May Travels Part 2 – Lightning Tools At The European Collaboration Summit, Wiesbaden, May 2024

Planning and van packing

A simple plan, take 3 Lightning Tools staff and their luggage, 1 videographer and her kit, add the contents of a booth, (which once built would resemble an English pub) and stuff it all into our medium sized Transit van! We needed to get from Leicestershire to Wiesbaden, Germany, for the European Collaboration Summit. We’d already pulled off a similar feat in December for ESPC Amsterdam, but the addition of Kira and her camera kit, plus a beer fridge was going to require careful packing!

First in, our recently purchased pool table, chosen purely on its colour and dimensions, specifically its length of 1830mm, (the van loading bay is 1840) and once that was in, we stuffed every orifice of it with swag and props; beer mats, T-Shirts, catalogues, fridge magnets, stickers, balls, cues, scoreboards etc. On top of that went a (heavy) wooden bar, a 42″ TV, the beer fridge and a cast iron fireplace and wooden surround. Some other random bits and bobs, and somehow we were set…

Outbound

Around 7am on a May Saturday, we headed for Le Shuttle (the vehicle carrying train to France.) I’d recently upgraded us to Flexipass, this allows priority boarding and free-loading of an exclusive refreshment zone. Each of us re-enacted 90’s TV show, Supermarket Sweep, as we rushed around grabbing sandwiches, wraps, cakes, crisps and token pieces of fruit into our ripping paper bags. Kira then had her dreams quashed because she saw no whales, sharks or sea horses during the 30 minutes crossing, LeShuttle is no moving aquarium! Cruising through France and Belgium scoffing the contents of our brown bags, we listened to some old school tunes. At this point Jarrad and Brett had both done a stint at the wheel, and Brett (A keen petrol head) pulled in for a wee stop.

Matt took over and as we left the services, we were greeted by a “Welcome To Germany” sign. It felt appropriate to flex the muscle of the Transit’s 170PS. Contrary to popular belief, it turns out the Autobahn can be quite twisty and there are speed limits near big cities. After a couple of thwarted attempts, we were gifted a straight, rural, downhill stretch and no speed limit. The accompanying Spotify mix of classic rock completed the perfect storm…with pedal to the rubber floor mat we slowly got ourselves up to, or just over 110MPH! (around 178KPH) Tighter corners were back on the horizon, so we called it a success whilst ahead, and rolled into Wiesbaden at a more sedate pace. We met some of the ECS crew and LT’s Sandy for cold beers and a decent meal at our home for the week, the Dorint Pallas.

ECS Set up (aka More van loading)

The reason for our early arrival? Back in the Autumn of 2023 Adis and Margit Jugo had mentioned to Brett (LT CEO) that the ECS events are extremely labour intensive, both in the preceding months, but especially during the set up days. Brett is a firm believer in the Microsoft “Community”, and so it came to be that some of the LT staff were now helping to set up the event, whilst simultaneously being a sponsor with exhibitor space. #communityrocks as they say!

Sunday started with a train ride out to Bingen, standing room only, but it was refreshing to be out of the van and experiencing a different country first hand. Our destination, the ECS warehouse, was full of flags, flight cases, Zebra printers, swag bags and outside was a box van to load it all into.

It was a chance to meet our colleagues for the week, a case of East meets West as we were mainly Brits and Americans mixing with Bosnians and Estonians from ECS and run.events. There was a bit of a language barrier, but a long lunch over burgers and beers soon had us finding common ground.

New Working week

The venue was ours from Monday morning, central Wiesbaden’s RMCC (Rhein Main Congress Center) It was somewhat daunting peering into what would be the expo hall that morning. A vast, empty shell of a building, and we collectively had 24 hours to transorm it. It’s odd seeing something in the flesh after months of looking at plans in Teams meetings and websites.

We set about erecting flags, deciding where to place printer stations. Adis and Mustafa Toroman were keeping fingers crossed that the self-service Zebra printers were going to do their thing with minimal fuss. After another agreeable alfresco lunch, we started the gargantuan task of stuffing the visitor bags with ECS Magazines and associated swag.

That afternoon we managed 2,500 of these, and we were literally running out of floor and desk space to store them. Mid-afternoon and we  got a UPS notification that our custom branded Lightning Tools beer had been delivered. A massive relief as they’d disappeared from the tracking website for a few days. Cue another trip out in the Transit to grab all 384 cans of it. Wednesday’s party night would be alright! Extra Lightning Tools had also arrived in the form of Ara & Lusine (who was celebrating her birthday) and Julio, who’d flown in from Armenia and US respectively.

Tuesday

Tuesday was the official set up day for sponsors in the expo hall, so Lightning Tools staff now had to wear 2 hats. Our mobile pub, “The Toolshed”, came together well and by mid afternoon our work was done. Thankfully a crew of the hired hostesses finished the last 500 swag bags.

Meanwhile, some of the ECS crew were busy getting set for the Appreciation Evening, this is a free event put on as a gesture of gratitude to all the speakers, supporters and sponsors of the European Cloud and Collaboration Summits. Not made so easy this year as the venue was a former hunting lodge about 9km north of Wiesbaden. The venue was an impressive blend of ruins and modern architecture: Thick stone walls and arches meeting reinforced steel, and a modern glass roof structure to keep out the elements.

Guests were treated to a varied buffet meal, free flowing drinks and one more element which is a staple of ECS, live music! More specifically from the Lana Škrgatić Trio, only this time with 1 free extra member! There was a bit of dancing by the second set which rounded off a great, but somewhat warm evening.

Meanwhile, some of the Lightning Tools team had gone to a Skybow drinks party. Skybow are a long standing technology partner of ours, and we were privileged to be awarded Partner Of The Year by them on the night. Tuesday evening finished at the bar with all factions re-joining to exchange notes before an earlyish night for day 1 of the show proper…

Wednesday

Attendees were arriving in force and there was a buzz in the air! Self-service badge printing was running a treat, and before long the keynote was underway. By break 1 the Expo hall filled out, and every break time saw a fresh wave of inquisitive faces to talk to, whether it was discussing our products in depth, playing our “Lightning Pool” game or just chatting to swag grabbers, we appreciate everyone that came to say “hello!” As the hours passed, thoughts switched from our products to more pressing things, such as how to get 384 cans of beer cool with a fridge only capable of cooling 200…

And so it came to be that we scrounged a big plastic tub of water, the morning fridge “coldies” were placed in it and insulated, whilst the room temp ones went into the fridge. The lengths we go to to deliver a decent tipple! Party time started after the last session at 6:15, our resident ringleader Julio had got changed to be the compere of our Lightning Pool game, and by 7pm we were treated to Kevin Iszard and his Fire and Ice Show Band.

There was a definite feeling of release amongst the organisation team, an “OK, we’re all good” – Cue a decent bit of dancing with attendees and sponsors alike, all whilst trying keep the Aurum beach balls afloat!

It was a great evening in the expo hall and the band really know how to get a crowd involved! As was becoming the norm, the Dorint bar was the final stop of the evening, Weissbiers brushed shoulders with White Russians, Pina Coladas with Old Fashioned, you get the picture…

Thursday

Thursday was a much easier morning as most attendees already had their badges and had sussed out the layout of the venue. As always at events, the last day was a touch quieter, but with a raft of raffle prizes to give away, the expo was still plenty busy enough. 5 o’clock came around and the closing keynote was really well supported with plenty of bums on seats in the main room.

A manic pack down of booth and show stuff back into the Transit and the box van respectively, a quick shower and it was time for our last team meal. It was a lovely way to reflect on a fun week of co-operation, getting the job done and having a laugh whilst doing so. We were still people from different countries and walks of life, but we were now part of one definite, sparkling group, all of whom had a new sense of belonging to something special!

Homeward Bound

Friday morning saw us back in the van and heading for home. A relatively pain free 12 hours, albeit whilst sitting bolt upright on the Transit seats. Have the Ford designers sat on these? “No!”

We had a 2 hour delay at Le Shuttle, but at least the weather was good for sitting outside, and they dished out some free refreshments. We were back by Friday evening, ready for a weekend of running our children to clubs, dog walking, chilling out, or in Kira’s case, filming a 5KM run at 8am!

Event season is over for us until Autumn 2024, when we’ll once again be co-organising CollabDays_Bletchley. Then we’re sponsoring Scottish Summit, Aberdeen and ESPC24, Stockholm. We also expect to be at a few regional CollabDays.

Event organisation is not for the faint hearted, especially when it is largely a volunteer effort and not for profit. Venues and caterers are not interested in being charitable and their costs are astronomical, these are businesses who want to make money. ECS will return 27-29th May 2025 in Dusseldorf, and will encompass 3 separate events under one roof with a communal expo zone. Venues, parties, musicians and hotels are already being booked, we’ll be there, and we advise you to do the same!

European Collaboration Summit

European Cloud Summit

European BizApps Summit

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