Tag Archives: VMworld

VMworld and your presentation skills

VMworld scoring system is a proven measurement. It has been battle tested for years and I found it a great reflection of your presentation skills. I explained the system here. While there are cultural difference between US and Europe audience, the ratings are very consistent. You get what you deserve to get.

It’s hard get a high score in VMworld. You’re presenting at the world stage, so the expectation is high. If you are not from US or Europe, you’re presenting to people from different culture. So if you get a high score, you can be proud of your presentation skills and hard work.

Don’t be obsessed with the final score itself. Use the details to improve your presentation skills. The details is a great measurement on presentation skills.

My presentations in the last 4 VMworld (2015, 2016, 2017 US, 2017 Europe) ranges from 4.3 to 4.8. Having done >10 presentations, I have a good feeling on what the audience value.

The website to review the survey and feedback is slow. It also does not render properly. Luckily, you can export the details to Excel. Here are the areas assessed:

I highlighted in red the area that need improvement in my case.

  • As a presenter, I get too excited about the product, as I’m deeply involved on it. The audience loves to see passionate presentation, but I need to be extra sensitive that it does not come across as selling. 1 attendee actually gave me a “strongly disagree“. Now, the feedback system is anonymous, so you cannot reach out to the person to find out why.
  • The audience loves technical depth. It’s hard to compress everything in 1 hour while remaining technical. I thought I have given it enough technical depth. From the feedback, it’s clear they want more.

The green is where the score is >4.8. I use 4.8 as the benchmark that I’ve done well and need to ensure I maintain it.

  • Audience wants to be respected and engaged. I encouraged them to move the front seats, ask questions and provide product feedback before the sessions start. Normally, you have a good 10 minutes before the actual time. I use it for Q&A, sending a signal that I value their Questions more than my presentation. If I do a small workshop and I have more time, I may even give more time until the audience is happy.
  • Audience wants someone who truly knows the subject. If you’re presenting a product, it helps if you are directly involved in the product design. They want to know they can give direct feedback to the person doing the work.
  • Audience wants to be entertained. Let’s face it. Datacenter Infrastructure is dry and boring. We love the technology, but we’d rather watch movie and play games instead of sitting in window-less room watching a presentation. I use humour a lot. Having done >100s presentations, I know entertainment complements education.
  • Audience wants something practical that they can apply. If you download my deck, you notice there is not a single marketecture slide. I don’t even mention the edition of the product, as it’s something I can mention in passing. Every slide has to be about the audience.

The audience also provides raw feedback. This is important as they have to type it, not simply selecting from a drop-down. So I value this more than the score. Some types from their mobile, so you get short feedback. Here are some of them. The audience certainly appreciate your effort and reward you well:

  • e1 was the best speaker I have experienced in all the VMworlds I have attended. He was so excellent that you needed an extra option on the rating scale.
  • Most interesting session I have ever been to after 3 years of VMworld.
  • Best session I have attended
  • Best session overall.
  • This is possibly the best presentation I’ve seen this year. There is a big gap of useful vRealize demos
  • Presenter was excellent (e1)

There are no shortage of generic tips on how to deliver a great presentation. Here is a short post I wrote on it. That’s what I follow, and I hope it works for you too.

May the force be with you in your presentation.


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!

VMworld 2015 session MGT4973 preview


Sunny Dua and I are sharing what we have learned next week at VMworld 2015. As you can see from our blogs and book, we focus on Performance and Capacity Management. Essentially, we are sharing what we have learned from our engagements and projects in the past few years.

We have presented the material a few times, and know it will not fit within the 1 hour time slot. So this blog serves as a deeper dive to the slide.

Sunny has provided a good overview on the topic in his blog here, so please read that first. You can find the session here. Title is MGT4973 – Mastering Performance Monitoring and Capacity Planning. I will provide additional details in this blog.

The material follows the following structure:

  1. A Technical Introduction, to set the focus and scope of discussion, and level set the knowledge.
  2. The Dining Area. We use a restaurant analogy to drive the message that you need to focus on the customer first, and your IaaS second. If you take care of them well, and they are happy with your service, the problem you have in your IaaS is secondary and internal matter.
  3. The Kitchen. This is your infrastructure layer, where VMware and the hardware resides.

Technical Introduction

The key component of this is the 2 distinct layer in your IaaS business. Please review that article before proceeding, as the rest of the material completely depends on this model.

If you are presenting this material back to your colleagues or management, who may not have deep technical knowledge on VMware, be prepared to whiteboard it. From experience, it took around 2 – 4 hours for those without vSphere vmkernel scheduling knowledge. In one of my customer, it took me all day as the audience kept on asking question.

The Dining Area 

Here, I share the actual dashboards you need to help you ensure a good IaaS business, where customers are happy. It focuses on the customers, not the Infrastructure.

Detail monitoring of a single VM

  • We start with a single VM, as we need to ensure we can handle 1 VM before we consider handling all VMs. A common use case here is a VM owner (your customer) complains that his VM is slow. You need to come up with a dashboard that enable help desk to quickly and easily identify where the problem is. Is it with Infrastructure or with the VM? Is it CPU, RAM, Disk or Network? How severe is the problem?

Large VMs Monitoring

  • We created this dashboard as over-provisioning is a common illness in virtual environment. If you want a healthy environment, you need to eradicate, or at least minimize, this bad practice. Reducing someone’s VM is a delicate and lengthy process, so you want to focus on the largest VM. Reducing one 16-vCPU VM to 4 vCPU gives you better return than reducing three 8-vCPU VM to 4 vCPU. The actual total vCPU reduction is the same (12 vCPU in this example), but ESXi vmkernel scheduler will have easier task in juggling the VMs as the 16 vCPU VM needs 16 physical cores (even though it’s running idle loop).
  • This dashboard visually tells you how deep and wide-spread the over-provisioning problem is. You get to see all the large VMs, and from here you can drill down into individual VM and see if it’s really using all those resources allocated.

VM Right Sizing

  • There are 2 ends of the spectrum:
    • downsize
    • upsize
  • Upsize is generally not your concern 🙂 . The VM owner will be the first to tell you his VM needs more resource. From your view point, as someone looking after all the VMs, you can use Log Insight to quickly tell which VM hit high CPU or RAM usage and when.
  • Downsize is definitely your concern. It is tough to get anyone to give back their resources, especially since it incurs downtime. From my experience, I learn that some application team want to see the actual utilization of each vCPU in the past 1 month. You can create a dashboard that automatically plots all the vCPU utilization. To see more details coverage, review Chapter 8 of my book.

Excessive Usage

  • One characteristic of virtual environment is sharing. The VMs share the physical resources. Excessive usage by 1-2 VM can impact the overall IaaS performance. This is especially true in component that you do not cap by default, which is Network throughput, Disk IOPS and Disk throughput.
  • This dashboard lets you see if there is excessive usage at any point in time. And if there is, you can drill down to find out which VM causes that.

Indeed, there are only 4 use cases you need. Do let Sunny or me if you think you need additional dashboards. Keep it simple, so you are not lost in the forest of screens and reports. From experience, customers who want more dashboard mistaken the Consumer Layer with the Provider Layer (the kitchen). So let’s cover the kitchen now.

The Kitchen

The IaaS layer is where you have, or should have, complete control and visibility. If you do not have, you need to fix it, as your customer assumes and expects you do.

There are 4 large areas to manage:

  • Performance
  • Capacity
  • Configuration
  • Availability

As you know well, the above 4 disciplines are inter-related. Among these 4, Performance is the most common issue, but Capacity is what you normally tell me you need. You will see in the session that Capacity depends heavily on Performance and Availability. Take Storage for example. Say your SAN array has 100 TB capacity left. That’s plenty of space, probably enough for 1000 VM. But existing VMs are already experiencing high latency. Should you add more VM? The answer is clearly no. Adding VM will make performance worse. For all practical purpose, the capacity is full.

The way you do capacity changes drastically, once you take into account Performance and Availability. See this for an in-depth explanation on how you can implement a more holistic capacity planning.

For Performance, the main requirement from your CIO or management is typically around your IaaS ability to deliver. They want your IaaS to be performing, as business runs on it. The question is how do you prove that… not a single VM… in the past 1 month or whatever the period is… suffers unacceptable performance hit because of non-performing IaaS?

That’s an innocent, but loaded, question. Very loaded, and you need to consider carefully.

If you have 1000 VMs, you need to answer for 1000 VM. For each VM, you need to answer CPU, RAM, Disk and Network. That’s 4000 metrics. If your management or customer agrees on a 5-minute sampling period, you have 12 samples in 1 hour. In 1 day you have 288 samples. In 1 month you have ~8750 samples (30.4 days on average). For 1000 VM, that means 4000 x 8750 = 35,000,000 chances where your IaaS can fail in serving the customer!

In the session, and in the book, you will see that if you implement Service Tiering, it drastically increases your chance in meeting the requirement. We introduce a concept called Performance SLA. Once you have it, you will know for sure if you fail or succeed in meeting the agreed performance.

I distinguish between monitoring and troubleshooting. To me, troubleshooting is a big topic by itself, and the steps vary depending on what you’re trying to troubleshoot. Monitoring, on the other hand, consists of repeatable steps that you perform regularly, preferably daily. You can create SOP (Standard Operating Procedure) out of it.

As you can see from the book and blog, my focus so far has been on Performance and Capacity. The reason is they are big topic and I need to reach the level that you can actually implement and operationalize. Once I’m done, I’d move to Configuration and Availability.

With that, see you at VMworld!

[15 Sep 2015: you can find the actual presentation in this link]