More About Spousetivities

Since Spousetivities started—unofficially in 2008, then more officially in 2009—there has been a lot of speculation about what the program is and what the participants do. I’m writing this post to give a little insight to those that may not know much about Spousetivities and the purpose it serves in the larger IT community.

First, I think it’s important to talk about what Spousetivities isn’t. Spousetivities is not a bunch of women getting together to gossip and go shopping while our husbands/boyfriends/significant others go to technical conferences.

First and foremost, Spousetivities is a community-focused and community-driven program designed to help to promote healthy work-life balance. Spousetivities allows couples (and families) to travel together for business while ensuring that accompanying partners and family members not attending the conference have fun, safe activities to do. This ensures the conference attendee doesn’t have to worry about those traveling with him or her, allowing him or her to fully take advantage of the all the conference has to offer.

Second, Spousetivities is an opportunity for networking and friendship. Many of the participants over the years have remained friends long after the events. Personally, I’ve made a number of good friends through the activities, and I know others have too. Similarly, in some cases, we have been able to support small businesses that are run by participants as we share our companies and ideas with each other. This is a productive and supportive environment that participants have come to love and appreciate over the years.

Third, Spousetivities is a great way to experience the conference’s host city. In an effort to make these activities unique and successful, I update the activities and plans every year. Starting out on tours in individual rental cars in 2008, Spousetivities enjoyed group rates on public tours over the next couple years, and now participants enjoy private tour buses and sometimes even limousines for transportation!

Fourth, Spousetivities is a unique way for IT companies to show they support the community and work-life balance. Spousetivities allows companies to sponsor the activities and show that they believe that the support of one’s spouse/partner and family is important. This year at VMworld 2014 in San Francisco, Spousetivities is thankful for the support of our sponsors: VMware NSX, The Virtualization Practice, VMUG, Xangati, HyTrust, vBackup, Origami Owl, and Wine Shop at Home. The support of our sponsors helps keep costs down and allows Spousetivities to offer private transportation and exclusive tours.

So how did it all begin? After traveling with my husband, Scott Lowe, for several years to conferences, I finally said “No more!” I was tired of his crazy schedules while I sat in hotel rooms or ventured out only to get lost or be bored going places alone. (For those that know me, I am quite the social person so being alone in a big city was not my thing.) Furthermore, finding my way around was challenging, and I once got lost in LA. Believe me, that wasn’t pleasant! I finally agreed to attend VMworld 2008, if Scott would ask if any other spouses were coming and if they’d like to meet for lunch. A flood of responses poured in and the “lunch” quickly became a trip to the Hoover Dam, a Grand Canyon excursion, tours of “the Strip” in Las Vegas, and much more. At the conclusion of the week, everyone asked me to please do it again for 2009. It was very clear there was a need in the community for such activities.

None of this would be possible without the support of the community and the sponsors. The community launched Spousetivities, including the very name. In a conversation during the 2008 activities with John Troyer, the name was born. From there, another friend (Joep Piscaer) secured the URL to launch the website. Before I knew it, Spousetivities was born. Further support came from the community podcast, vBrownBag, numerous people on Twitter and Facebook, and of course the many sponsors over the years. Clearly, the community has built the Spousetivities brand.

There you have it: a clear explanation of who and what Spousetivities is all about. I’ve listened as people make fun of “Spousetivities” and what they perceive the program is. Hopefully, this makes clear what it is, why it exists, and the importance of keeping the program alive and moving forward.

Giving Back to the Community

For seven years, Spousetivities has been fortunate to be part of the VMware/VMworld community. Since 2008, we’ve been the only community-focused and community-driven spouse activities program, and it’s been an honor. Spousetivities exists thanks to the support of the community. However, Spousetivities also exists to provide support back to that same community.

Last week, a member of our community was tragically taken from us. Jim Ruddy died in a car accident, leaving behind his wife Stephanie and their children. This is a horrible loss, and the community continues to mourn his loss. (My husband, Scott, worked with Jim at EMC for a number of years, as did many others.) In honor of Jim and to support the family he left behind, I worked with other members of the community to establish the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund. As of this writing, that fund had raised over $15,000 to help support Stephanie and the kids in this very trying time.

No amount of money can replace Jim. However, this is a difficult time for Stephanie—not only emotionally and physically, but also financially. For that reason, Spousetivities is setting aside 10% of all proceeds raised by activities at VMworld 2014 to be donated to Jim Ruddy’s family via the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund.

If you haven’t donated to the Jim Ruddy Memorial Fund yet, please consider doing so. If you (or your spouse/partner/significant other) is participating in Spousetivities at VMworld this year, please know that your participation means also helping a family in their time of need.

Being part of the community means giving back to the community.

Another Look at Why It’s a Great Idea to Sponsor Spousetivities

As I am approaching 5 years of offering Spousetivities at IT events, the questions about what I do and why are swirling in my head. Many people ask why companies sponsor Spousetivities. Below is part of a post from last year detailing why it is so important that the community continue to sponsor these events.

Naturally, I’m a bit biased, but I think that sponsoring Spousetivities is a great way for companies to say “Thank You” and give something back to their employees and customers. When a company hosts a conference, they ultimately expect attendees to give up as much as a week of their time to come hear about their products and how these products or services can benefit them and their employers. Instead of asking attendees to come to a week-long conference and leave their families behind, a Spousetivities sponsor is telling attendees it’s OK to bring the family. While the attendee is learning about that sponsor’s products and innovations, the attendee’s family will be enjoying some great activities. And when the day is done, the attendee and his or her family can be together instead of spending that time apart. Most companies boast a family friendly attitude, and sponsoring Spousetivities is a way to show that attitude in action.

This is true not only for the sponsor companies–those companies that organized the conference–but for all companies. And the size of the company doesn’t matter; I’ve had companies both small and large decide to help sponsor Spousetivities.

In addition to supporting families, sponsoring Spousetivities offers companies a unique way to advertise. Given that their logo is put on T-shirts, menus, blogs, and other items, they have plenty of visibility in the community. Companies benefit not only from their pro-family support, but from the attention drawn to their company through these events. It’s a “win-win” situation for companies.

So, if you’re a company that wants to join in this exciting opportunity to support your employees and customers, and advertise in a unique way at the same time, simply contact me. Upcoming events include EMC World in Las Vegas, Dell Storage Forum in Boston, VMworld US, and VMworld EMEA. I’m still seeking additional sponsors for all of these events. I can also plan activities for other conferences, VMUG’s, or company-hosted events. For more information, please contact me for arrangements.

What Are People Saying About Spousetivities

As you probably know, I started Spousetivities at VMworld 2008 in Las Vegas. With a few mentions on Scott Lowe’s blog, I managed to get the attention of 25 significant others that were also coming along on the trip to VMworld. Very informally, I arranged activities. We joined public tours (and suffered the dilemma of doing so), walked end to end on the Strip, and drove private/rental vehicles to the Grand Canyon (missing the VMworld Party because of it!). So why does any of this matter?

The point of this recap was to show where Spousetivities started and where it’s going. My life has really not been the same since VMworld 2008. I am learning and adjusting all the time. Spousetivities is quickly becoming a featured part of many technology conferences and is gaining the attention of the IT community. Some very prominent bloggers posted blogs about it, including Scott Lowe (who, of course, is my husband), Simon Seagrave (@kiwi_Si on Twitter), and Jonathan Franconi (see his blog post about Spousetivities). Even VMware has recognized the value in Spousetivities and is listing them on their VMworld Social Events page.

I have also been interviewed by some great people in the community. Many of you know and use products from Train Signal and I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Kasia during VMworld 2010. More recently, I had the pleasure of being a part of Coffee with Thomas and got to talk about Spousetivities and other things.

And while talking with others about Spousetivities is great, it’s even greater to hear about how Spousetivities has impacted the lives of conference attendees and their spouses/significant others. Take this recent tweet from @cwliner, for example:

“@scott_lowe I think my wife is more excited about #VMworld than I am! #spousetivities”

Or perhaps this recent tweet by Tom Howarth, aka @tom_howarth on Twitter:

“@scott_lowe #Spousetivities is going 2B a lifesaver 4 those of us who have traveled with our family. Well done @crystal_lowe 4 organising”

These are the sorts of comments that let me know what I’m doing with Spousetivities is making a difference for others. Bringing your spouse/significant other/parent/partner with you to VMworld this year? Why not sign them up and see if it can make a difference for you, too?

VMworld 2008 and VMworld 2009

As I prepare for VMworld 2010 and the third year of spouse activities, I thought it might be fun to take a look back at activities from previous years. While reviewing pictures from the activities during the past two years, I find myself getting excited all over again. I’m really looking forward to making this year’s activities better than ever!

Some of you might be wondering about the origins of the term “spousetivities”. Clearly, the term is a combination of the words “spouse” and “activities”. Last year, Joep Piscaer (one of the VMworld attendees) coined the term and registered the domain for me. Thanks, Joep! My husband, Scott, worked to bring this website online so that I could share more information about the spouse activities–or the spousetivities, as they are now known–with everyone. Thanks to both Joep and Scott for their help.

The spouse activities first started in 2008, when VMworld was held in Las Vegas. About 25 spouses participated in activities that year, and we had a fun-filled 3 days of activities planned. We spent a day at the Hoover Dam, a day at the Grand Canyon, and visited various notable places there on The Strip. But the great thing about the spouse activities is that they are flexible: some people went to Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum, others went to Siegfried and Roy’s Secret Garden, and still others just relaxed at the hotel spa or pool. The feedback from the activities was positive.

The next year, VMworld was held in San Francisco, and the spouse activities were bigger than ever. With VMware’s help in getting the news out, we had about 125 spouses that participated in a wide range of activities. These activities included trips to Alcatraz and Angel Island, a day trip to the wine country (and tastings at the wineries, of course), and sight-seeing in San Francisco. With the help of a few other spouses, we also arranged a day trip to Korbel and a Segway tour of the city. Again, the feedback from the participants was great and everyone indicated they had a great time.

For pictures from both the VMworld 2008 and VMworld 2009 spouse activities, visit my Facebook page.

And be sure to stay tuned for more information on the VMworld 2010 Spousetivities! I’m in the planning process now and more information will be available soon.