Mixing business with pleasure at Lotusphere

While technical conundrums may be the primary reason why Notes/Domino professionals will make the pilgrimage to Lotusphere 2002, it is also the ultimate venue for mixing business with pleasure. SearchDomino offers a few hints on staying focused and also having a good time.

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.

Takin' care of business
Whether you want to suck up to the boss, show your co-workers a good time or generate some new business for your company, these Orlando nightspots -- all recommended by The Orlando Weekly's "Best Of Orlando" -- should make a memorable impression.

If you need to impress a potential business partner, try Tabu, co-owned by Backstreet Boy Howie D and voted Best Place for Celebrity Sightings; 46 N. Orange Ave., 407-648-8363.

Peacock Room: If you absolutely must conduct a coherent conversation over a drink, check out the very stylish Peacock Room. Voted Best Place for a Quiet Drink, the Weekly calls it a "sophisticated little bar where you don't have to ask your companion 'WHAT?' a good 50 times before you get the point," 1321 N. Mills Ave., 407-228-0048.

Sapphire: For something more exotic than a Bud Longneck, try the Jolly Rancher Martini at Sapphire. The Orlando Weekly said the concoction of vodka, sour mix and watermelon-flavored Jolly Rancher candies is "easily the best drink downtown," 5 4 N. Orange Ave., 407-246-1419.

Ali Baba: Reward your team for all those long hours with a rambunctious night out at Ali Baba, "where the belly dancers use their bodies to perform special effects that are better than anything generated on a computer," the Weekly said; 1155 W. State Road 434, Longwood, 407-331-8680.

Late-night eateries: If you've partied too long, and just have to down some chow before you go to bed, try one of these late-night eateries:
>>The 5 & Diner (voted Best 3 a.m. Omelet), a 50s-style diner with a mini-jukebox at every table, 12286 E. Colonial Drive, 407-207-1952;
>>Island's Caribbean Grill (voted Best 3 a.m. Snack Downtown), which serves Jerk Chicken and plantains to reggae and salsa music up to 4 a.m. on weekends, 1 S. Orange Ave., 407-447-1447;
>>Patsio's (voted Best All-Night Dining), a Greek diner offering breakfast fare and traditional Greek dishes like moussaka and spanakopita, 1409 Semoran Blvd., Casselberry, Fla., 407-677-8073.

First off, the location itself practically begs you to bring your family or a friend along. Steven Gerhardt, vice president and partner at Web development consultancy Ixion, LLC, in Houston, makes Lotusphere an annual retreat for his wife and kids. They have plenty to do when he's working, and he also schedules a few afternoons off to spend time with them at the theme parks.

"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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