Thursday, July 7, 2011

IBM Customers, Want to Speak at Lotusphere 2012?

I don't guarantee you a slot, I have zero say in the matter as a non-IBMer, unless you are a client of mine then I try my best, but this may help you in case you want the chance and are not my client. It isn't perfect or straight from anyone just my thoughts on how to populate Lotusphere with customers.

At The View Admin 2011 show I discussed in my sessions how customers have chances to speak at Lotusphere. The View shows are really about customers, not so many Business Partners attend sessions. And my job as a speaker and Lotus Evangelist is to encourage everyone's participation in getting the good word out and hopefully customer reference stories.

If you can, try to do a session for a local LUG if there is one near you. It gives you some live people to get feedback and helps you get used to speaking if you have never done it previously.

As a client speaking at Lotusphere there comes perks that your company will enjoy like over 5,000 people knowing/hearing your company name everywhere for a week plus other email, newsletters and PR opportunities.

You most likely receive a pass to Lotusphere of some sort (IBM's discretion of course) which should make your boss happy and finance happier.

Naturally you should get introductions to IBMers at many levels you would not easily find if you were on your own. Many of these people will be Product Managers or higher executives because they want to know more about you and how you are using the products. This is your time to shine and give great feedback, even about things you may not like, just be constructive. It helps if you want to later be nominated as an IBM Champion for Collaborative Solutions as IBM values your contributions as a client.

There are of course other benefits but those vary year to year(special sessions/roundtables, private executive meetings, dinners, outings of various types and of course a coveted Lotusphere backpack) but suffice it to say you will be very busy and be treated well by IBM. If you get accepted to speak.

So how do you get the ball rolling?

1) If your IBM rep or Business Partner hasn't told you before or started yet, ASK THEM. Yes, asking is the first step, just make sure you say you want to be a Business/Customer Session. You see there is a protocol involved that the IBM rep or BP has to go through. They ask their manager who asks theirs who eventually asks the Leaders of Lotusphere how to set it up for this year. You can of course submit abstracts like the rest of us when the window opens for them but this is about your company not you per se.

2) They will ask what do you want to speak about. Have some ideas, 2-3 topics, the IBM rep will eventually get a whif of what this year's theme will be and may steer you to a session in line with it. OR you may have some great application which would be amazing to tell everyone about. Either way think about the ideas from the perspective of "What session, as a customer, would you be interested in hearing about?" If you use Quickr and have 1,000's of sites and manage it well(kudos to you it isn't easy) suggest it. As long as it uses the products and has a good ROI or other metric that would help, try it.

3)Now you need to do some things in parallel. One is approach legal and get approval. Second is approach marketing/PR/advertising and let them know you are thinking about doing this and would they like it if you were accepted. Remember 5,000+ people a day for almost a week is a lot of people and just what they like to hear. Not legal, they tend to be rather conservative but without their approval you are wasting your time.

4) Your manager should be told after all the above, unless you are friends with them.Many reasons for this but if your boss is from Dilbert you get the picture.

5) Sit and wait. Maybe you will get accepted. Maybe you won't. The benefit is you will now get more respect to your IBM rep from inside IBM, I think it's on their goals for the year to get customers to speak and attend Lotusphere but I have no idea really, which should help your need as well. You help them, they help you and everyone is happy right?

If you get accepted, now what?

The sessions are either 20 minutes, 45 or an hour or more so you need to plan for it all at some point. But you can pull pieces out or add in later.

You should briefly describe your company with some company info/history to set the expectation about you especially if you are not as well known as GE for example.
Discuss the size of the environment and how mnay admins/devs/apps/mail files etc and OS types, basically anything that sets a picture of your environment.

Then discuss the topic, briefly, so everyone knows the minimum about the tool/solution/app before you get to the good stuff.

Then get to what you want to say about your topic.

Wrap it up with what you found, pro/con style so others are aware that it may not be 100% simple. There are always gotchas and people desperately want to know about them before starting a new project.

Finish with why Domino/IBM is so key to the company and going forward any plans you have to extend it.

Again, I have no connection to Lotusphere these days that influences anything but I do want to see IBM get more customers requesting to speak than abstracts for the rest of Lotusphere.

Prove the world wrong that not everyone uses Microsoft or Google but does use IBM and loves it.

So you 400 or so from The View conference start thinking about ideas, Lotusphere starts January 15, 2012 a mere 192 days from now! Good Luck!