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At Lotusphere 2005, expect more of the 'here and now'

With general registration for Lotusphere 2005 opening today, prospective attendees are likely wondering how the Jan. 23-27 event will change and whether the emphasis will be on new technologies like Workplace. However, Lotusphere program director Sandra Marcus said the annual event will be returning to its roots, focusing on the technology that got it all started 12 years ago: Notes and Domino.

@5641 spoke with Marcus about the changes in store for this year's event and the decisions being made behind the scenes.

Give me your best pitch for those Lotus pros who are on the fence on whether to attend this year. Why should they travel to Lotusphere?
Two things. First is access. Where else can you get as much content on Lotus products and solutions, and talk to the developers? There's no where else that you can get this much concentrated information. The second thing is practical information. If we don't nail the right content mix this year, then I dare say someone else ought to do the job next year, because the research results showed us exactly what we should do. Can you explain that research, and what you found?
We did a lengthy survey after the last Lotusphere, and probably 60% of the eligible attendees from last year's conference participated [in that survey]. What we've heard loud and clear is that there was too much content on future technology or stuff about to come out of the development pipe, and users said they really need practical "here and now" content. They want and need us to tell them about Workplace and other related products, but they really need an emphasis on current products because that's what their infrastructures are built on, or for partners what they're selling today. So if I were to say what our mantra is for Lotusphere '05, it would be hear it or learn it or see it today, and use it tomorrow.

 We want anybody who was there last year who comes this year to walk away saying, 'Wow, they read my evaluation and responded to my feedback and criticism.'
Sandra Marcus,

Give me an example of what users can expect in that regard.
If you were to add up all the total number of strategic and practical sessions about Workplace and WebSphere, I think that the number of sessions is going to be a little less than last year, and the difference will be made up by offering more core Notes and Domino content. For instance, we'll offer more real-world ND 6.1 content, and we'll probably showcase ND 7 for the first time on a large scale. Last year we did tons of sessions on Workplace, and that's still important for us, and we'll do the right amount this year, but considering how new it was, we couldn't deliver as much practical, usable content. How will you execute that strategy?
There will be three more deliberate streams of content: Notes and Domino, Workplace, and WebSphere Portal. The balance will reflect what the attendee base is interested in, and we'll decide that by the second half of November; that's when we'll put the samples sessions out there and get feedback on demand. We want anybody who was there last year who comes this year to walk away saying, 'Wow, they read my evaluation and responded to my feedback and criticism.' What other important changes can attendees expect?
One thing is more hands-on sessions. They were so popular last year, so we're increasing that. Our Birds of a Feather sessions, which we've had forever, are always great for talking about certain subjects, but there are always some subjects we have to turn away because we don't have enough time. So we're looking to add more of those this year in the middle of the day, not just the morning and evening.

One fairly significant change is that for many years our sessions have be 75 minutes long, but most of the subject matter can be covered in 60 minutes. So we're making a move to change our session length from 75- to 60-minute sessions. What it'll do is increase the number of session time slots we have to work with. The real reason most people come [to Lotusphere] is for those breakout sessions, so offering access to more of them certainly will be met favorably. And there will still be a little bit of downtime in between, and most if not all of our speakers are working in labs, as well as in sessions, so people will have access to them for a good part of the week.

For more information

Read our exclusive: Early birds flock to Lotusphere registration.

Check out our comprehensive coverage of Lotusphere 2004.

Read more articles written by News Editor Eric B. Parizo.

Does that mean you'll be offering more sessions this year?
We had about 190 total sessions last year, and the objective is not to increase that number. This change is intended to do two things: It's an opportunity to repeat more sessions, and to give attendees the opportunity to attend more sessions. What's your attendance goal for Lotusphere 2005?
Last year we had about 5,000 people at the conference, and my goal this time is 6,000. And the 6,000 is a mishmash of attendees, exhibitors, analysts and staff. And through early-bird registration, we were already able to net nearly a quarter of them. Do you ever again foresee Lotusphere reaching the sellout 10,000-person crowds of the late '90s?
We're committed to doing Lotusphere for a number of years to come. I don't know if we'll ever get back to that attendance figure. We had a little more of an uptick last year, and we want to see another one. One thing I've heard in the last two years is that even though the numbers were half of what they once were, exhibitors still thought it has been a better event. They felt that the quality of the attendees was higher and more consistent. How will pricing work this year?
We started in mid-August with our early-bird pricing, and that was $1,395 per person. That [ended] at midnight, and so the price will [now] go to $1,595, which is still not the highest price. That will last until Oct. 31, and on Nov. 1 it'll go up to $1,795 through the start of the conference. That top price is the same as it was last year, but the process of how we get up to that is a little bit different. Last year you offered a deal where a company that sent five people could send a sixth for free. Are you offering anything along those lines this year?
We're offering that promotion again, and it kicks in when we go to the highest price point on Nov. 1. So if you're a company that's going to send that many people, if you do the math, it makes sense to wait and register on Nov. 1. Some attendees believe that a venue change is long overdue. Why are you sticking with Florida?
This is something I feel strongly about. There are lots of great places to go, but for us the physical layout suits our program quite well. Where we are now, we've been able to work a lot of the kinks out, and it's hard to put a value on it, but for someone attending a few times, there's a huge value in already knowing where you're going and where things are located. It may be a little boring if you have to go to the same restaurant each year, but maybe there's some comfort to it as well. Finally, everyone is always dying to know who the headline performer will be. Can you tell us?
No. Not because I won't. It's because we haven't decided yet. Who would you like to see?

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