For those who attended my presentation at the NLVMUG UserCon 2019 in “De Postkamer”, THANK YOU FOR ATTENDING. But you, as an attendee, only saw the 20 minute presentation. For me it’s another story and this blog is about sharing my journey.
A quick introduction to VMUG
For those who are not familiar with the VMUG: shame on you! But let me quickly introduce you to the VMUG UserCon: it’s a user oriented VMware UserGroup (VMUG) CONference (UserCon) event for VMware enthousiasts organized by VMware enthousiasts and importantly NOT by VMware itself. End users, partners and 3th party vendors are all working together for this approachable an affordable event. The sessions are NOT based on marketing slides, which you can expect at VMworld. The sessions at the VMUG are about sharing real-life experiences.
The dutch version of the VMUG is the biggest event of all VMUG’s with 1000+ (!) attendees and 113 presentations. With this amount of attendees and presentation, you can almost talk about a mini-VMworld, which are held in Europa and the US but then here .. in the Netherlands .. for a few bucks (it’s really cheap).
My NLVMUG session journey started with a question from my manager Dennis Hoegen-Dijkhof, who also is the organisator of the NLVMUG, asking me if I would like to present at the NLVMUG. And if you know me, I’m very willing to share my experiences with everyone, because I think there is so much to learn. If everyone is figuring things out by themselves, the IT revolution/digitalization is taking too long: Sharing is caring.
So I answered his question positively. But before I was getting allowed as a speaker I had to send in a Call for Papers (CfP) telling the VMUG organization which topic I wanted to address.
Call for Papers
You may think that’s an easy question, but in fact .. it isn’t! Because the topic you are cover must be convincing enough to be VMUG worthy. There are so many topics out there, but the question is: “which topics I can really be an added-value?”. and my ethos is: Do it good or go home.
So for me it had to be networking related, as that is the IT segment which I’m most familiar with. I this was going to be my first session presenting at the VMUG, I only wanted to do one session (not multiple). The most controversial topics I had to address during my professional career are “NSX vs ACI” and micro-segmentation. These are not “What is the future brings us” or roadmapping topics (which i’m not allowed to give), but are still really hot topics. The amount of discussions I had about topics are tremendous! But my decision about which topic I would pick was decided just a few days before I sended the “NSX vs ACI” Call-for-Paper: I was asked to talk about this topic with IT architects at a large customer. During this meeting I experienced a lot of frustration from the customer site (which I have addressed in the NSX vs the Physical World-blog), but this was something I really do NOT want to experience during my first presentation at the VMUG. So my go-to topic: micro-segmentation.
After sending the filled-in (Call for) paper to the NLVMUG organization, you have to wait (and waiting always takes sooo long). But eventually I received a message that I’ve been selected: I received a “lighting session” time-slot for 20 minutes!
Lightning sessions are developed to bring attendees quickly up to speed about one particular topic. But, my first thoughts: Being selected YEAH .. 20 minutes, wow that it short!
In my life I have given a lot of presentations and attended a lot of meetings: sending a message in 20 minutes is short! Especially when you want to send a technical message, you first have to bring all attendees to the same “technical”-level (which takes some time). Plus, I don’t want to waste 20 minutes of people their lives only covering some technology-basics.
So, Challenge Accepted!
Preparing the presentation
My approach was not to dive straight into creating a presentation. I first quietly sit down and start writing down what my message would be to the attendees. So ‘ve written down a few bullet-points and then I challenged them: Are they mentioned worthy? Are they bringing added-value? Are they not too basic or covered by others?
After that, I started creating the slides and the storyline. And I’ve created the storyline by answering the Why, How and What-questions (in that order), as this method have been proven for good presentations. But (there is always a but) I quickly had around 35+ slides including 2 videos and a somewhat boring storyline which was enough to cover a session for 45+ minutes. I had to spice things up and slim the presentation down.
I added some iconic characters (Bowser and Super Mario) to the presentation and removed some slides (and ended with 18 slides). The difficult part was slimming down the “get everyone to the same level”-part, I was going from 7 slides to 1 slide on that part alone.
But when I finally completed my presentation, VMware announced (just 2 weeks before the planned session) their “service-defined firewall”-solution, a solution which has a big impact on the content I wanted to share. So, I quickly updated myself about this solution and updated the presentation.
I now was ready: Presentation: check, storyline: check!
During the creation of the presentation I received a link from the organization by which I was able to track the amount of attendees for my session. I did some promotion on LinkedIn and Twitter, but not so much. My session initially didn’t received a lot of interest (only ±15 proposed attendees), but that changed roughly in the week before the event: It went up to 76(!) proposed attendees. But I also heard that there were only 30-40 seats available in the room where I was presenting. On top of that Niels Hagoort mentioned my session during his presentation (which had a lot of traction), so my session also received a lot of traction. Still, be aware that it is my first presentation during this event/at this scale: so I’m somewhat nervous #nopressure.
But I trust myself: I’m familiar with the content and I’m well prepared. Nothing can go wrong, right ? well .. The previous presenter ran out of his session time and also my laptop (with the presentation on it) would not connect to the screen. All small problems which I encountered just before my presentation, but ..
The 20 minute timer started and I went off: I started with some group-questions to get everyones attention and there was it when it hit me: I looked into the room and THE PLACE WAS PACKED! I believe it were ±70 (familiar and unfamiliar) people in that small room, people were standing at the back of the room and all seats were filled. This meant for me that the topic I had chosen is still a current issue!
No time to stand still, I had to continue with my story/presentation (the timer is counting): I had written down the points I clearly wanted the share (the points I’ve described above) and during the presentation I checked if I had addressed them all. The 20 minutes flew by and when I showed my last slide and started the question-round I only had 1 second left. No questions and a good round pf applause. I pulled it off .. NICE!
I have given a lot of presentations and I also give spinning-lessons for large groups of people, so I’m used to speak to groups of people. But I’ve never been talking like this (sending a message) to a group of this size (±70 people).
So for me this was somewhat out of my comfort-zone, but I pulled it off and I actually had a lot of fun doing it! I just had to realized it wasn’t about me, it was about the message that I want to send to the attendees (you). I was only the storyteller, the messenger: that thought eased my mind (a lot). After the presentation the attendees are able to provide feedback, which I really appreciated. I received positive reactions: I’m convinced, I definitely go to do this again! So expect to see/hear more from me!
If you’re interested in my presentation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MGrNcf60Bs