Naturally, your motivation for attending Lotusphere is to get all the news on Rnext, learn the latest Domino tips and tricks, and find the answers to your most pressing technical conundrums. However, it's also the ultimate venue for mixing business with pleasure.
"If you're there to sell product, or do a lot of business development, this may be a bit tough or impossible," Gerhardt said. "But as an employee or worker with simply the task of upping your knowledge, training and industry experience, I think it's worth taking some afternoons off to get out and do [other things]."
He recommended devoting Monday to the conference by checking out the show floor and establishing goals for the rest of the week. Conference musts, he said, include the opening session and, for developers and administrators, the Lotusphere Labs, where IBM/Lotus researchers, engineers and developers conduct demos and hands-on tutorials. "Getting to know... the Lotus staff can go a long way," he said.
Make Friends and Influence People
Brian Mahoney, a searchDomino.com site expert and technical lead at a Philadelphia-based financial services company, advises conference attendees to socialize as much as possible, even in the breakout sessions. He suggested taking along special business cards that include your personal phone number and e-mail address as well as your business contact information.
"It's amazing what you can learn and who you can meet just by saying hello to the person sitting next to you," Mahoney explains. "I've made some good long-term contacts that way, people I talk to regularly and call with the kinds of [technical] questions that you just can't get answered on a bulletin board."
Mahoney also uses Lotusphere as an opportunity to cement bonds with fellow developers he has met at previous conferences and to catch up with former colleagues. He contacts the people he hopes to see in advance and schedules time to meet them "outside the frenzy of the conference, for breakfast or at an offsite restaurant in the evenings." One of his favorite spots is the Cape May Cafe at the Yacht Club in Disney World.
Both Mahoney and Gerhardt said the definitive social opportunity is the Wednesday night party. The entertainment is usually fairly good, the food is free, and it's another great place to make new acquaintances or further existing relationships.
"I usually plan to spend it with colleagues or friends that I [only] see once a year," Gerhardt said. "It's a great time to get together and share the stories of the past year. I think that's really why the time is there."
Extending your stay is another way to mix business and pleasure -- and it can have benefits for your company as well. Whether you're traveling solo, with a spouse or friend, or with the whole family, the Orlando area offers much more than just theme parks.
"Make it a bit of a vacation," Mahoney said. "My wife comes down on Thursday afternoon, and we have a weekend without the kids. And the big advantage to that is that staying over Saturday night reduces the airfare, so the company will usually pick up the extra nights if the cost overall is less than the shorter-term airfare would be."
Leslie Jaye Goff, the author of Get Your IT Career in Gear! Practical Advice for Building a Career in Information Technology, is a contributing writer based in New York.
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