Lotus IBM professionals, have you made plans to attend IamLUG? Perhaps you never get to attend Lotusphere / IBM Connect because it’s so expensive for the travel and the conference fee? This is your chance to get all of the meat of the Big conference without all of the fluff. You won’t get an evening trip to one of the theme parks. You won’t have all the hoopla and grandeur of the Opening General Session or the intellectual entertainment of the Closing Session. But you’ll get all the same great, useful insightful presentations from many of the same speakers. And the cost is…
You just have to get there. Costs would include travel to/from St Louis, a ride from the airport to the hotel, Room for 2 nights at $100/night. (Split it with someone else attending and that’s $50/night!) Eat cheap while you’re there and you can get 2 days of intense professional development for next to nothing. Throw in the extra day of TackItOn sessions for just $500 and you get a complete trip of 3 days of training for a fraction of the cost of IBM Connect. Do whatever it takes to be there. When it comes to conferences outside of Lotusphere/IBM Connect, it doesn’t get any better than this. Did I mention many of the same speakers who presented at IBM Connect this year will be at IamLUG sharing all the now-released version of Notes 9 Social Edition?
Actually, there will be at least one new presenter: me. Yes, for the first time I will officially have my own microphone. In the past, you may have seen me at a mic in the audience at Lotusphere/Connect, asking pointed questions during the “Ask the Product Managers” session or in the “Ask the Developers” session when I was made an honorary developer and brought on stage, handed a laptop, and put to work. Well I finally decided to put my mouth where my blog is, to step up to the podium and give back to the community live and in person. I’m diving in with both feet too. I submitted two abstracts and they were BOTH accepted. This will be a true test of my Toastmasters training. If you’re in the audience, be kind, please.
Both sessions are on system administrator topics. The first session, “Be a Domino Detective: Hunting the Gremlins” is all about finding the problems hiding in your systems. I am so lucky to be sharing the stage with Kim Greene, a seasoned presenter! She will be hunting the gremlins that are constantly at work gnawing at your system’s performance while I will be hunting the ones that are quietly lying in the shadows, waiting for the worst time to jump out and bite you. I’m hoping this session will be both fun AND educational.
The second session, “What’s in it for me? How Your Life as an Administrator will Improve When Your Company Moves to the Cloud” is intended to provide a bit of insight into what you can expect as a system administrator if you migrate to IBM SmartCloud for Social Business. Really, the cloud can be your friend, not the end of your career. Speaking of friends, I will be co-presenting this session with my longtime friend and administrator of a broad range of systems, Greg Walrath. I look forward to seeing you in the audience!
This user group conference has grown dramatically in just 4 years. Most of the speakers you have seen many times before and know them for their expertise. IBM will even be there presenting an entire track on Social Business. This one is truly becoming one of the biggest and best. I am humbled to get a chance to share time at the podium among such rock stars in our profession. It will be fun! See you in St. Louis!
Everyone is a salesperson. Understanding this one fact could have the biggest impact on your career advancement.
Whether you know it or not, whether you want to be one or not, you are a salesperson. Don’t think so? Ever had a job interview? You were selling yourself. You might find yourself in a meeting discussing a new project. You had to sell your idea or opinion. How about at home where you need to convince your partner the family needs a new car? Shoppers coming to visit your garage sale? Yes, even though your official title may never come close to salesperson, everyone finds themselves in situations of selling on a regular basis.
There are two books I particularly like that cover this subject: Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion by Robert Cialdini and Neuromarketing: Understanding the “Buy Buttons” in your Customer’s Brain by Patrick Renvoise and Christophe Morin. (Terrible title, but great book). These books combined have a wealth of insight. These books and slideshare on the topic will help you understand where executives are coming from and how to give them the information they need in a manner that will maximize your impact and value.
Thursday evening, October 20.
All the gear is laid out and ready to be packed into the truck. We’re finally ready to start the adventure.
Actually this story began October 10, 2008. I was leaving to go on my first Grand Canyon adventure when my 9-year-old daughter begged to go with me. “No honey” I said, “not this time. I need to check it out before I bring you. But I promise I will take you the next time I go.” I had been on the waiting list for 12 years before I got my 2008 permit. That was the last year before the National Park Service switched to a lottery system for awarding permits. (You can apply for a permit too. See the National Park Service website for details: http://www.nps.gov/grca/planyourvisit/whitewater-rafting.htm ) I had no idea I would win a permit through the lottery just 2 years later! Well, I promised Ariel I would take her the next time I went, so at age 12 she’s going to get the opportunity of a lifetime (and she will get out of school for 2 whole weeks!) I will be on the river for 3 weeks and away from home for a full month, but 2 weeks is long enough for her. She will take out near the halfway point, at Phantom Ranch, the only place where it is possible to hike out from the river once you’re in the Canyon. Her mother will take her home from there. I cleared it with the school the day after I won the permit. I will be working with her teachers to get as much of her work done beforehand as possible. The rest she will make up when she returns.
Though my October 25, 2011 launch date was awarded in February 2010, I couldn’t commit to going on this trip until April of this year. That left only 6 months to assemble a team of 14 more people (a permit is for 16 people), help them prepare for the trip, get the group equipment rented, the menu secured and a shuttle to/from the river with an outfitter, not to mention doing all the personal preparations for me AND Ariel.
The most important part of being a trip leader is selecting a good team. Having only 6 months to do it made building the team even more difficult. At least 6 people had committed to the trip only to have to cancel later. One person even had emergency surgery. The final members were added to the trip less than a month before the launch date. It’s going to be interesting. I would normally take more time and get to know everyone better before inviting them on an expedition like this. Group harmony and teamwork are critical to having a successful and enjoyable trip for everyone. Only one person from my first trip is able to go this time. No surprise. How many people can get 3+ weeks off from work, much less do it twice in 3 years? So I’m working with a whole new team. This time I am relying on the judgement of the members I already know to make good choices about the people they recommend. There was a lot of “well I have a friend who knows someone who might like to go…” But from the discussions I have had with everyone, I’m comfortable with the team.
It has been an intense 6 months, but I believe all of the planning and preparations are finally complete. The crew is set. The outfitter has received our final payment for the equipment rental (4 x 18′ rafts, kitchen equipment, groover, meals for 21 days for 16 people and other miscellaneous gear and shuttle service to/from the river.) The trip itinerary is complete with our target campsites and planned hikes while on the river. The emergency contact plan is set for all trip members. The truck is prepped and ready with a fresh oil change, new roof rack, and new stereo. Ariel’s gear is ready including new gaskets for her dry suit, a new sleeping bag, a hard case and a custom dry bag for her cello (yes her cello is going too!). I have a new dry box for my violin. My friend Steve, who plays violin for the Seattle Symphony and has rafted the Canyon 23 times(!) with a string quartet, even told me of all the best places to play our music, effectively an acoustical map of the Canyon. I borrowed a video camera (mine was damaged on the previous trip.) Logistics for hiking out to meet Ariel’s mother have been set. There will be no way to communicate with her once we set off from Lee’s Ferry until we are face-to-face at the South Rim trail head 9 days later. The refrigerator and pantry at home have been emptied of all perishable foods. I even got a haircut. There was much more to prepare the group and myself, but you get the idea. It’s not as simple as a weekend getaway with the wife and kids.
Tomorrow morning I will be giving a speech at Toastmasters, go to work to wrap up loose ends, then leave early to get Ariel after school and head out of town. Oh, wait. It’s 10:00 PM and I still have to load everything into the truck! Guess I’ll have to finish preparing for my speech while I load up. Tomorrow the rain is supposed to come. Looking forward to putting Seattle in the rear view mirror.
Eight months ago I joined Toastmasters. I will never be able to watch a Lotusphere session (or any other presentation) the same way again. Did you ever wonder what it’s like to present at Lotusphere? On the positive side it must be rewarding just to be selected. You’ve been chosen by IBM as one who stands out among your peers. On the other hand, giving a presentation is challenging and even more so when presenting somewhere like Lotusphere in front of your peers where you are expected to be the subject matter expert. More people fear public speaking than anything else, even more than dying. For most technology experts, their expertise lies in the technology, not in public speaking. They may give presentations just a few times a year. Even without the fear of public speaking, it is difficult to be good at it without frequent practice. Imagine if you only administered your servers or wrote code a few times each year? Quite a challenge. So as you watch their presentations, keep that in mind. It’s not easy.
On the other hand, if you find yourself speaking at Lotusphere or anywhere else for that matter, consider this: you’re already an expert at your subject matter. So if you’re trying to improve the quality of your presentation, you’ll probably get the biggest return on investment of your time by honing your communication skills rather than your topic competence. There are a few speakers out there like Chris Miller and Mat Newman, who have somehow mastered the techniques AND know what they’re talking about. But for the rest of us, it takes lots of practice and feedback. And I have stumbled upon what I think is the best venue for this. It’s Toastmasters. If a Toastmasters club meets somewhere near you, join it. Toastmasters is one of the very best paths to develop good communication skills that you will find. Toastmasters is an international non-profit organization of people who want to improve on their communication and leadership skills. It’s a fantastic way to minimize your weaknesses in public speaking in a positive, supportive, and fun environment. You will uncover things like
- How many times do you say ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘so’, or ‘you know’ while giving even a short 5 minute presentation?
- Do you commit “death by Powerpoint” (or Symphony Presentations)?
- Do you ramble on without pauses for emphasis?
- Talk monotone without any inflection or energy in your voice?
- Are your slides packed with text and complex graphics?
- Do you read your slides to the audience?
- Do you use gestures and body language and make use of the whole stage or do you lock yourself in behind the security of the podium and stand motionless?
- Do you read from a script (e.g. Open General Session!) or worse, do you try to memorize your speech?
You get the idea. Whether you are currently a presenter or aspire to become one, until you have mastered all of the skills (and even the best speakers practice to improve), you should practice and get feedback from people who know the intricacies of public speaking and can help you can improve. (I’m not talking about the feedback forms at the end of the sessions. They mostly cover content, not delivery, and the observers are not watching with a critical eye for communication skills, they are there to learn the content.) Toastmasters is a great place to do this is.
I have been in Toastmasters for less than a year and while my peers in the club give me great praise and support, I learn every time I give a presentation or evaluate someone else giving theirs. If you think you’re good enough already, check out this list of famous people who are in Toastmasters.