That's right buckaroos. It's that time of the year again. Time for the Lotus faithful to start looking at their calendars, counting down the days until we all pack up our bags and begin our journey to central Florida for the great gathering of the Yellow Clans, also known as Lotusphere. So to make your pilgrimage to land of the Mouse easier then it was for The Warriors to make it across New York City I offer this, what I hope helpful guide, especially for any first timers out there.
(And now, the yearly disclaimer:)What you will not find here is who the special guest speaker at the OGS . (In the past, my money was always on "The Shat", and it payed off last year! So now my guess is either Optimus Prime or Dale Earnhart, Jr.) What you will find is what I've learned from making the pilgrimage south each January and from what others have contributed to the comments section from my previous posts. My perspective on the Lotusphere event is that of a customer and blogger. I'm not an IBM employee, vendor or business partner. If you've stopped by in the past to read my thoughts on the event, you may notice some copying and pasting, but there is some new stuff. So here goes!
Like the Boy Scouts motto says, "Be Prepared". You're adventure to Lotusphere is usually a week long affair away from the comforts of home. Preparation can save you some time and money later.
1. There are several web resources I recommend you check out ahead of time:
- The official Lotusphere website. 'Nuff said.
- Get to know, The Turtle. For many years, Scott "The Turtle" Wenzel has put together numerous resources regarding Lotusphere on his website The Weightless Dog. Last year in addition to his site, Scott penned an article for the LotusUserGroup.Org’s website on how to economize your week in Florida. You can check it out here. Very helpful if you are footing the bill for the week.
- The Power of the Lotusphere Community - The Lotusphere blog! Back again this year is another great center for information from the four corners of the web regarding Lotusphere.
- Planetlotus.org - The list of lists for the Lotus blogsphere. If you have not yet dipped your toes into the vast ocean of knowledge that is there for the taking on this site, then you don't know what you're missing. As Lotusphere grows closer, I'm sure that the site will come alive with Lotusphere related rhetoric and information.
- If you’re on Twitter, follow the hashtag #LS11. That’s the official hashtag for Lotusphere 2011. Also, follow @lotusphere on Twitter for updates about the event. IBM had run the @LotusKnows account for official news and announcements in the past. I haven't seen anything regarding that this year, so that may or may not happen.
- Keep an ear open for Podcast, too. The Talking Notes podcast and This Week in Lotus are all excellent resources for information about the conference too.
3. Before you leave on your adventure, stop by that section in cosmetics at the Wal-Mart or Target that has all the neat little travel sized stuff and pick up anything you can think of that you may need! Aspirin, Advil, Tylenol, Nyquil, baby powder, Qtips, etc, etc. But most importantly PEPTO-BISMOL. I got REALLY ill once and had to dish out a lot of money at the little store in the Dolphin for supplies. Bringing a small drug store with you can really save you some bucks. It's usually 3-4 times more on site. After all, you are staying at Walt Disney World. Also PRESCRIPTIONS! If you have some that you need to maintain your quality of life, make sure you bring them with you! When you stay on-site and you don't have a car, it can be a real task to get to a pharmacy.
4. Download the Lotusphere 2011 Agenda database here. This is a FANTASTIC tool by Ben Langhinrichs that is been based on the Notes Journal database that contains the sessions, their descriptions, location and times. It has a handy add to calendar button that puts the session right in your Notes calendar. And if you have a BlackBerry, Traveler device or something else hooked up to your Notes calendar, it's on there too! Very useful when planning your time.Cannot stress enough how much this tool can save you time with what sessions you want to attend.
5. If you need to, order more business cards now, if you still use them. You can go through a lot of them. Downside - Your phone will ring for a couple of weeks afterward.
Upside - You use them to win cool stuff like iPods!
6. Pay attention to the weather forecasts leading up to Lotusphere. Orlando can be really nice and warm in January but it can also get downright cold at night. Pack appropriately.
7. Dress for Lotusphere is casual. Jeans, shorts, polos and t shirts seem to be the norm. Even kilts for some!
8. Bring a plug strip with you. Most hotel rooms are limited on power outlets and having several outlets extra can always come in handy.
9. And don't forget all of your accessories power cords for charging your stuff! You don't want to show up Saturday and realize that you are short a power cord for your BlackBerry. Not that I've ever done something like that, ever.
10. If you have access to a Mi-Fi or cellular wireless card for your laptop, bring it. Yes, wifi is made available during the conference for your use. Good luck trying to get on it. There are several thousand other geeks there with you all trying to get connected at the same time during the day. Access points can only do so much.
You're There!:So now that you packed all your power cords, plug strips and comfy shoes, you arrive in Orlando to hopefully warm, sunny skies and are ready to begin drinking from the fire hose of knowledge that is Lotusphere.
1. Since Orlando is a tourist mecca, there are several ways to get to and from the airport. The most expensive option is of course a private car or taxi. But those can be a little costly. For $34 (plus tips) round trip, you can take advantage of the Mears Shuttle. This will get you to the hotel and back relatively easy. But, you do need the coupon. Click here to download it. If you are staying at a Disney property (non-Swan or Dolphin hotel), you can also look into using the Magical Express for free. See your hotel information for details.
2. If you are staying at the Swan or Dolphin, great. You're right where the action is. The Yacht and Beach is the next closest offical hotel right within walking distance of the event. If you are staying at one of the other Disney properties, get to know early where the conference shuttle pick up and drop off is at. It's usually right out front of the hotel and you can always ask an ever helpful Disney cast member where they are. My first year down there, I missed Saturday night registration by 10 minutes because I used the Disney transportation to get me to Downtown Disney first, then back to the Dolphin.
3. To go along with point #2, don't be afraid of getting stranded at the Swan or Dolphin after the conference shuttles run. You can use the Disney buses to get around. From the hotels, they go to Downtown Disney and from there you can catch a bus back to your hotel.
4. Once you checked into the conference DO NOT LOSE YOUR BADGE! There are no mulligans. You are Gollum and that is your precious. You loose it, you either go home or buy a new one.
5. Meet people and make contacts. Very useful and fun. Sitting in your hotel room at night is no fun. There are not a whole lot of cable channels anyway. So, get out and mingle, network and collaborate! If you arrive on Saturday and have nothing to do, wander on down to the Boardwalk area and stop in to the Big River Grille & Brewing Works. On Saturday afternoon, the Bloggers -and friends- Annual Lotusphere Dinner, BALD, takes place. It's nothing more then a bunch of Lotus geeks hanging out for a few adult soda pops and enjoying each others company. Then later in the evening on Saturday, wander on down to the ESPN bar for The Turtles get together. Always a fun time! The Lotus community is one that is very accepting and social. Very social. Make some friends, dang it!
6. While we're on the topic of getting out and having fun, go to the vendor sponsored events usually on Tuesday night. They are always a lot of fun! (And saves you from having to find something for dinner that fits your expense account.) There is always a party or event to be found on either Monday or Tuesday night. Work the show floor and you can usually score an invite.
7. Your first time at Lotusphere is like your first day at college. You will be wandering around wondering where in the hell SW10 is. Ask people! Or if you look lost enough, (like I did my first year), someone will help you out.
8. If you are certified take advantage of the Certification Lounge. Hang out, get some eats, and get a chair message.
9. Don't miss breakfast and lunch. I've really enjoyed the food that the catering folks put out for us. Especially at breakfast, drink lots of OJ, eat a bran muffin or two and have a bowl of cereal. Really pays off for the rest of the day. Also, be sure to thank the nice folks that are there taking care of us. They are always real nice people and seem to appreciate someone thanking them.
10. During the morning and afternoon, there are break stations set up throughout the conference. Usually coffee, water/juice and a snack. Grab couple extra waters and snacks and throw them in your bag for either a late night snack or just to have the water around. Keep yourself hydrated while you are on the go down there. A full day of sessions and running between hotels can be draining.
11. Stop into the developer labs and have all your burning questions answered! All of the top folks from IBM are there to help you through all of those tough questions you've been meaning to ask! Also, if they have the User Experience lab again this year, it's really cool! Check them out! Stop by and say hi to Mary Beth and crew. They are there to listen to us, the customer! Do not be afraid of them, they won't bite, mostly. You can have some very open and honest dialogue and work through your problems.
12. Take Visio's with you of your environment. What better way to explain the layout of your environment than to have the graphical representations of it with you.
13. When Lotusphere is over and you're getting ready to jump a plane home, be sure to check your receipt from the hotel. The Swan and Dolphin are notorious for charging you for things you didn't use, like the mini-bar in the hotel room. They almost got me one year. I'm sorry, $3 for a Snickers bar is just insane!
14. Now here is the MOST important thing you can take away from this blog entry:
Lotusphere is what YOU make of it! Take advantage of everything that you can, but pace yourself. You will be drinking from the fire hose of knowledge and sometimes by Wednesday, you may start burning out. Take it easy, take care of yourself, but just have fun!
Chris Miller adds a few more points to the post!
IdoCheckin is back for year #3, so finding everyone around the conference is even easier. Visit the site, get yourself a Foursquare id and make friends. Lotusphere has an account as do myself, IdoNotes.
To add another podcast, the IdoNotes podcasts will be running full force. Last year we had a few exclusives not found anywhere else.
LotusphereLive, managed by Carl Tyler and myself is back for year #4 giving you live blogging, pictures, tweets and video from the opening general session (OGS) for those that cant make it. We have a few thousand each year watching. Great fun always.
***Also, do not be wary of approaching anyone there. Make yourself sit at tables with those you do not know and engage in conversation. Sometimes you meet awesome people. Sometimes it doesn't work. Either way it is how the community grows. ***
So there you have it! These are the most important points that I have to offer about making the most of your Lotusphere experience. If you have anything to add, PLEASE feel free to leave comments to add to the list. I will be updating this list as needed as the event gets closer.
Addendum Part Deux:
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Lotusphere is coming soon, can you dig it?
See you in Orlando!