Lotusphere is not only a good place to learn new tips and ideas, but also to network with fellow Domino/Notes professionals. This advice from IT careers author Leslie Goff was originally posted as a career tip on searchDomino last year, but it still holds true today.
Lotusphere, the annual information-packed, five-day conference and exhibition for Notes and Domino devotees, can jumpstart your career if you work it right. If you're taking off for Lotusphere Orlando this year, or planning to attend another conference soon, here's how to make the most of your time and get the biggest bang for your buck.
For resolving specific technical problems, be sure to drop in on the Birds of a Feather sessions offered in the evening and the Technical Labs during the day. Birds of a Feather sessions concentrate on particular technology areas, such as security or scheduling and calendaring, and offer attendees with common interests a chance to congregate in one place.
Some sessions 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 focus on Lotus products. They're set up throughout the conference area and are staffed by Lotus' product gurus who offer hands-on help to resolve your problems.
For finding new products, hit the vendor exhibits at the Product Showcase. A follow up at a vendor cocktail party can often reveal some juicy details.
For a high-level look at Lotus technologies and strategy, the breakout sessions -- organized into tracks aimed at various job functions or technologies -- are a must. Tracks are aimed at IT managers and execs; applications developers; infrastructure pros such as systems architects and administrators; and e-business professionals.
For networking, well, 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 so target a couple of specific areas," says Doug Dillaman, co-founder and principal of Boom Vang Consulting, a Premiere Lotus Business Partner in Portland, Ore. Jot down a few of the issues you need to resolve and look for Birds of a Feather sessions and Technical Labs that deal with those issues. But don't get too hung up on your game plan, advises Jeff Smith, vice president and senior consultant with Decision Management Systems, Inc. of 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.
Don't hole up in your hotel room at night ordering from room service. Meeting other Domino professionals and discussing common concerns is perhaps the biggest benefit of 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 major project for Duke University Medical Center. If the word "networking" dredges up your worst fears, anxieties and doubts, don't worry. Lotusphere offers plenty of events where networking comes naturally: 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 in one swoop, so hit it between breakout sessions or during lunch breaks. Beware of getting trapped by a marketing flunky on the show floor, Smith advises. Try to 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 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 bring each other up to speed later. The agenda ranks breakout sessions with a star system rating the difficulty of the material and, with five years of Notes experience under his belt, Dillaman 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. 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 meet 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.
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