Events Syndicated

Tech Field Day: Thoughts About Presenting To Engineers

GestaltIT Tech Field Day is over, and the attendees and sponsors have indicated they were extremely pleased with the event. This is not to say that everything went well the whole time. In fact, if you followed along on the social media conversation then you caught some interesting tweets and replies during the brief moments that waned. However, those times were few and far between and mostly insignificant in the total experience of all who participated. The great thing was that the sponsors monitored the social conversation (Twitter) too, so any criticism was truly constructive and lead to direct questioning about how to make it better. After all, the presentations will be repeated for other engineers and customers and refining the message betters the audience reaction next time.

All that being said, I wanted to offer my thoughts on what I think could help both sides during future GestaltIT Tech Field Days (yes, it looks like there will be others!)

Watching CLI Demos Is Like Listening to the Ballgame On The Radio

I’m not saying using CLI demos, configuration, or hands on labs are bad, but watching text scroll down a screen is not exactly engaging either. If CLI commands are the method of configuring the product’s features then so be it, but

unless you are training a group of your customers’ admins you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention fast when the room has to watch you type.

Rather, after you tell me the product has a capability then show me the results from the user’s perspective, or in other words, a screen shot of “My Computer” or “Disk Manager” before and after better explains what actually happened. That’s a simple example. But the point is a few images are worth a thousand commands when you want to high-lite what the product does.

The Server and Network Guys Need To Understand What It Needs Before They Care About How It Does It

Look, I know the GestaltIT crowd is mostly storage gurus, and as one of a few server and network engineers I’m not who the sponsors prepared for. But, don’t count me out! Fact is, your storage product needs servers and networking to do it’s thing. My kind needs to understand the infrastructure your product requires before we entertain your technology.

Many of the company’s products I learned about this week were first time introductions for me. By nature of the GestaltIT Field Day’s objective, the sponsors of the future events will be lesser known technologies too. Take some time to explain a logical view of your solution. I’m not talking about the marketing either (although GestaltIT attendees have the expertise represented too). For example, if you have a hardware appliance that optimizes my storage than show me a Visio, photo, or whiteboard where to put it in the data center. Be sure we understand the implementation and connectivity first. Then I’m ready for a deep dive on why your technology works, but until I can visualize where it sits in the rack and what talks to it, I’m content to take your word that your “black magic” works – and yes, telling me it is “black magic” is OK while I’m understanding where it goes. Show me the actual “ingredients” of your “potion” at the end. In some scenarios, the tour of the data center and the hands on exploration of the hardware could be more effective before the presentation as opposed to the traditional “on the way out” time slot.

My 2 cents: a suggested outline for presenting

  • Welcome – Introduction to product
    • use case: how technology solves specific problems
    • target customers
    • Infrastructure architecture and requirements
  • Photos, samples, tour, etc. (get the audience out of their seats!)
    • Model nos. and their capabilities
  • Technology deep dive (sit them back down)
  • Hands on Labs, demos, etc (have support for questions beyond the scope of the script)

We’re going to debate about using the technology, and that’s a good thing

In the end, the best part about the group of Tech Field Day attendees is that we are a mix of technology perspectives, and those perspectives created invaluable discussions on the bus, at the dinner table, and at the bar. Those talks are where it all comes together for us. The group discussion was so beneficial that we are considering building in time between sessions in future event scheduling to allow us to meet and debrief.

To illustrate the importance of ¬† this, there were several sessions this week where I personally missed the point. I either tuned out, was distracted with email or tweets, or I couldn’t visualize the way the technology made a difference. However, later each day I got the chance to question those in the group that understood – sometimes to the frustration of many. As a collective we struggled to understand what we saw from the holistic perspective: networking, storage, and servers. The result was that everyone ended up considering the technology in ways slightly differently than our own, first impressions. The key is the chemistry of the group allows these debates!

Help us have these discussions by making sure all the data center perspectives (server, networking, security, and storage) are covered by the presentation.

About the author

Rich Brambley

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