Monday, May 3, 2010


by Allison Dixon
While I was in Vegas, the OAUG staff helped me out quite a bit. The IOUG staff mostly gave me a hard time. :)

I didn't run into the Quest staff at all (knowingly).

The staff for each one of these groups did an outstanding job in running COLLABORATE 10 and I just wanted to make sure they had their day in the sun as well. I asked Allison Dixon (who was my liaison with OAUG) to give me a picture and write up their staff. Yes, it's their job, but that shouldn't take away from all the hard work they put in. I would love to do the same for IOUG and Quest staff, so if you know who I should talk to, please let me know.

For five days, 5,500 Oracle users, developers, managers, analysts, database administrators, solutions providers and Oracle representatives gathered under one roof at COLLABORATE 10 – Technology and Applications Forum for the Oracle Community at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas. The sense of community was certainly felt as a positive, collaborative energy charged through the convention center. Connections were made, experiences shared and questions asked and answered. For the second year, Chet Justice joined us to cover the event for oraclenerd. We chatted one day as his Blackberry charged in the Oracle Applications Users Group (OAUG) staff office about how most attendees would be surprised to learn how an event of this scale is produced – and the idea for this guest blog post was born.

The OAUG Board of Directors took a moment during its 20th anniversary event on Sunday, April 18 to recognize its professional staff with an OAUG Service Award, a generous gesture that surprised us all. That award is engraved, "Presented to Meeting Expectations in Grateful Appreciation for Your 18 Years of Outstanding Service and Devotion to the Membership of the Oracle Applications Users Group, 1992 – 2010." (Meeting Expectations is an Atlanta-based, third-party meeting planning and association management firm that serves as the OAUG professional staff.)

Using this photo from the award presentation, I'll shed a little light on each staff member's contribution to COLLABORATE – diverse roles and responsibilities all coming together with the goal of creating a positive conference experience for attendees. This should give you an idea of the complexity of this year-round effort (which you can multiply times 3, as our counterparts at IOUG and Quest are equally invested!).

On stage, pictured with OAUG President Dave Ferguson (at microphone), from left to right:
  • Jeff Rausch, chief operations officer of Meeting Expectations
  • Brian Meyer, president of Meeting Expectations
  • Jalene Bermudez, founder of Meeting Expectations
Jeff, Brian and Jalene, as Meeting Expectations' managing partners, provide executive leadership and high-level strategic guidance to OAUG. At the conference each year, they provide hands-on support wherever needed, usually working long hours on the registration desk or in other customer service capacities. Jeff also serves on the OAUG Technology Committee and works "under the hood" on the OAUG registration and paper submission systems to keep them running smoothly all year.

On floor, from Left to right:
  • Micheal North - director of finance. With thousands of attendees, hundreds of companies engaging in customized exhibitor and sponsorship packages and hundreds of vendors hired to bring it the event to life, consider the dollars that flow through COLLABORATE. Micheal knows the exact whereabouts of every single one of them at any given moment during a show cycle. On site, you'll see him providing customer service at the registration desk all day. By night he is developing detailed financial reports for the Board of Directors.
  • Allison Dixon - director of event marketing (me). How'd you hear about the conference? Chances are you received an email, a postcard, a brochure, a tweet, a telemarketing call (sorry about those 6 a.m. rings) or some sort of contact from me. I also work with my marketing counterparts at IOUG and Quest to maintain the umbrella brand of the conference and produce all shared materials, like the program guide and daily agenda books. On site, Jackie Dale and I maintain the conference Web portal, daily updates, daily emails, tweets, conference survey and new this year, the Tweet Nest. We’re also responsible for the post-conference survey.
  • Joey Sirmons - manager of Internet communications. Known in certain circles as the Spam King, Joey's domain is the OAUG Forum Web presence and all e-mail communications. He codes, manages lists and keeps us meticulously compliant with anti-spam regulations. If you've noticed, we like to send quite a bit of e-mail about the conference. (Hint for COLLABORATE 11: register early and you’ll be removed from the list. How's that for an incentive?) Joey also helps oversee bag distribution, making sure all attendees get their bags of conference goodies after they check in at registration. In his (limited) spare time on-site, Joey can be seen around the conference with his camera, acting in his role of unofficial OAUG photographer. That same camera has been spotted at after-hours gatherings, often to the chagrin of volunteers and fellow staff.
  • Jackie Dale - event marketing coordinator. Jackie works with Allison developing marketing strategy and delivering the creative behind all those brochures and emails. On site, she is corralling all the groups to obtain their schedule changes, keeps the conference Web portal up to date, helps to craft daily update emails, tweets and also extols the wonders of social networking from her base in the Tweet Nest. After the conference, she develops the survey results reports.
  • Steven Hughes - executive director. What you may not realize is happening at COLLABORATE, in addition to the hundreds of sessions and networking events, is the jam-packed schedule of meetings between the Board of Directors, committees, task forces, councils and Oracle. Steven runs from meeting to meeting, working with these various stakeholders to set the OAUG agenda for the coming year and beyond. He is also busily greeting overseas delegations and exploring ways to continue to expand the OAUG global footprint in order to serve more users.
  • Kay Eckstein - association manager. Kay's primary role is to manage the OAUG Board's schedules to ensure they are at the right place and time for all critical meetings without missing a beat (or a party). Remember the staircase in Harry Potter that keeps changing and moving without warning? This is a good representation of the 14 Board members' schedules during COLLABORATE. If it seemed that President Dave Ferguson was everywhere at once, it's because Kay waved her wand and made it so.
  • James Hobbs - senior director of global programs. James' primary role is to ensure all the pieces and parts of the conference come together. Occasionally he'll find a missing piece -- and that either leads to a Martini or his staying up a bit later at night to be sure OAUG members receive the highest level of service, an experience that encourages greater success in their jobs and the opportunity to have some fun as well. Keeping the team and the entire COLLABORATE train on the tracks to bring the event to fruition is his goal and passion.
  • Karl Kirsch, CAE - chief operating officer. Karl joins Steven Hughes as part of the executive management team and helps translate strategy into tactical plans that are specific and measurable. He shares responsibility to manage the daily operations of OAUG to ensure activities of the organization's staff are supporting established objectives, quality targets and cost-effectiveness goals. If you heard someone say "there is a process for that" or heard the whir of the propeller on his head, you probably ran into Karl at COLLABORATE.
  • Katie Truex - membership coordinator. Katie holds down the OAUG membership booth, where she cheerfully answers members' questions and talks with prospects about the value of joining up. She is also director of swag – selecting, purchasing and handing out those Slinkys and handsome playing cards (she also doles out coveted OAUG Forum proceedings CDs). All year long, she provides member care to the OAUG community. During the 3-4 months before COLLABORATE, she deftly handles the crush of calls from companies that want to join or renew their memberships so they can save on conference registration (over 20%! Join today!).
  • Kowana Ragland, CMP - tradeshow manager. In the run-up to the show, Kowana has a clipboard and a whistle –enthusiastically coaching exhibitors every step of the way on how to make the most of the show. Her monthly exhibitor newsletters are jammed with planning and marketing tips. On site, Kowana manages logistics for the OAUG tradeshow venues, including the Mini Theater, Star Partner Lounge, TweetNest and Relaxation Lounge. In addition, she provides assistance managing that "wheel of fortune," THEgame.
  • Christine Hilgert, CMP - tradeshow lead. Christine has been a part of the OAUG for over 12 years and has participated in over 25 OAUG events. She continues to lend her expertise and provides support in a variety of areas, including overall history and relationship with the OAUG and its long-time members. Christine's most recent role is providing exhibitor and sponsorship management where she and her team sell exhibit booths on the tradeshow floor among various sponsorship opportunities taking place throughout COLLABORATE. She was also recognized at the 20th anniversary event for a milestone birthday of her very own.
  • Alex O'Keefe - director of sites and contract services. Alex negotiates contracts with a vast network of hotel and convention centers to select the best venues and hotel rates for the OAUG and COLLABORATE attendees. In addition, Alex provides on-site support at registration, where she assists with the attendee check-in process and welcomes attendees to the conference. (Bienvenue, COLLABORATors. At last count, Alex speaks five languages: Swiss-German, French, English, German and Italian.)
  • Jenny Freeman - senior sites coordinator. Jenny is a senior sites coordinator and supports the site selection team to find the perfect venue for meetings and events. At COLLABORATE, Jenny provides on-site registration support on behalf of the OAUG team, like Alex, assisting with registration and greeting attendees.
  • Katie Miknis - speaker programs manager. Want to speak at COLLABORATE? You'll have to get through Katie first. She manages the speaker selection process, room build-out and assignment at COLLABORATE, leads speaker orientation and serves as the main point of contact for speakers on site. Katie is also the lead for the OAUG Wellness Program, which offers attendees a daily morning workout with a local area trainer.
  • Regina Robuck - director, affiliate communities (promotion alert! now director of education). Regina provides resources and support services for the OAUG's Geographic (Geo) and Special Interest Groups (SIG). She is responsible for the implementation and expansion of the Oracle Community Integration Initiative, which means she works all year to inspire (beg) Geo and SIG leaders to bring their organizations into compliance so she can then make their days by providing a complimentary conference registration. At COLLABORATE, she facilitates all Geo and SIG meetings and manages the Certificates of Distinction awards program.
  • Litika Coleman - senior registration specialist. Litika is the lead registration manager for the OAUG. She works with the other two users groups to ensure the attendee registration process leading up to COLLABORATE, as well as on site, runs smoothly. Litika provides customer support to attendees by answering phone calls and emails prior to their arrival to COLLABORATE.
  • Cindy Force - communication manager. We call her Sponge: While supporting the events occurring on site, such as directing traffic to SIG meetings, recording minutes in committee meetings, handing out conference proceedings in the membership booth, etc., communications is listening, listening, listening. What information do members want and need to know? What is Oracle doing that our members need to hear about? Are these the hot topics for the next newsletter or OAUG Insight magazine? Who are the subject matter experts who can help develop these stories? Cindy is all ears!
  • Amy Ford, CMP - tradeshow manager. Amy assists the tradeshow team to ensure all exhibitor and sponsorship deliverables are met. She provides customer care to exhibitors and sponsors pre event as well as on-site. She also handles the judging and awards for Best of Show. So be nice to her.
Not pictured (because she was out in the hall fielding a question from the Mandalay Bay security team):
  • Darnette Holbert - senior conference manager. Darnette knows, with laser-like accuracy, the location of every electrical outlet in the Mandalay Bay Convention Center (and probably the greater Las Vegas metro area). She manages conference logistics on an often microscopic level, including hotel arrangements, food and beverage orders, signage, audio/visual, security, general contractor services, special events and receptions, tradeshow logistics, furniture and floorplan development. You didn't think chairs, tables and projection screens magically appeared in every session room? All of this is contracted and delivered according to Darnette’s orders.
That concludes our tour of the OAUG team. It’s quite the undertaking, but we absolutely love working with our colleagues at IOUG and Quest to produce COLLABORATE each year. The wheels are already in motion for Orlando in 2011 – we hope you’ll come, and say hello when you see us!

CMP (link to:
CAE (link to:

No comments: