Seems like a bout of insomnia tonight, which makes this as good a time as any to comment on the second day of this conference.  As I've noted in the previous entries, the contents of the conference itself have been under NDA, so there's not much I can say about session specifics.  But I have a story about the conference itself which puts the whole event in context.

Several months ago, Sandra Marcus, the queen of Lotusphere, was given the task of setting up a new conference, bringing together the Global Customer Support Council, the Enterprise Support Council, the Board of Advisors, and a few other groups and constituencies that are our partners within the Lotus brand.  Each of these groups has had face-to-face meetings in the past, but never under "one roof".  A short list of five hotel/conference properties in south Florida was chosen, and Sandra went to visit each of those hotels.  

A few days in advance of her visit, a blog reader sent me an e-mail.  He said, my wife is the HR Director at the Westin Diplomat, and Sandra Marcus is coming to visit us.  What can you tell me about Sandra that will make her visit special?  As a sales guy, I loved this initiative to find out more about their potential customer, and decided to play along.

I racked my brain a bit, and eventually settled on one of Sandra's Lotusphere trademarks -- a feather boa, which she dons during the after-party as a sign of celebration.  I suggested that incorporating a feather boa into Sandra's visit would be certain to win her over.

When Sandra visited the hotel, it was the last stop on a long day which started out poorly.  Her luggage had not arrived with her from Boston.  When she got to the Westin Diplomat, they took her to the resort store, in order to obtain a change of clothing.  When they presented her with the shopping bag, along came with it a pink feather boa.  Sandra was, as she reports now, stunned that this hotel had somehow learned of her personal trademark.  She suspected that Starwood, who manage the WDW Swan and Dolphin where Lotusphere is held, had clued in their sister property here in Hollywood FL.  No way did Sandra suspect an IBMer was on the inside of this job.....she was impressed.  

I can't say whether this sealed the deal for the Diplomat, but as Sandra tells it -- "every hotel has the same speeds and feeds features -- big meeting rooms, pools, catering.  What was going to make this a successful conference was a hotel that took us seriously on a personal level."  She even brought the boa with her for the event, starting with the pre-conference kickoff meeting on Thursday.

The story doesn't quite end there.  All attendees at LoLA had a beautiful plate of chocolate delivered to their room upon arrival (as seen in this picture).  Mine had a few additions to the standard kit -- extra chocolate, a small bottle of red, and an envelope.  The envelope contained a hand-written note from the hotel's HR director, welcoming me to the hotel.  There was no feather boa for me, simply a small token of appreciation for being part of the family that put this event together.  You have to admire that, months later, they remembered even a small contribution to the event's success.

And success is the right word for what I saw on Tuesday.  Great breakout sessions, customer conversations, and a small bit of internal planning.  Oh, and I met Bob Picciano.  It was an incredible conversation, and one which I will have more to say about in the coming days.  In a word -- wow.

This morning I've got a couple remaining meetings here, and then jetting back home to fight city hall over a zoning proposal.  For all the collaborative tools in the world, I am still required to appear in person, on only one date at only one time, to have my voice heard.  Some day that will change, and they'll take a Sametime Unyte meeting...right?

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