Responses to VMworld 2014 Session Feedback

This year, I was very lucky to snag the opportunity to deliver two different presentations at VMworld 2014 US along side my good friend Jason Nash. We spent a lot of brain cycles trying to figure out how to best deliver content to a wide audience while remaining within the 60 minute time window. One really superb method of figuring out how close we are to the mark is to read session feedback, which we take very seriously and use to help shape future content creation.

In this post, I’m going to share and respond to the feedback we received for both of our sessions from the 1600+ folks that were gracious enough to carve out time in their VMworld schedule to come hear what we had to say. A huge thank you to everyone who filled out the survey!

NET2745 – vSphere Distributed Switch: Technical Deep Dive

This session was attended by nearly 1000 individuals on Wednesday (Day 3). I personally felt a lot of pressure to deliver a spectacular session because Jason has consistently held a top 10 slot.

[symple_box color=”green” fade_in=”false” float=”center” text_align=”left” width=””]Note: This session did make it into the Top 10 slot at VMworld 2014 US – you can watch it right now using the Top 10 Sessions directory.[/symple_box]

Let’s take a look at the numbers and responses.

Session Rating

Each session is rated on a scale from 1-5, with 1 being Poor and 5 being Excellent. The vast majority of attendees felt that the session was Excellent (5) or Very Good (4), with a few stating that it was only Good (3). No one rated it Poor (1) or Fair (2). I’m very happy with the rating but there is some room for improvement.

Technical Level

This next metric measures the technical level as it relates to what attendees expected. Since we had marked down our session as Advanced Technical, the goal was to produce and deliver a lot of technical content without any marketing fluff. Attendees seemed very happy with the amount of technical content, as nearly everyone said it was Just Right.

What You Liked

Moving away from numbers for a bit, let’s talk about what folks liked about the session. I’ve included a word cloud below, and then we’ll dive into some specifics.

VDS - The Good

Here are a few key responses that validated our use of a live lab (courtesy of Jason’s coffee soaked laptop):

  • Best session of the con. I prefer seeing thing work then just talking about it. More should be like this one – I fully agree, especially since I’m more of a visual learner.
  • Good demos of what was actually described – Thanks, they were built to match the abstract pretty much verbatim.
  • I liked the speakers, but content was misleading – I’m considering adding more around packet walks, how forwarding works, and other “technical bits” that may address this concern for next year.
  • Team Presenting was much better than serially – That’s great to know. We have never presented together before, so thought a more back-and-forth approach would keep it lively.
  • The presenters had a good tit for tat presentation that works well. They also did a good job of pushing the audience to participate – Quite frankly it’s almost impossible to see the audience on that stage because of the blinding lights in my eyes. But glad to hear that you felt we pushed for frequent engagement. 🙂

What You Would Change

Here comes the meat of feedback – what to do differently. The word cloud contained a lot of references to the amount of time available and the amount of content delivered.

VDS - Changes

Let’s dig into some of the specific comments:

  • Complaining about web client then using that client for demos weakens your credibility. Either get VMware to fix the web client or stop bringing up how much you dislike the web client – Unfortunately we have to use the Web Client to showcase many of the newer features in the VDS. Hopefully VMware employees are listening to your comment (and please do let them know directly, neither of us work at VMware) and will improve the Web Client experience.
  • Deeper technical level. Already knew everything, using lacp/ip hash on 1g now and moving onto multi-Nic motion on 10g – Message received, and I have a number of thoughts on some other advanced components that can be shared in the future.
  • Use transformers instead of sponge bob – No 🙂
  • For a deep dive I was expecting more technical design details. Was all pretty basic stuff for someone who has used dvs before – This is a tough tightrope to walk because everyone is at different levels and “advanced technical” is a non-specific measurement. But I’m open to going deeper and cutting content that was generally perceived as remedial.
  • Content was delivered a little fast at times. Maybe too much content for one session – There was a LOT of content in there, but Jason and I both wanted to lean on the side of too much versus too little. But I’ll make a point to pace the content a little better in the future.

Additional Comments

The last section had a lot of coffee comments. 🙂

VDS - Additional Comments

Here’s a sample of some of the commentary:

  • Deeper insight into load balancing policies, switch notifications would be helpful. Larger scale enterprise use case architecture would be nice – I think these are great suggestions, thank you.
  • Don’t spill coffee on your laptop! – Agreed
  • Good material. Too many attempts at comedy that weren’t helpful and wasted time – Jason has offered to remain mute if we do the session again.
  • Include situations where load distribution might be you’re only option like NFS data store balancing – I’ve submitted NFS related sessions for the past several years and have never had one accepted. I’m not sure I want to eat up time in the VDS session for NFS specifics, but please let VMware know that you want to hear about NFS related content at VMworld.
  • Left no time for questions cutting off people standing at the mics with questions after telling people to go to the mics with questions – Great feedback, very sorry that happened. I was equally disappointed with how much time was left over when we finished. Definitely want more time for question next time.
  • This session made me feel much more comfortable about moving to vDS – Mission accomplished!
  • Was very little from the network admin point of view, which I thought odd since it is a network device – Something else to ponder, as I had assumed (perhaps incorrectly?) that the audience would be primarily vSphere-focused professionals looking to better understanding networking, not the other way around. Very interesting.

NET2747 – VMware NSX: Software Defined Networking in the Real World

Our second session was held on Monday (Day 1) and featured just shy of 600 folks and a gigantic standby line – many of which were unable to get into the room since we hit capacity. The goal was to have an NSX session that covered real world, technical details from non-VMware employees who have actually used the product. This was the first year we tried something like this, but it felt important to both of us after finishing up the NSX Ninja boot camps and VCDX-NV certifications as a way to pass our knowledge along.

Session Rating

While the ratings were still quite good, we were much lower than the overall scores of the VDS session. I almost think this is due to the nature of the title and synopsis – we can further hone the session (or something similar) if it is accepted in the future. I can see later iterations going into more operational and technical models with a similar underlying goal: no marketing, no sales slicks, and 100% based on real world knowledge.

Technical Level

From a technical perspective, it appears we hit the mark.

What You Liked

It was no surprise that most folks liked the fact that we included a live demo. As Jason says, those without a demo are cheating. 🙂

NSX - The Good

A few specific points to call out:

  • Chris and Jason presented well together and made it entertaining. The content was a little generic, but good info – Thank you, and we’ll work on the generic bit to provide some more specific use cases as the product picks up steam.
  • I like that Chris and Jason had different opinions relating to routing vmotion.  credibility – I think it’s important to see that not all architects go the same path, and glad to see this comment.
  • Jason Nash said that any presenter in a technical session who doesn’t do a live demo is chicken. Damn straight! – We give the over/under on successful demos at 50% 🙂
  • Will be hard to beat as my most valuable presentation. Good information. Demo was good. I like to see products in action by real people in real time – Glad to hear you liked the demo. If we were in the audience, we’d want to see the product in action, and I’m glad to see that others learn in a similar fashion.

What You Would Change

The word cloud is very biased on change. It really boils down to more demo and more time.

NSX - The Bad

A few specific highlights:

  • Assumptions that we were using some features or platforms made descriptions somewhat confusing – We’ll work on being more clear on the various pre-reqs, specifically for an NSX on vSphere deployment.
  • Not holding a Starbucks beverage the entire presentation – This one’s on you, Jason.
  • Tell Jason to put his coffee cup down – In order to meet the previous comment’s requirements, he’ll have to either get a flying cup or wear a hat with holsters and straws for his cup. I approve of either option.
  • Ran out of time at the end if the session, so it seemed some topics were not covered – We’ll work on time management and flow in the future. It was a challenge to figure out how long it would take to cover the demo parts, but we’ve got a much better idea on that now.
  • The demo portion was lacking, should have spent more time on that part – Message received.

Additional Comments

The additional comments area was mostly filled with positive commentary, which was appreciated.

NSX - Comments

Of note:

  • Awesome speakers, suitable content, live demo… What’s not to love? – Other than the coffee suggestions, I would agree (although I’m biased)
  • Keep these guys comming back to VMworld! – Glad to hear it! Let VMware know when voting opens next year for sessions. 🙂