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 on engage 2018 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 engage 2018, the 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 2018 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 2018 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. At engage 2018, 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 2018, 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 at engage 2018 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 & DominoIBM Watson WorkspaceIBM 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 2018 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 2018 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!


Below is the summary of our sessions at engage 2018, 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.
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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.

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