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Last year I wrote a blog post where I shared some of the major highlights about one of my favourite User Group events out there in Europe from all time: Engage. It’s hard to believe, but a year has now gone by and here I am again putting together a few words and some additional thoughts about what a wonderful event it was and how it keeps raising the bar time after time. This year it was its 10th anniversary and it was no different. Once again, I frankly don’t know how Theo Heselmans and his wife do it, but it surely was a real treat and I just can’t wait to see what they will put together in 2019! Already looking forward to it very much! I know you all may be wondering about my one word summary for this rather special edition, right? Well, here is… Community!

Indeed, Community with a capital ‘C’. If there is anything that distinguishes, or should distinguish, a User Group event it is a rather strong sense of community, of belonging to something bigger, of creating passionate users always rather eager on wanting to learn more about a range of products they do love and use on a regular basis, regardless. At a time where there are more and more dispirited conference events taking place out there, it’s always a true privilege to have the opportunity to attend one where a strong sense of community rules over everything else and it just feels right. That’s Engage.

So, what are some of the major highlights from this 10th edition? Well, there are lots of them and in order for me to share some across I thought I’d pick up the very same format from last year’s blog post and try to give you a glimpse here and there of what happened this time around. Thus, without much further ago, here we go again!

The Organisation

Putting together an event is a rather tough and daunting task, I am pretty sure you’d all agree with that statement, but hosting an event where you’re always welcome, have that rather warm feeling of being amongst close friends with a passion for similar topics (i.e. use digital tools to collaborate and share your knowledge more effective to get work done better), always willing to learn, listen, understand and share more, in short, engage, while having fun, too, is unique. Sublime, if you ask me. That’s what Engage is all about. Belonging. And you know that strong sense of community is floating up in the air when people from all over the world flock to Rotterdam (This year’s location) to help out with the final prep before the event starts after months of truly hard work put together by Theo, his wife Hilde, and a few other folks. So you know how the organisation is just going to be perfect, because everyone chimes in to help out as an act of love and give-back for what has been done so far to organise it over the course of the year. And you feel that throughout the entire event to the point where on the closing general session, while this happens, there is an standing ovation with shivers going up your spine as the magic unleashes and does its thing. Frankly, I just wish every single conference event I attend from here onwards would make me feel that special. Last week Engage nailed it.

The Networking

Those of you who know me personally would know by now how one of my favourite activities while attending any event has always been networking. It’s what makes participating in conferences worth while the time and effort invested. This year, at Engage, I had a major ah-ha moment about such informal activities as to why I think they are so critical to the success of the overall event: Community! Indeed, I realised how critical both the venue and the time in between breakout sessions is for the overall networking activities to kick in and succeed. And how scale matters, a lot!

You know, just because you may be attending a massive conference event with thousands and thousands of people there is no guarantee you’d be able to network accordingly. However, when you have the opportunity of attending a somewhat smaller event the odds increase and if you put a little effort into it you’ll have an opportunity to do tons of networking. There is no escape. Engage, with over 400 people attending was just like that, but what ticked with me this time around was the venue. This venue. More on it shortly … But let me state how I learned about the importance of having a venue that accommodates nicely for your face to face networking activities. Again, this venue. Whoah!

The Content

The overall content, as usual, was great! Tons of different sessions going from the rather technical ones to customers’ case studies sharing their own stories, to news and announcements around Notes & Domino, IBM Watson Workspace, IBM Connections, amongst several others, and with an ample representation from IBM Champions. As usual, you can take a look into the agenda or, alternatively, take a peek into the different sessions and download the slides as you may see fit based on your own interest(s). A good number of them are already available while we wait for plenty more to come through soon enough. As you may have noticed, I did a couple of sessions myself and if you’d want to take a look into them, you would be able to check them out at ‘How healthy is your Enterprise Social Networking environment?’ and ‘What’s the Story of Your Community Building Programme in Your Social Business Journey?‘ At a later time I will talk more in detail and do a webinar about each of them, but feel free to read through them and see what you think. I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments section below. Oooh, and if you are interested in watching the recording of the Opening General Session you will be able to find it over here.

The Venue

I mentioned it already in a different blog post, and I am not too sure how Theo does it year after year, but for every single edition of Engage he keeps rising the bar in terms of picking up the most special venue available where he knows the overall event is going to be a huge success. This year was no different. Quite the contrary. It was just superb! I mean, over the course of the last 21 years I have spoken hundreds of times in different venues some of which being rather peculiar and unique, but the ss Rotterdam most definitely tops them all! WOW! Stunning!

Can you imagine? Spending 3 days in a ship with gorgeous summer-like weather, drinks & great food all around, wonderful service from all of the staff on board (including the accommodation!), tons of space to wander around throughout the different decks where you get to discover a number of quiet places to enjoy deeper conversations in smaller groups without having to shout your lungs out was a real treat to the senses. Literally. And the views, my goodness, the views. They were just fantastic! Take a look into the following links here and here for plenty of snapshots from where you can get a good sense of what the venue was like for the smashing success over the overall event.

Next year’s venue? I have got no idea, but I’m surely looking forward to it already as I know Theo will do it again and show us the impact a great venue can have when putting together a fabulous event we will all remember for a good while. Any guesses so far? Heh

The Extra Curricular Activities

I guess Engage would not be the same thing if it weren’t as well for the extra curricular activities Theo keeps putting together as well to enhance the overall experience for the different attendees. It’s a wonderful effort to help augment that strong sense of belonging to the community by encouraging people to talk AND engage with one another while having plenty of good fun! Again, this year was no different, and perhaps rather special. Going from having dinner & drinks at the upper deck of the ship with some stunning views while watching a glorious sunset to the following evening visiting the Dutch Pinball Museum and embark (literally!) on a sightseeing tour that included dinner & drinks at the Euromast tower. Whoah! Who can top that? Anyone? It’s a bit of a challenge, don’t you think? But, I tell you, we all had a fantastic time throughout the conference with these extra curricular activities and I am already starting to wonder what those will be like next year … Ha! By the way, I won at the pinball battles with the folks I was hanging out with! So much fun, so long ago since the last time I played I almost forgot what it was like living in the 80s back again! Heh

The overall vibe

And here we are towards the end of this blog post sharing some of my favourite highlights from last week’s Engage event and already missing it while I look forward to next year’s edition. I started off this article talking about the one word I’d use to summarise what it was like and how it felt overall, and just in case you may have forgotten it already here it is again: Community. With a capital ‘C’.

If you ask me, that is what conference events should be all about: building, nurturing and cultivating personal business relationships through a common set of shared interests about wanting to do things better with a strong sense of belonging, caring for one another, learning and sharing back with the community you belong to. One conversation at a time. Many great memories difficult to forget.

Learn, Listen, Share and Have Fun, too! Engage!

See you all next year!

Luis

Below is the summary of our sessions at Engage, some of which include their slides. For privacy reasons, slides depicting external or sensitive information could not be included. Please contact the speaker directly for more information on their session. Register to our newsletter to find out when our sessions will be presented online as a webinar!

panagenda workshop: IBM Domino Application Transformation Jumpstart

Plotting a path forward for your IBM Domino applications can be challenging in the absence of application usage and design metrics.
Join us to learn all about panagenda ApplicationInsights – a cohesive way to get started with application landscape transformation! Find out how your very own data gets turned into easy to understand dashboards that show current application usage, code complexity, design similarity and transformation roadblocks so you can decide on which applications can be archived, rewritten or modernized easily.
Best of all – follow our early enablement guide to install ApplicationInsights before this workshop and receive a complimentary walk through of your application data from one of our experienced consultants!

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Plotting the right path forward for your IBM Domino applications can be challenging! Join Henning and Luis to learn about IBM’s strategy on how to get started with application landscape transformation and the brand new version of ApplicationInsights! Find out how to create your own custom insight searches that turn your very own data into actionable solutions. Learn more about code similarity and ApplicationInsights’ easy to understand dashboards that show application usage and business value. Gain a clear understanding on what applications can be archived, rewritten or modernized easily and how to take the next steps forward.


GDPR: Three days to go: What you all need to know and what needs to be done

The European General Data Protection Law (also known as EU-DSGVO) becomes effective as of May 25 and is of VITAL importance.
In the easiest sense it’s important as it involves fines of up to 2 million Euros or 4% of worldwide turnover (whatever scares you more). Fines not only come into play upon actual data loss, but already if data *could* get lost and for a variety of other reasons. This session covers the most important GDPR topics, both for companies in the European Union and for companies doing business with European companies or citizens. We will also be looking at whether it makes a difference if you are a one person shop or multinational business.


Visual story telling: the key to unlocking the data gold mine

For two years now the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration has been collecting metadata of unstructured documents and files on multiple platforms to gain more insights into internal collaboration patterns. A vast lake of data has been collected which offers key observations and insights that help drive the strategic decisions, essential in a time where things like GDPR and data protection require in-depth knowledge of every aspect of an organization’s data production, consumption and dispersal.

However having the data is not enough. Making it consumable to management and end-users alike is key to showing value for the business. This session is about how the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration we went from visual data exploration to visual storytelling to allow the understanding of key insights gained from the dataset being collected. Making it consumable and allowing users to further question the data relevant to them. Join Robert and Femke to hear about how they use visual storytelling and dashboards to help users understand the data and see how this helps the Dutch Tax and Customs Administration.

What’s the Story of Your Community Building Programme in Your Social Business Journey?
  • Luis Suarez panagenda Group
    Digital Transformation & Data Analytics Adviser

Online communities are the key driver of social business adaptation programmes. There’s a great chance you already have an on-going community building programme using IBM Connections. You’re now thinking about how you could help accelerate that adaptation process for your different communities. WHAT IF data analytics could help you with that? What if you’d find an effective way to engage your top contributors & SMEs to influence user behaviour? Do you know where your lurkers are? What if you could identify some of the core activities within your communities so you can encourage more active participation & engagement? What if you could spot right away potential trouble areas slowing you down in your community building efforts? Time to act now!


How healthy is your Enterprise Social Networking environment?
  • Luis Suarez panagenda Group
    Digital Transformation & Data Analytics Adviser

Influencing change in your organization’s culture is tough. Understanding how healthy your ESN (Enterprise Social Networking) platform is will help you unleash its true potential. Transforming how you connect, collaborate and learn with your colleagues, customers and business partners has never been so critical.

There are multiple ways of how you can approach such transformation efforts in order to help improve your digital adaptation capabilities.
panagenda ESN HealthCheck helps you improve adoption, explore user activity details and participation rates, better understand community analytics, evaluate end-to-end availability, service quality and performance measurements, detect automatically anomalies and critical peaks, and evaluate the overall effectiveness of your different change initiatives.

Come and join us for this practical session including a hands-on demo on what ConnectionsExpert 2.0 has to offer to measure how healthy your ESN is within your organization so that you can take your digital transformation journey into the next level.


IBM Notes and Domino Performance Boost - Reloaded

There is always room for improvement! Maximizing the IBM Notes client and Domino server performance doesn’t have to be complicated. Reloaded for the latest IBM Notes/Domino 9 version (9.0.1 Feature Pack 10 or later), join Chris and Luis to find out the best and latest performance tuning tips. Learn how to debug your clients(s) and server(s), deal with outdated ODS, network latency, application/mail performance issues and more. Improve your IBM Notes client installations to provide a better experience for happier administration and happier end users! As a special bonus, Chris will show you how to reduce the startup time of virtualized IBM Notes Clients (Citrix / VMWare / etc).


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Showing 4 comments
  • Theo Heselmans
    Reply

    Humbled and grateful for the kind words!
    And who knows what we’ll find for 2019, but I doubt very much we can beat the ss Rotterdam!

    • Luis Suarez
      Reply

      Hi Theo, many thanks for dropping by and for the lovely feedback comments! Oooh don’t mention it! It’s my pleasure and it’s the least I could do to share my gratitude to express how wonderful the event was throughout the entire week. Many wonderful memories have been made and I just can’t wait for next year’s edition. Yeah, it may be tough to beat the ss Rotterdam, but then again that’s what interesting challenges are all about, right? I am pretty certain it will be another smashing event altogether!

      Thanks ever so much, Theo, for going the extra mile and for making us all feel special. *Very* special!

  • Carsten Rose
    Reply

    Thank you so much for this fab retrospection, Luis!
    Now I know what I’ve been missing …

    Cheers
    Carsten

    • Luis Suarez
      Reply

      Hiya, Carsten, many thanks for dropping by and for the kind comments! Glad to read you liked the blog post and really sorry you couldn’t make it. It’s definitely one of my favourite conference events happening in Europe at the moment, and I’m hoping at one point in time you’d have the chance / opportunity to make it, because it’s worth while the time investment and the effort. It’s everything a conference event should have without all of the struggles we are used to. Like I said, to me, it’s a must-attend event, and I’m certainly looking forward to the opportunity where we may be able to meet up F2F at next year’s edition. Why not, right? It’d be really cool!

      Thanks again for the lovely feedback! Hope we won’t have to wait till next year to see each other in the carbon. I’ll be looking forward to it!

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