CEC 2006 - Day 0 (Sunday, October 1st)

I am starting with Day 0 (Sunday) but in reality I arrived in Saturday September 30th. I arrived from Prague via Frankfurt around noon and had expected to be in the city (San Francisco) around 1PM to do a "walk though" of our opening session with Jim Baty (my co-host). Once I cleared customs I found the transportation folks holding the Sun sign. I had set my expectations in thinking I could get on the bus and arrive in the city within 30 minutes. Wrong. I think I had the first bus of the event. The staff had no idea what to do with our bags, what route to take to get out of the airport or what the best route is to get to the hotels. Even better, my hotel was the last of six drops. Needless to say, it took over two hours from the time I landed to make it to my hotel. The good news is I had some friends there to keep me company. Later that night I met up with Susan McMynn, Lara Foster and Inka Havlova for dinner.

Sunday morning started a little rough as a few of us decided to relieve some pre-stress by closing down the bar on Saturday night. In any case, I was up and going for the 9AM core team walk through. We went over the show flow, personal schedules, last minute budget reviews, etc. At 11AM we we off to Jillians to say hello and a huge thanks to the volunteers that really make CEC happen. Thanks Team! After that we were off to Moscone to begin all the rehearsals, walk throughs, orientations, etc. Of course we were already running behind and Jim and I had not finished our content for Monday's opening. So we spent some time in our "office" at Moscone working on content. At 1PM the walkthroughs begin. We got an orientation to the state, backstage, dressing room, green room, etc. At this point it suddenly hit me that this event was huge. Not only from the perspective of how much stuff it takes to put on a show like this, but also and more importantly the potential positive impact we could drive with our entire technical community if we did it right. Lots of things going on back stage. The dressing room (more about this later), a green room (which was actually a black room), video and audio stations, a content (slides) station and of course our "interaction station".

We did a show flow walkthough with Kenwood (our production company). This is essentially a review of the entire 3 days in terms of what happens on the main stage. Who introduces whom, who is on stage when, how questions will be handled, etc. I can tell you there is way, way more detail then you would ever think. Jim made a really good observation today. He said that we have become accustom to commercial quality production. Meaning that most people just expect things to happen, in a certain fashion, with a certain level of quality. For a big event like this you don't expect there to be gaps, audio/video issues, staging mistakes, etc. And in order to really pull that off it takes a lot of people and a lot of work. Don't believe me? Try to make your own home video with the same quality of a common TV show. Even if you were to have all the fancy production equipment, it is still a difficult task.

The last bit of rehearsal was to test our interactive setup. You see at this years CEC we decided to make it more dynamic and web 2.0 like. To have people in the audience/community be able to not only ask questions via the normal "mic in the isles" but to also let them SMS, email, blog, instant message, etc with us. The setup was to have email, instant message and SMS as the ways people could contact us. The idea was that someone in the crowd could send a message which would be received back stage and then relayed to the stage for someone to ask a question. Sounds pretty simple right? Well as you might guess it was not working. Not even close. Not that email, IM or SMS are difficult things to set up, but to do it for an audience of over 3500 people does take a bit of planning. When we left Moscone at 3PM it was still not working.

At 3PM we were on our way to rehearsals for the "state of the union" addresses for that night. I was presenting at the EMEA SoU and wanted to make sure we were all set. The main issue that we had to resolve was the testing of a speaker phone system that would be loud enough for almost 700 to hear. Peter Ryan (SVP of EMEA Sales and Services) could not attend as he and his wife are expecting a baby this week. Peter was brave enough to call in at 2AM (UK time) to chat with the EMEA folks.

At 4:30PM Jim and I joined the Principal Engineer (PE) meeting taking place in conjunction with CEC. The PEs had been working on a number of issues and Jim and I arrived just in time to hear a report out of the recommended actions. Thanks team, I thought the meeting and the report out were rather positive. A lot more positive then I have seen from this group of people in a while.

At 5PM Jim and I went to the green room at the hilton to do two things. One was to get a update from the interactive team to see where we were and two to review what we planned to present at the SoU events at 6PM. Well the bad news is that the interactive is still not working. We did however get a chance to talk though how it should work.

At 6PM it was off to the SoU events. Overall I have to say these breakouts seemed a little flat. I wonder if we should continue to hold SoU events at CEC?

8PM meant the end of the SoU meetings and the beginning of the reception. Well it was for most people anyway. I had to run to a review for the Global Customer Services all hands to take place on Wednesday. I joined Ian White and his team to chat a bit about logistics and such for his all hands in which I was asked to MC.

At 9PM I was rather tired and still had not finished my slides for the following morning. Ohh and have I mentioned that the interactive technology was still not working?

So instead of doing the social thing, I met up with Jim again and we decided to head back to the hotel and work our content. Lara Foster (my Chief of Staff and CEC core team member) and Susan McMynn (my Customer Engineering Programs Manager and CEC core team member) decide to join Jim and I for what was supposed to be a late night walk through and critique of our content. What it turned out to be was a late night chat, including a pizza, club sandwich and four orders of sorbet (not all just for me - we shared it), while I worked on slides. I think about 12:30AM we all decided to pack it in for the night. We were close enough.

That is where the day should have ended, but I ended up staying up and continued to refine our content and talk for Monday morning. The funny thing is about 2:45AM I got a SMS from Jim asking if I was still up. I was. I responded while I laughed as Jim and I seem to be on the same schedule in terms of rarely getting sleep. The good news is that Jim got a report that the interactive team was able to get the technology working. Awesome. Good enough for me. Not long after that I was asleep. End of a long day 0, CEC had not really even begun yet!

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