Thoughts & Ideas

Impressions of Lotusphere 2011

I had the opportunity and privilege to travel to Orlando, FL last week to speak at, as well as attend, Lotusphere 2011, an annual conference that covers all things IBM and Lotus.

This was my first large speaking engagement and I shared the honor with Bruce Elgort as we worked through our two hour presentation, “How I Went Beyond the Hype, Narcissism, and Trendiness to Become a Social Software Super Hero.” Jet-lagged and nervous, I was faced with a few hundred people that came to hear what I had to say. I had a few fumbles, resorted to my notes at first, but finally found the groove that got me through the end of the presentation.

From the moment the presentation was over, everything that occurred is all a blur of frenetic, chaotic energy that I was completely unprepared for, but somehow managed to survive.

Instead of rehashing what others are already saying about Lotusphere in their own blogs, I’m going to give my impressions of a world that I am an outsider to and that is unknown to the majority of people. So, without further ado, here are my impressions of Lotusphere 2011.

The IBM/Lotus Community is engaging and welcoming

Every day, I met a lot of people. It didn’t hurt that I was hanging out with Bruce, who happens to be a Lotusphere Veteran, and knows everyone. But while many people were wondering what I was doing there, the vast majority was curious as to what I thought. They asked me questions, they welcomed me into their group of bloggers, and several had a lot of advice for me as a speaker. One man in particular, simply known as Duffbert, had sound wisdom for pursuing more and more speaking opportunities. He said that it would not only give me an increasing amount of confidence and purpose, but would actually help me to learn more about what I do and how to communicate that to others.

I kind of likened the group of people that I met as the veteran rockstars of the technology world. I mean no disrespect, because frankly, they welcomed everyone with open arms. No ego, no agenda, just a view of life and technology that was welcoming of all. I am grateful for what I learned by watching them interact with one another.

Never get into a drinking game with anyone from England, Ireland or Scotland

They will win. You will lose.

Motion graphics and video are the marketing/propaganda tools of social business

I saw my fill of amazing motion graphics and videos throughout the week. Statistics, graphs, quotes, all zooming by eloquently and professionally. I was witnessing a new league of professionalism. I took it all in. Most importantly, what I have taken to heart is that there will ultimately be a blurring of lines between marketing with motion graphics and video, and propaganda.

It’s easy to get hypnotized by the beauty of motion and that is when the message subliminally sneaks in. Clever phrases that stick in your mind. Distracting numbers that steer you towards one view from another, or even different sizes of graphics that are meant to guide you away from one product to a group of “approved” others.

Case in point, was a slide in the Opening General Session that showed four smartphones on the screen. The Droid, the Blackberry and another smartphone were all the same size. The iPhone was smaller and in the background. Since Blackberry was a sponsor, I couldn’t help but wonder if this was intentional. It helps to pay attention to those visual cues as more and more companies rely on motion and video for marketing purposes.

Panels should never be teleprompter-driven

Questions should be scripted. No question about that. But a teleprompter-driven response from a panel of CEOs and experts is about as exciting and informative as watching paint dry. Instead, let me hear your passion and excitement for the future. Get me inspired. That’s the whole point of an opening session, to give guidance, direction, motivation and inspiration.

As people collaborate, the finite potential of humanity provides an infinite number of solutions

This is truly evident in the numerous people that I met and had the opportunity to learn from. From network administrators and developers, to business, marketing and sales professionals, people are eager and hungry to not only make money, but to make a dent in the technology field that is hugely dominated by consumer-level software and hardware. People want to be able to provide solutions for tens of thousands of people to collaborate and innovate. No matter what technology provides in the future, it’s what human beings do with technology that is truly amazing.

Go outside your own world at least once a year

Whether you are a filmmaker, developer, social media expert, or cubicle-dweller, no matter what you do for a living or what you think you are, go to a conference or event that is completely outside your daily realm of existence. You might just learn something. At times you will be bored, at times you will be energized, but you will learn and your view of life will hopefully change, if you are open to it.

Ultimately, what I took away from Lotusphere is that people want to collaborate. They want to make a difference in this world and technology is just one way that enables them to do that. But it isn’t the only way. We look to technology to save our jobs and economy, to fuel cultural revolutions, to redefine how we educate, and even to entertain us, but that is a tough bill for technology alone to fill. It is ultimately about people and what people do with technology that enables change. Every person that I met at Lotusphere is someone that I would want to collaborate and solve problems with because they are smart, passionate and eager to make a difference.

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