Tag Archives: public speaking

Tips for VMworld presenters

Thank you for all the “Congratulation!” notes we got after Sunny and I delivered our VMworld session. It was indeed humbling to receive a score of 4.38 in the first session. We took the feedback and the second session score went up to 4.77. There were requests to give tips for fellow presenters, so this blog hopes to address that. The tips here should apply to all IT events, as the evaluation criteria is quite generic.

From the feedback, the audience noticed clearly that we worked well together as a team. That did not happen without a lot of practice. We actually delivered the presentation 2x before that. We also rehearsed a lot, playing devil’s advocate to each other. It is better to get negative feedback from each other than from the audience. We actually review each other sentences. Yes, down to the choice of word.

We made a decision to have 2 speakers speaking like 2 friends sharing. Have you ever seen 2 friends sharing their common adventure that they clearly enjoyed? You will notice that they finish each other sentence. You can sense their passion as they speak, and their eyes lighted up as they recall the excitement.

Because of the above strategy, it cannot be the usual “your slide, my slide”, as one has to be idle standing while the other is presenting. I’ve done it before. It is not natural and it is not a good experience for the audience. We want the audience to see 2 buddies enjoying each other presence, and having a good time engaging with the audience. To achieve the above in a public speaking setting, it takes a lot of practice. The 2 speakers have to be in-sync, on every single slide. We know what each person will say on every slide.

The amount of practice is often makes the difference between a good presentation and a great presentation. How much practice? Read this for the guideline.

Let’s now move into VMworld specific information. The great thing about VMworld is it gives good information to the speakers. For a start, you can see all your sessions, and who registered for it. So you know how many people are planning to attend. You can also visit the room, so you have an idea on the size and setup.


Once you delivered your session, you can see who actually attended. You cannot see their name and contact, for privacy reason, but you can see the company, job title and country. It looks something like this:


You can also see the feedback, and this is where I want to show you. Click on the View Report in the Survey Result. If you have repeat session, you can see for each session. Our second session had a higher rating as we took the feedback.

Majority of the survey questions are the kind of questions you expect, but it’s worth knowing them. Look at question 2 below. It is quite specific. So your session:

  1. Provide practical knowledge that they can apply to their job. You only have 45 minutes of speaking, as you should allocate time for Q&A. Do not waste that 45 times with theory that audience cannot bring home.
  2. Have content that matches the description. I got penalized in my first session as some audiences were not expecting vRealize Operations.
  3. Have minimal marketing or sales pitch. This one should be obvious. There is no need to waste your audience time.


As the speaker, you are also being assessed. Again, it is quite specific:

  1. Are you good at the topic you’re presenting? Sunny and I blog extensively on the topic, I wrote a book about it, and we have a dozen engagements in the past several years. The Q&A session allowed us to show the audience that we know the topic.
  2. Do you encourage engagement? Do you ask survey questions, and pause to allow questions?
  3. Do you present it well? I spent a lot of time restructuring the deck. Humour can also help as it’s a dry topic. The audience wants to learn, but they also want to enjoy the session.


Question 6 below provides you area that you need to take care:

  • Speakers
  • Content. It should be logical and clear. It should also flow smoothly.
  • Demo. Take note of live demo. I’d record it for a smoother delivery. Be careful of font size as 16 points is what you want have. I think 10 point is simply too small.
  • Technical Level. Be very clear on setting expectation here.
  • Format. Make the slides interesting.


You also get feedback on areas to improve. I find this part very valuable. I listened back to my session to review it. I definitely spoke too fast.


I hope you find the tips useful. All the best in creating that lasting VMworld presentation!

Why a 40 minute presentation takes 4 days to prepare

As a VMware SE, I present a lot. It can be public speaking in events, or present to a small group. Certainly, all of us who have been doing VMmare for a long time can just stand up and present, especially if it’s a technical topic. After all, the content is all in the brain.

However, I learned that the difference between a great presentation and a good presentation is much larger than what I thought. Much larger than the different between a good presentation and an average presentation.

A great presentation has that lasting impact. It goes beyond educating. It changes paradigm. They also remember the key message long after they forget the content. It gets put deep in their heart. Another word, you’ve calibrated their thinking with yours.

So what makes a great presentation?

A great presentation… looks natural (as if you speak from your heart, not your brain)…, is both humble and authoritative…., is both funny and deep…., is both engaging and relaxing….., is both entertaining and enlightening…, and truly leaves a moment of truth.

I find that delivering a great presentation is very hard. I normally take around 40 hours to prepare 40 minutes presentation. The less technical the topic, the longer it takes. The less technical the audience, the longer it takes. The less interaction I have (e.g. due to large size), the longer it takes.

I created all the slides manually, I typed every word I want to say in the speaker notes section of Power Point, Then I rehearsed, rehearsed and rehearsed. I time myself if time is a constraint. For an important event, you are right to guess, pretty much the whole thing is memorised from so much of darn rehearsal! 🙂

So anytime you see me speak naturally, it was more like virtually natural 🙂

To me, a great presentation is like an entertainment. How long does a singer practice and rehearse for that 4 minute song?

Here is an article that I find useful.

All the best in your presentation!