A conference that turned into a community

Community

It’s not normally the word you’d think of when describing your experiences at a conference. A conference is supposed to be about travel hassles, hotel reservations, PowerPoint slide decks, and bad diet choices. But this conference felt different before I even arrived. MaximoWorld 2017 was held at the Disney Swan & Dolphin, which happened to be the location of the last MaximoWorld conference back in 2007. So this already gave MaximoWorld 2017 a different vibe.

The conference was supposed to start on Tuesday, so I flew in the day before. I had been traveling for a good part of the day, so I checked in and got my things to my room. I needed to get a bite to eat and stretch my legs so I headed out to find something to eat. As I walked around I started to bump into people I had met over the years attending other conferences. But I wasn’t just chatting with fellow Maximo users, I was also getting to meet their spouses, their kids, and their grandkids. The vibe for the conference continued to change.

I finished dinner and headed back to the hotel to go over the slide deck and agenda for the Maximo Manufacturing & Life Sciences User Group (MMUG) session Tuesday morning. I thought this was going to be an amazing MMUG session. I spent 2 weeks putting a slide deck together for a very technical track session about automating work execution and utilizing scripting in BIRT reports. I pulled open my laptop, started looking at the slide deck, and made a few last minute changes. I went through the slide deck over and over, each time the content felt less right for the conference.

So I started to rewrite the entire agenda from scratch.

It was now 10:20pm the night before the conference and I was rewriting the agenda and the slide deck. When I had walked around earlier that night I started to think about how much things had changed - both personally and professionally - over the past 10 years since the last MaximoWorld. As I started to pull together ideas about the new agenda the content I was putting into the slide deck just began to flow. As I was making the changes it felt like this was what I should have done the first time. I wrapped up with the new slide deck and agenda around 2am. The conference was going to open in 6 hours and I had just changed everything I had planned to discuss. I’d never felt better about a presentation before.

The MMUG session opened at 8am and the room was packed. Everyone there was excited about the potential of the next 3 days. So we kicked off the session and it went better than I could have imagined. I had 3 great Maximo community members support me in the MMUG session - Dave Reiber (MMUG session co-chair), Brian Baird, and Paul Crocker. Each of them were tasked to add some content to the MMUG session because a speaker I had planned to participate could not make it at the last minute. So not only did I change what I was going to present, we now needed to ad hoc fill another hour of content because of the speaker we lost. I don’t believe the session could have gone any better. As Dave, Brian and Paul spoke they would discuss the content they wanted to bring to the MMUG session and as they closed their discussion it would just magically lead back into a topic I had in the slide deck - all without ANY rehearsal. I don’t believe I’ve ever had a session track feel so in tune as I did with this one.

As the conference continued I saw Maximo users talking their recent technical triumphs and upcoming project plans. I also saw Maximo users catching up with each other about their families, following up on recipe exchanges, and reminiscing about the last time they saw each other. I got to meet people in person that I’ve been communicating with on forums, email, or Twitter for years. We would just pick up on conversations as if we’d just saw each other last week.

As the conference was winding down, I started to put together my notes for this post. I knew I had experienced something more than a just a conference. On the last day of the conference there was a closing reception for attendees. I was lucky enough to stand next to Terrence O’Hanson, the CEO of Reliability Web, at the closing reception and he had a smile from ear to ear that was about as big as mine. We chatted about how we felt the conference flowed, how everyone was leaving with such a positive attitude, and what we could do next year. As we chatted we realized the size of the group hadn’t really diminished. The conference was over and everyone wanted to stay and keep chatting. Terry and I looked at each other, and like my unrehearsed opening session, we came to the same word... Community.

So yeah.... Community is the right word to describe MaximoWorld 2017.



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