Try to get caught up on sleep before you go, because it's really exhausting," Dillaman adds.
Schmooze or lose
Don't hole up in your hotel room ordering room service at night. The opportunity to meet other Domino professionals and discuss common problems and concerns is perhaps the biggest benefit of going to the show, Smith and Dillaman say. Smith, who has attended five Lotuspheres, ran into an old colleague last January who his firm is now partnering with on a big project for Duke University Medical Center. If you're one of those people for whom the word "networking" dredges up all your worst fears, anxieties and doubts, don't worry. Lotusphere offers plenty of events where networking just comes naturally, including the Birds of a Feather sessions, vendor happy hours, and usually two big Lotus-sponsored activities like a welcome reception and a trip to a local theme park.
Rub elbows with the big guns
About a third of the attendees are from Lotus and IBM, so don't miss opportunities to meet company insiders, such as the product developers and testers, and get their business cards. "Then you have an inside track into Lotus, and that's a tremendous benefit of the show," Smith says. The Technical Labs during the day and the nightly Birds of a Feather sessions are the best places to meet technical decision makers.
Plan several trips to the Product Showcase
It's too big to cover all at once, so hit it between breakout sessions or on the lunch break. And don't get trapped by a marketing flunky on the show floor, Smith advises. Pick up some background material and an invitation to the vendor's cocktail party. "That's where you find the experts," he explains. "They tend to put people in the booths who sometimes don't know the details."
Pick a track and stick to it
Attend as many breakout sessions as you can stomach, and don't worry about information overload. The breakouts offer a high-level overview of Lotus technologies and strategy, not a lot of nitty-gritty technical detail, so you should be able to absorb them all, Smith notes. If you're attending with a co-worker, divide up the sessions so you can get the best coverage � you can each bring each other up to speed later. The stars can be your guide to picking and choosing the best breakout sessions within a particular track, Dillaman says. The agenda ranks breakout sessions with a star system rating the difficulty of the material. With five years of Notes experience under his belt, he targets sessions that are ranked as three stars or above.
If you've been preparing for the Lotus certification exams, scheduling to take them during Lotusphere is a smart move, Smith says. Lotus typically offers a deal, such as Lotusphere Europe's "Buy one exam, get one free" package. And if you're only just starting to consider certification, the conference usually features a CLP Learning Lab and/or previews of upcoming technical courses.
Follow up after the fact
You'll likely come away from Lotusphere with 500 business cards, Dillaman notes. If you met someone who could offer an interesting new job opportunity or who you could partner with in a new project, move that card to the top of the stack, and follow up with a phone call or e-mail right after the show.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ON UPCOMING LOTUS EVENTS:
Lotus Worldwide Events Page
For links to information on upcoming events plus Webcasts of past events, including DevCon 2000 and Lotusphere 2000 Orlando.
Check in here after the show for Webcasts of the ultimate Lotus conference and exhibition.
Super.Human.Software Tour 2000: Solutions for E-business
A worldwide "tour" of seminars by Lotus and its Business partners targeted at IT administrators, developers and managers that has already passed through 20 countries. The tour is ongoing in South Africa (Oct. 2-10), South Korea and the United States (only two more dates: Dallas on September 27 and San Francisco on October 12); it's coming soon to Argentina, Brazil, People's Republic of China, Columbia, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Sweden, Switzerland and Taiwan.
U.S. Events Page
Get more information on upcoming events in cities across the United States, including:
Lotus Professional Services Technical Forum: Web Application Best Practices. For Web developers building applications with Domino R5. Length: Two days. Cost: $1,195. Dates remaining: New York City, Oct. 5-6; Atlanta, Oct. 10-11; Chicago, Oct. 17-18; Cincinnati, Oct. 24-25; Boston, Nov. 1-2; Philadelphia, Nov. 14-15.
Lotus Professional Services Technical Exchange Seminars. Spend three days discussing the ins and outs of R5 with Lotus' technical experts. Cost: $1,495. Upcoming dates: Dallas, Sept. 27-29; Houston, Oct. 4-6; Atlanta, Oct. 11-13; Philadelphia, Oct. 16-18.
Leslie Goff is a SearchDomino.com contributing editor based in New York.