Touching down at Auckland Airport on Sunday at 5:00am had me reminiscing over the week that’s just been — IBM Connect 2013. I have always enjoyed reading through attendees’ overviews of their conference experiences, so I thought that I would go ahead and do a short write-up of IBM Connect 2013 from a Crossware Mail Signature exhibitor’s point of view… here we go!
Let’s face it, New Zealand is a long way from, um, anywhere else (Australia doesn’t count), so I knew that I had a decent trip ahead of me. Flying from NZ to the USA is a bit of a ‘back to the future’ experience… I left Auckland at 7:30pm on Friday and arrived at San Francisco at 10:30am on Friday… after a 12 hour flight… whoa! One night in San Fran set up me for the five hour flight (and the loss of three hours of my time) through to Orlando, the destination of my voyage — let’s get this thing kicked off.
Some people may say that Sunday is the day before the conference begins, almost a ‘pre-conference’ free day to relax and settle in, trust me – this is not the case.
First thing planned for the morning is a buffet breakfast with the Crossware Team. Six of us have made it over to this year’s event, four from our NZ office and two from our US office. What starts out as a relaxed catch up and joke around quickly turns into a serious discussion about the conference timetable, where we need to be, when we need to be there, and what we are meant be doing. If you thought this was some kind of vacation then, sorry, vacation over!
As an exhibitor, the first thing we need to sort out is our booth and everything that goes along with it. We need to register our lead retrieval devices, set up our booth design and make sure everything is ready to go for the evening – when, for the first time ever, there is a Solutions Showcase Welcome Reception (thank you IBM!). A few hours later the booth is looking great and we’re ready to go. And what’s a blog without photos…
Next on our agenda is our co-hosted Sunday evening party. Together with Mayflower Software, Sherpa Software and RPR Wyatt, Crossware Mail Signature hosted a small get-together of about 80 close friends and customers to put everybody in the mood for what was going to be a great conference. It was a great evening with finger-foods and live jazz music. This was followed by the official IBM Connect 2013 Welcome Reception, starting down in the Solutions Showcase and finishing up at the Beach Club. We couldn’t have hoped for a better start to the conference where we could catch up with old friends and meet a whole bunch of new mates… as Mat Newman likes to put it… hugs all around!
Finally it’s the business end of the conference. For us as an exhibitor this involves: early morning starts to prepare the booth for the day; talking to as many conference attendees as possible; handing out all 1,000 IBM Notes supporter buttons badges (pics below); rushing off for a quick lunch if possible; catching up with all other exhibitors, partners and IBMers; drawing out the winning badge numbers for our iPad Mini giveaways; doing presentations and demos to all interested parties; shutting down the booth as soon as the showcase time is up; and finally — networking at the bars until the early hours of the morning. So that’s the Monday… what about the next two days? Rinse and repeat… do it all over again… three days in a row. Your workmates might be giving you stick, thinking that you’re taking it easy on an overseas holiday, but by Wednesday you have worked four days in a row – averaging 15 hour days – and you now have two very sore feet (pro tip: take Ibuprofen breakfast lunch and dinner!).
Outside of the official conference, or solutions showcase, the Team Crossware schedule involved:
Sponsoring UK Night on the Monday – A great event that we are proud to sponsor. This is where you put your English accent on and come along for a pint along with some very enjoyable networking.
Attending Aus Night on the Tuesday – A wild event where Aussies will be Aussies. Us Kiwis sneak into the pub on this night and pretend we actually like ‘Waltzing Matilda’ before we get kicked out. No, really, it is a great night out that we thoroughly enjoy spending with our mates from ‘across the ditch’.
Relaxing on roller coasters on the Wednesday – Every year IBM hosts the entire conference at one of Disney’s world famous theme parks. This year it was at the original Universal Studios. Two very brave Crossware Mail Signature representatives (myself and David) ventured into the unknown and had a great time on rides such as the Rock n Roll Rollercoaster and The Mummy (ooooooh scary).
Meetings, meetings, meetings – Finally, no event would be complete without an agenda full of meetings. Conferences are full of already-known customers and prospects, along with all the new leads we meet, so we do our best to catch up with everybody and split our time evenly between each company who has requested a demo or discussion.
Time to Return Home
And that’s all folks. The trip there and the first day at the conference seems to last forever. Then suddenly it’s Thursday and you find yourself wondering what happened to the week! Exhausted, yet exhilarated, we make our way home… Six hours back to San Fran, 13 hours back to Auckland (leaving Friday and arriving Sunday!), and back to work on Monday.
IBM Connect (formerly known as Lotusphere) is once again over for another year. This week has been the busiest week of my life so far, though, for some strange reason, I already can’t wait to participate in IBM Connect 2014 next year!!
Thanks for reading! For more photos please visit the Crossware Facebook page. For more info on Crossware Mail Signature please visit the Crossware website. If anybody wants to contact me about the conference please feel free to leave a comment down below, email me on firstname.lastname@example.org or give me a call on +64 9 303 2222.