In a conversation held Friday, June 23, 2023, Carrie Hollack, representing OHUG, and Mohan Dutt, representing OATUG got together with Editor-at-Large, Deborah Grant to discuss OATUG +OHUG’s annual Ascend conference for Oracle Users around the world. This is a transcript of our video conversation. (Note that for OATUG members who did not attend Ascend 2023, the recorded sessions referred to here will be accessible later in 2023, after the exclusive access period for attendees is concluded.)
Deborah: Hello everyone. I'm Deborah Grant. I'm editor-at-large of Insight Magazine. And once again, we have my favorite team talking about Ascend. We just got back from Ascend 2023, so now we're able to talk about what actually did happen at Ascend 2023 in Orlando, Florida, June 11th to June 14th. Carrie, why don't you start and give me your Top Five. What do you think was the best of 2023 at Ascend?
Carrie: All right, Top Five in no particular order. Let's do this! I have to lead probably with Oracle. We just had such a huge Oracle contingent this year! I mean, I've not seen so many people out here. They covered multiple product lines, functional, technical. They were out there talking with people, not just presenting about strategy and hands-on-practice, but they were talking to customers, excited to hear their feedback. That's what I'm going to lead with, Oracle. How about you, Mohan?
Mohan: Yes, that's also part of my Top Five. I mean, there are so many that I was thinking I'll make a Top Ten list, but perhaps we don't have enough time. But that's certainly one of my Top Five. There were as many as 41 speakers from Oracle, 41 sessions! And there was opportunity to meet Oracle in the Meet and Greet Plaza for the Meet-the-Expert sessions. And of course, Oracle teams participated in our exhibit hall. So we had the Oracle, like, "Demo Grounds," and most importantly, we had strategy and roadmap sessions from Oracle, and of course the fully (general) session which was attended where there was standing room only from Cliff Godwin talking about Oracle EBS strategy and roadmap,
I mean, to me, I call it the "State of the Union Address" because you get to hear what's upcoming for the next year on Oracle EBS. So, a great session. And of course, a lot of sessions on OCI hosted by Oracle were also well attended.
Deborah: How about you, Carrie? More of your Top Five?
Carrie: Okay, let's see. This is a little less tangible, but the excitement! So, being there in person, just the excitement that you could feel coming off the other attendees, coming off the presenters, it was an energy that I don't think we've felt in a while. I think for me, it invigorated me, it inspired me. I had great conversations with people, walked away with business cards, LinkedIn connections, all of that, but just really just the palpable energy in the rooms that I was in, was super exciting and thrilling to me at this year's Ascend conference.
Mohan: And if I may add to that energy, we had these education sessions, but we also had specific hours and windows where the attendees could meet in the exhibit hall and other sessions, other breakout sessions, or round tables. And those were the opportunity for what we call "birds of a feather," to meet together where you are working on a certain area or certain area of interest, and you get to meet and talk about that topic or some projects which you have done, as (you are) also meeting the vendors. So there was a great opportunity to meet all the exhibitors and sponsors. There was certainly this buzz and excitement and I would say that can't really replace even if you are attending virtually. Of course, virtually you can attend the sessions which were streaming, and there were a lot of them, but nothing can replace being in-person.
Carrie: I have to agree with you. Yeah, the exhibit hall was amazing, wasn't it? I mean, I talked with just so many people, the customers, and it opened up their minds to just the breadth of functionality that you can add on there. Folks can help them with implementation, support, you name it. And the exhibitors were thrilled too. I mean, they were all having good, active, dynamic conversations and mixing in those different formats. I was having lunch one day and there was Nadia from Oracle doing a Turbotalk right there.
Mohan: Exactly. So the Turbotalk was another big hit. These were mini sessions, I think 25 or 30 minutes on the show floor. And so people, while after lunch or having coffee, were attending those. And this was, you know, very, very well attended. So I would say the buzz and the excitement which was there all around the conference truly reflected what we had in mind for Ascend.
Deborah: That's fantastic. Well, you touched a little bit on what other people were saying. Did you hear your colleagues or your friends commenting on the conference? What kind of feedback did you get as you were walking the floor?
Carrie: Yeah, for me, I definitely, just with the general excitement, I also was amazed there were so many people that wanted to get more involved. So that's super exciting, and we'll certainly be following up with folks about those opportunities. But I was just excited to find out whether there were people who had attended before or were just there for the first time.
A lot of interest in, how can I do some of this stuff, how can I continue connecting with people? And so that to me was really thrilling too. We love that in our communities, don't we, Mohan?
Mohan: Yeah, I completely echo the thought. You wouldn't believe it. On Sunday we had the special interest group and community sessions, and they were very well attended. And like I was hearing attendees saying, how can we participate? And these special interest group community sessions, these meetings or these meetups happen all year round. So if you are an OATUG and OHUG member, you can continue to participate in those discussions and be part of the group all year round. And it's an opportunity to meet in person with the group with whom you are talking with, exchanging ideas at Ascend.
Deborah Grant: We love to hear that. Great opportunities there.
Carrie: Yeah, and I agree, the Sunday sessions were just amazing.
A lot of groups tried different formats and everything. I just heard super good feedback, and the engagement was so high. It was a lot of fun.
Deborah Grant: That's fantastic. And you now just touched on something I was going to ask you further about as well. I think people look at the conference as a "one-of," a big event for the year where they get to travel, meet people in person. But what I really want people to know is how important it is to stay engaged all year long. Right? We have so many services, OHUG does, OATUG does for our members. And it's not just about a conference, is it? Tell me more about what you've gotten out of your participation in a group like OHUG and OATUG through the years.
Mohan: I will start off saying that you wouldn't believe it, how many sessions we had at Ascend, even though it was a three-day event. We had 262 sessions, which essentially means that if you were just watching or attending sessions 8 hours a day and doing nothing else except being in Ascend sessions, it will perhaps take you two months.
Deborah: True! Good math, good math, Mohan.
Mohan: So one of the things as an OHUG or OATUG member is, it's not possible to be even in person and attend all sessions, but it gives you an opportunity for the next few months to catch up with all the sessions and content. And if you're a member and you were not at Ascend, you'll have access into the conference database where these recordings will be available.
So these are opportunities where you continue to get the Ascend content while you're not at Ascend. And one of the interesting requests I got from several folks because perhaps I was the agenda chair - I got this question- how can I get an opportunity to present at Ascend next year?
So what I told them is one of the ways is, view those sessions which were selected this year and see what they presented and how they presented, and you will get ideas for your submissions for next year.
Carrie: Yeah, I love that, agree with everything you said and with those things, and communities year-round. Something else that we're talking about on the OHUG side, and I think OATUG does a great job of also, is geographic get-togethers so that in addition to the virtual content that we've got the communities and then the webinars that are multiple monthly between our groups. Having some folks get together in some key communities where there's a lot of Oracle interest and both in the in-person and in the webinars and in the communities and SIGs, we've got customers, we've got exhibitors, we've got Oracle, everybody's participating in those. So be on the lookout for that. In 2023 and 2024, we're going to be kicking up some of those local get-togethers and communities where it makes sense.
Deborah: That's wonderful. So to close now, we're heading into another year, and soon, before we know it, it's going to be Ascend 2024 at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas, June 17th to June 20th. What do you think about what's going to be coming up next year? Do you have anything in mind for sure that you know about or that you hope for in next year's conference?
Carrie: Boy, that's a big question. I'm hoping for kind of more of the same and then some, right? Mohan had some amazing statistics about the number of presentations that we had this year's content - it blows me away every year,- and I think we'll continue to do that. We're playing around with some different formats. Turbotalks, we did some Ignite-style things this year as well, but I think we'll continue to do that to see what resonates with folks. And as always, look to increase the networking opportunities. We have a ton - "Birds of a Feather" and some other things that we talked about earlier. We just want to keep that going so
that people have different ways to connect. Everyone kind of experiences things differently, and that way, there's something for everyone between the content where you're having someone present, between panels, between active Q and A's, customer roundtables, exhibit halls,
I could go on and on. We just want to keep adding to our toolbox of different ways that we can help people get together. How about you, Mohan?
Mohan: Yes, I completely agree. And one of the feedback that we have received is how can we make the content and our agenda more interactive? So we are trying to see how we can have sessions which maybe include more interactive, maybe hands-on, maybe tutorials, maybe other learning sessions, maybe Turbotalks. So there's not just lecture sessions, but a lot of involvement of the audience in that. We had very successful sessions where customers had roundtables, so this was closed-off sessions. Everyone could speak their mind. We didn't record these sessions. So those kinds of sessions were also very popular at Ascend, and we plan to continue those.
Deborah: Well, thank you both so much. I'm already excited about next year!