Michael's Happenings

Just 11 Days

On September 22 I pulled out of New Zealand and headed to London, flying Air New Zealand via Los Angeles. Air New Zealand had a neat surprise awaiting me in Auckland when I arrived from Christchurch – we had the Boeing 777-300ER painted in the Hobbit livery for the trip through to London. Of course, you might notice this when you climb aboard, but once inside it is quite invisible. To complete the whole Hobbit feeling, I really think the entire crew should have special Hobbit clothing too, much like in the Hobbit safety briefing. I keep expecting that to happen, but it never quite turns out that way. Anyway, it was nice to finally both see the plane, and have the privilege of traveling across the world in it. It was helpful, too, to not have Smaug “The Terrible” chasing the Hobbit plane across the skyline. That would have made for quite an unexpected journey.

Once in London (I arrived Monday morning), I found my way to a new hotel – Apex Temple Court. On many of my recent trips to London I have stayed at Chancery Court, but with the sale of that hotel some months ago, it was not available (it is coming back next week actually, as part of the Rosewood chain). So Apex Temple Court was it, which turned out to be a very nice hotel over on Fleet Street. My mainstay event for the trip was the Interaction 2013 intranet conference, and Apex Temple Court was the designated “conference hotel.” I stayed a total of four nights, before I shifted to another hotel for the weekend. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

After dropping off my bags and getting changed, I headed out to visit some of my favorite shops in London. As they didn’t have what I was seeking, I kept my wallet shut. With suddenly having an 11 hour time zone change, and thus feeling quite exhausted, the real reason was more about keeping moving and not sitting down for too long. I had eaten breakfast on the plane at around 8am London time, and then didn’t eat anything else until around 3pm when I had “dunch” – a combination of a late lunch and an early dinner. Perhaps that should be “linner,” but whatever you call it, I was pleased to eat again. Then I walked a bit, and took the underground a bit, in order to get back to my hotel. I think I finally crashed for the night around 7 or 8pm, but was awake fairly early the next morning.

I was due to meet up with a colleague for “breakfast” (no specific time confirmed, though), so delayed my usual 6.30am breakfast until 7am to enable him to be there. But he still hadn’t turned up by 7.10am, and having been up for some hours already, I took the liberty of eating breakfast without him. When I did finally meet him later in the day, we laughed about the difference in approach. For him, he looks at the breakfast schedule, and turns up during the last 30 minutes. My approach was the opposite – to look at the breakfast schedule and turn up during the first 30 minutes, and ideally right on opening time. No wonder we didn’t align for breakfast that morning. But we did manage a late lunch at one of the eateries on Fleet Street before he headed off to his afternoon commitments. As I had already been out to Canary Wharf that morning, I headed back to my hotel room to do some work and get ready for the conference dinner later that night.

The Interaction 2013 conference was held over two days, with the first day being a special day for customers and prospects of Interact Intranet. I didn’t attend that day, but was invited to attend the awards dinner that night. It was good to catch up with my London friends and conference regulars, and although I was severely jetlagged, managed to get through the dinner. Martin White, of Intranet Focus fame, was also at the dinner, and as he was staying in London overnight due to his speaking commitment at the conference the next day, we walked back to the Apex Temple Court Hotel together. He took me on the “scenic route,” which took a bit longer but enabled me to locate another shop I’d read about but didn’t know its specific location. That turned out to be a good discovery – although it was very shut at 10pm at night.

My conference day started fairly early. Although I didn’t go to bed until almost 11pm on Tuesday night, I still awoke at 3am. So I got up to practice my keynote speech a few times, make some last minute changes, and do some other work. I called home too, and got to speak with my family. I then napped for about 20 minutes before getting ready for the day, and was first into the restaurant for breakfast. I had to be at the conference location by 8am, so left Apex Temple Court at 7.30am for a quiet walk to the location. That was fine, and I even re-walked Martin’s “scenic route” of the night before.

I have a cardinal rule when presenting, and that is to always use my own laptop for my presentation. I have had too many less than ideal situations when I have used the supplied laptop instead. Well I broke my cardinal rule for the conference, since they had it all set up, and all of the slides in a combined deck. “Surely it will be alright I said to myself.” Famous last words, as it turned out. I started into my keynote, and while the laptop worked fine, the wireless presenter didn’t. It had worked when I’d tested it for a couple of slides, but could not for whatever reason handle my presentation style. It moved the first slide or two, and then stopped working. James Robertson lent me his presenter, and that too didn’t work. So I then tried my brand new wireless presenter, and that too didn’t work. All of this mucking around was happening after the keynote had begun, and in front of 250 conference delegates. I gave up after my presenter didn’t work, and just stood at the lecturn and advanced the slides using the appropriate key on the keyboard. This is definitely not the way I present a keynote or any speech, but had little choice for that day. As Dana said later in the day, “Breaking the cardinal rule reminds you why the cardinal rule is the cardinal rule.” Let’s say my resolve to live by the cardinal rule in the future grew that day.

Despite my challenges with the wireless presenter during my keynote, the rest of the day unfolded without too many issues. There was another speech in the main auditorium after my one, and then a break for morning coffee / tea. The conference then split into three tracks, and the two breakout rooms were overwhelmed with the number of delegates that wanted to attend. Some people stood in and around the breakout rooms in order to hear what the speakers were saying. After lunch there was another couple of combined sessions, and another breakout or two. To conclude the day there was a panel discussion with seven or eight of the speakers throughout the day responding to prepared and ad hoc questions. It was a good day, and it was good to catch up with a number of colleagues and contacts in London.

Once the conference was done I headed back to my hotel room, and started getting myself ready for running the Collaboration Roadmap masterclass in London on Thursday. For the second time in 2013 I held my masterclass at Wallacespace, but this time used the Covent Garden facility instead of the St Pancras facility. If you haven’t experienced a day at Wallacespace in London yet, you have missed out on something great. If you have, you know how well the environment and staff are set up to look after you. Anyway, Thursday dawned fine and I headed along fairly early to the Covent Garden location. My guests arrived between 8am and 9am, and those who came early enjoyed breakfast upstairs while I set up the room. Once everyone was there, we kicked into the content and discussions for the day, enjoyed the Wallacespace fresh food throughout, and were finished by 4.30pm. Once my guests had left, I packed up and headed back to my hotel.

With the masterclass completed, my two commitments for the week were done, and I had four days stretching before me before my next and final commitment–the User Adoption Strategies masterclass in Copenhagen. On Friday morning I moved to a new hotel, which was adequate but not the on the same level as Apex Temple Court. And it was much noisier throughout the night, due to the presence of a hospital and associated ambulances across the road. Anyway, it proved to be a fine resting place for the weekend, and the room I had was more than sufficient for what I needed. Friday lunchtime I got to meet up with Stuart McIntyre for lunch over by Hyde Park, and then in the afternoon did some strategic planning in my room. Saturday was mostly taken up with that strategic planning too, apart from a walk through Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens.

Sunday was a day of rest and worship. I was up pretty early (again), and was trying to figure out how to spend the day – whether to go and see friends here or there – or whether to just stay in London. Most of the Sunday’s I have had in London I stayed in the city, although last time I was in the UK (June 2013) I went to spend the day with a friend and his family. Anyway, I happened to see that a different friend was going to be at a church service and event for the day, so decided to turn up, say hi, and worship there for the day. Hence I left my hotel at a bit after 7am, walked to All Souls for its 8am service, and then caught a couple of trains to get to the other location for the day. I scouted around for food supplies for lunch, and then caught up with my friend at the church service. I was able to grab some lunch at the location, and then my friend and his colleagues had to get ready for an afternoon service too. It was great to catch up with my friend, participate quietly in the services, and lend a hand here and there throughout the day.

There was one weird thing of note about being in London this time. I stopped drinking coffee at the end of August, so for the first time I’ve been in London I didn’t drink coffee at all. It felt very weird not doing so, and anytime I walked past my regular coffee shops I felt strange in the extreme. On a couple of occasions I even had to walk into one of the coffee shops, look at the drinks menu, and remind myself that “there was nothing for me here.” I’ll have to see if this phenomenon repeats itself on my next trip to London, or whether my coffee memory has died its death by then.

Monday was a travel day. I checked out of my hotel in the morning, caught the tube to Paddington, and then the Heathrow Express to Heathrow. All that was fine, and after checking in, getting through security, having some lunch, and looking around the shops in Terminal 3, it was time for my flight to Copenhagen. That was a smooth event, and Lars from IntraVision picked me up at the airport and drove me to the nominated restaurant for dinner. We met up with Jens and a few other IntraVision people, had an enjoyable evening, a good dinner, a good chat about calendaring, and then it was time to get to my last hotel of the trip. Jens dropped me there, I slept some, got ready some, and come Tuesday morning it was time to head to one of the IBM Copenhagen facilities for the workshop.

The room at the IBM location was large, with high ceilings and natural light through what were almost floor to ceiling windows down one side. On arrival I fiddled with the room layout for about 15 minutes until I was happy with the physical flow of the room, and come 9am it was time to kick into the final workshop of the tour. Jens and the IntraVision team had assembled a good group of just under 25 people, which made the small group discussions perfectly sized. We worked through the content in the workshop, the various small group exercises, and the many mini-discussion sessions throughout the day.

We were done by 4.15pm, and then I had to spring into action to get changed for my trip back to New Zealand. I quickly changed from my presenter garb into traveling clothes, re-packed my bags, and thanks to Lars, made it back to Copenhagen airport with plenty of time to get checked in and through security. I ate some dinner in the SAS lounge, and then flew to Frankfurt. I didn’t have to change terminals at Frankfurt, but did need to get from the A concourse to the B concourse, which involves quite a lot of walking both through the terminal and through the underground linkage passages. It’s quite some airport, and I’ve only ever been there while in transit (and both times under significant time pressure), so have never had the chance to explore the airport in any great detail. I love the fact that some airport staff cycle through the airport; what a great idea. From Frankfurt I connected with a Singapore Airlines flight to Singapore, and then onwards from there to Christchurch. I was home just before midday on Thursday, about 30 hours after leaving Copenhagen.

So all-in-all, it was a good trip, with a number of lessons to take away personally and professionally. I’m grateful for the opportunities to present the keynote and the two masterclasses, for the people I was able to speak to and work with, and for the quiet weekend in the middle. Some of my previous trips have been rather … busy … so having a less schedule-slammed tour this time meant I arrived home less exhausted than normal. It was good to be home with my family.

Categories: Michael's Happenings

2 replies »

  1. Hi Michael,
    Next time you are in London and have some spare time you are very welcome to visit me in Brighton on the south coast and feel some fresh sea air clear away any jet lag.
    Glad you had a safe trip and are back with your family now.
    Mark