I leave for Orlando on Friday. As this will be my 13th consecutive Lotusphere, I'll give a few tips to newcomers. Judging from the weather forecast, it looks like one of those tips won't have to be "pack colder weather than you expect". It's been that way a few times in the past, but so far the weather service is saying that it won't be the case.
Please feel free to add your own tips. Even those of us who have been there every year can still learn a thing or two.
Get there early. Especially if you're from the North. This tip is too late, of course, as everyone's already got plane reservations, but there are three reasons to plan to get there early. One is that the weather has conspired to make it very difficult for people to get there in some years past. The second is that Lotusphere week is five very full days of high gear activity, and traveling before the last minute gives you a chance to relax yourself to prepare. The third is that there are some great parties on Saturday night.
Bring two pairs of comfortable shoes. I can't emphasize this one enough. Most attendees have sedentary jobs, and all attendees will walk a lot every day. I probably walk as much in one week of Lotusphere as I walk in any given month the rest of the year. I bring two pairs of walking shoes, with different arch supports, and I add cushioned insoles.
Plan only half your day. Be flexible. If a conversation in one of the labs or even in the halls is interesting, you can miss a session without feeling guilty. That session might even be available on video. Pick one or two "must see" sessions each day, and select a few preferences for each of the remaining time-slots. Things you learn about in one session may very well influence what you want to see next.
Talk to strangers. Believe it or not, I'm pretty shy by nature. I know I don't act like it here in my blog, and most of the time at Lotusphere I'm so deep "in my element" that my shy nature is supressed, but there are times when I'm not surrounded by friends, and at those times I would normally tend to keep to myself. If I've gone directly from a session to the dining hall and not managed to find my way to a table with anyone I know, I'd normally not say a word to anyone else at my table. But at Lotusphere I always make the effort. It's worth it. there are people from so many different places, with so many different experiences. And they don't bite. At least, in 13 years none of them have
Check out the BOFs. Despite the fact that some of them start ridiculously early in the morning, the Birds of Feather sessions are incredibly useful. Most will have at least one IBM employee there, taking very careful notes and answering questions. Getting to one of the developers in the labs is incredibly valuable, but that's just one-on-one. If there's something that you need and that you think will really help the Notes and Domino products, going to an approprioate BOF to gang up on the IBMers can't be beat. It might not work, but you'll feel good ,
Pick the appropriate context.I just wrote about going to "an appropriate BOF". Nothing makes you look quite so silly as asking the wrong question of the wrong person at the wrong time, and not letting go. The IBM people will be polite, of course, but you'll get nowhere. If you don't know how to categorize your question and you don't know who the right person to ask is, but it's insanely important to you, there's a simple way to proceed. Go to the "Meet The Developers" lab. There will be someone at a small podium at the door who will listen to you and will figure out who you need to talk to.
Get some sleep. I used to be able to go through the conference on 3 or 4 hours of sleep every night. Maybe you still can. Maybe you can close down the Copa and hang out for a couple of hours after that every night and still be fresh in the morning. The number of people every year, however, who report that they get sick immediately after every Lotusphere tells me that most people push themselves too hard. Partying hard every night is no guarantee that you'll lower your resistance, and going to bed at 11 pm every night is no guarantee that you won't, but common sense says that if you're used to 6 o 8 hours of sleep every night and you cut that in half for a week, you're probably not going to be at your best in the end.
Have fun. Despite my last admonition, it's worth noting that there's a lot going on every night. The jam will be fun, and many of the suite parties will be a good mix of fun and networking. Hang with the right people and you'll get some good invitations. Hang with the wrong people, and you'll get better invitations. It's not clear which category the people who will be gathering at ESPN on Saturday night fall into
Buy chewing gum before you leave home. If you, like me, have sinus trouble and like to chew gum on takeoff and landing in order to help equalize pressure in your ears, be aware that there is no chewing gum for sale in Orlando's airport, and there's no chewing gum for sale in Disney shops.
Don't take my advice. Well, not just my advice, that is. There's plenty of other advice elsewhere, particularly at the Gonzo site. Some of it may differ from what I've said here. That's fine. To each their own. But if you only take one piece of advice from me, let it be this: wear sunscreen, but not the really smelly stuff if you're going to sit near me in any of the sessions.
1. Joe Litton01/17/2006 12:17:02 PM
Great tips. Man, I'd forgotten that Disney doesn't sell gum! Sheesh.
Now that I've lived in Florida for a couple of years (near Tampa, an hour west of Orlando), I've noted that even when the days are warm (it's mid 70 degrees F this week), the nights get rather chilly (50F or colder). So one should definitely bring warm gear. And there is always the possibility of a rain shower.
I found this past week - when I had a cold and was taking some flights - that a good nasal spray right before take-off worked VERY well to avoid any problems.
BTW, thanks for the link to the site for ordering videos of LS sessions!
2. Richard Schwartz01/17/2006 01:26:18 PM
50F degrees is tropical! We Yankees don't need warm gear for that
3. KJ01/17/2006 02:07:41 PM
This is my 5th sphere. Each year I plan on doing one thing that I've not done before. Last time it was to take advantage of the certification labs and pass the exam. This year, for this first time, I'm coming in on Saturday and get to check out the Gonzo-fest at the ESPN.
4. Greg Walrath01/17/2006 04:51:12 PM
Better update that weather grid - looks like the rain prediction is going away.
5. Stephan H. Wissel01/18/2006 11:44:46 AM
For Asian visitors:
How do I find the ESPN? Arriving 8pm, so just in time <g>.
6. Richard Schwartz01/18/2006 01:05:02 PM
The Yacht & Beach, Dolphin, Swan, and Boardwalk are arranged around a pond. If you start at the Dolphin, walk to the Swan and then to the Boardwalk, and continue past the Boardwalk entrance, you will find several stores and restaurants. ESPN is amongst them. From the Yacht & Beach, it's closer to go the other way around the pond.