2022 felt like a rollercoaster to me, in part due to an unexpected event. On August 30, in a big room from Moscone West, San Francisco, I presented my first session in a VMware Explore / VMworld conference: “Accelerate Time to Business Value and Achieve Faster Deployment with Lenovo ThinkAgile VX Deployer”, #MCLB1601US.This was an intense experience, so I feel that telling the story of a first-time presenter at Explore will be something interesting to my readers.
Wow! VMware Explore US
Close to the end of April 2022, answering an internal Lenovo call, I got the opportunity to submit a proposal for a VMware Explore session. Beginning of May, I submitted my proposal: a title no longer then 75 characters and a description no longer than 850 characters. I knew getting a session accepted is hard, so I got close to no hope of moving on to the next phase.
The morning of June 23 came with a big surprise:
Congratulations! We are happy to announce that your session(s) has/have been accepted for VMware Explore 2022 US taking place at Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco, CA from August 29 – September 1st, 2022.
Wow! I attended VMworld in Europe years ago and I loved it. Now I get to present at VMware Explore in US the work I am doing with my teammates? That is crazy! I did have my fair share of presentations made in front of VMUG Romania community, but this is on a total different scale. I know I made some calls that morning and I guess I was overexcited, thanks to my friends for listening to me 🙂
Am I Really Doing This?
Next days I felt like I was in a washing machine. It just got real. Emails containing different tasks assigned to me in VMware Explore Speaker Resource Center. Webinars registration. Travel reservations. Conference registration. Closed deadlines. And the scariest of all the deadlines: July 22 for the final PPT presentation. You can imagine I was visualizing the presentation day, but no, I thought I would lower the pressure by approaching this event step by step, task by task, only focusing on what I need to do next.
What kept me sane was the overwhelming support I received from everybody.
Everyone at my company, Lenovo, was in full support. I got immediate access to all the required resources: time, budget, knowledge, people, everything I asked for. Thanks go to the entire Lenovo team!
VMware provided the next line of support: clear list of tasks, live webinars to help speakers prepare for their job. They got few actors from the Ovation team to teach us how to do a better job. And that was not only online, but the day before the conference started, they were on-site, ready to give us their support. Kudos to VMware for the work they did to prepare us!
My family and my friends were the last line of support. Giving me time, asking me the right questions and cheering me up in the difficult moments. All the best!
Rehearsal, Rehearsal, Rehearsal
As preparation, beside the materials VMware made available for speakers, I re-read a book I enjoyed years ago: Confessions of a Public Speaker by Scott Berkun. At this moment you can recognize which was my inspiration for the title of this article. The amount of information presented in the book is just incredible. Scott has a technical background and enough public speaking experience to build an excellent resource for anyone wanting to develop their public speaking skills. And as he wrote in the book, we all do public speaking daily, even if we don’t realize it.
Of course, I read few excellent blog articles from the VMware community:
- Confessions of a VMUG speaker – Duncan Epping
- VMworld Call For Papers opened, some tips… – Duncan Epping
- My public speaking experience – Niels Hagoort
- Public Speaking Tips at IT Conferences – David Hill
- Gaining confidence to be an effective public speaker – Eric Siebert
July 22: final presentation uploaded!
For next phase I had to think about the speech. Prepare it, rehearse it, time it, continuously improve it, rehearse it, rehearse it, rehearse it. This was something which I didn’t use to do it before, rehearse the speech. And I would say this is my biggest gain from this experience: for me rehearsal works. I will write a different article about what I learned about preparation, I will keep the current article focused on my speaking experience at Explore.
The Big Day at VMware Explore US
After traveling for about 18 hours and changing 2 planes, I landed in San Francisco Sunday, August 28. Lesson learned: traveling across 10 time zones 2 days before your presentation is not good enough, jet lag is real.
Next day, I checked in with VMware Explore Speaker Services, and then I did a tech check, during which I found that the videos embedded in the PPT presentation do not work in presentation mode! That’s why you do a tech check! No panic yet, I just returned to Speaker Services to schedule an appointment with the Design Team. One hour later I got to talk with the Design Team. They already knew about the issue, they had the fix implemented in the laptops from all the presentation rooms, and details sent to all tech personal from the rooms. Very good experience!
August 30, the big day! Jet lag in action, I’m again out of bed at 4 AM. My presentation was scheduled 30 minutes after the General Session, so I missed part of that. I checked in with the technicians from my room, verified everything is set (including the video playback in presentation mode), and then I waited for the attendees. Here they are, not as many as expected, but I would soon find that it can be worse than that. 45 minutes later it’s all done. Presentation completed, demo done, questions answered (both in public and private). If you want to see the recording of the presentation, here it is: Accelerate Time to Business Value and Achieve Faster Deployment with Lenovo ThinkAgile VX Deployer (you will need a free VMware account to play the recording).
Few hours later, I am in the expo area, at Lenovo booth, doing my second presentation, with a similar and shortened content: “The faster way to build vSphere infrastructure with ThinkAgile VX Deployer”. This time with a completely different setup, noise, type of attendees and feeling. This got over real quick, I handed the crowd back to Lenovo’s resident magician.
I don’t remember how I got to the hotel room, I just know that the sun was still up in the sky when I crashed into my bed. The next day, all the pressure was gone and I was able to enjoy the conference! For me, these events are more about connecting with people. I was happy to meet old friends, or finally see face to face people I work with for years already. I was equally fortunate to talk with a lot of new people, peers, partners or customers.
Am I happy I did it? Yes! Will I do it again? Yes!
If you think at submitting a session proposal for any IT conference, I hope this brings you a little information on what to expect. My advice is to just start somewhere. And in the VMware community, VMUG is most likely the best place to start. Contact your local chapter and see how you can start.
And if you do that, please leave a comment below!