I got the opportunity to present about VCE for Cisco to Tech Field Day delegates a couple weeks ago. It was eye-opening to be on the other side of the fence. Many thanks to Rob Callory and Stuart Miniman from EMC and Omar Sultan from Cisco for organizing things for both companies. Also, none of this would’ve been possible without Stephen Foskett who is the father of the mixed-vendor Tech Field Day events. It was awesome meeting some new faces like Scott D. Lowe (Tech Republic & SearchCIO), David Davis (TrainSignal), Simon Long (The SLOG and fellow GestaltIT contributor), Matt Simmons (The Standalone Sysadmin) and Gabrie van Zanten (Gabe’s Virtual World). It was also great seeing the usual suspects as well (Devang, Bas, Simon Seagrave, Claire, Greg Knieriemen, Robin, Carlo, John, Greg Ferro and Ed).
Update: I don’t know how it happened but I left the venerable Jason Boche (Boche.net) out of the original version of this. He’s always been one of the usual suspects although this was his first Tech Field Day.
In the past as a delegate I was focused on ingesting and analyzing information from the vendors. As a presenter, your responsibility is to *effectively communicate* a position to a small group. You might be thinking, “So what, I do that everyday.” The difference is that everyone is bent a certain way and they interact. We’d like to think that people check their religion at the door, but that simply isn’t the case. If you’re presenting something controversial, new and unclear you must be prepared. I didn’t want people to treat me differently than other vendors just because I had been a previous delegate and they didn’t.
The discussion was lively with a lot of very insightful questions. The delegates this time around were more diverse than before. They had backgrounds ranging from small companies to large enterprises and disciplines across the infrastructure spectrum. As everyone was participating, it was clear that they were trying to relate the message to what they do everyday. After I was done presenting I found out that Simon Seagrave was live-streaming the event and twitter was lit up like a Christmas tree with people going back and forth.
Some suggestions for current and future attendees:
- Try as hard as you can to keep an open mind
- Be critical
- Don’t beat the proverbial dead horse
- Give vendors constructive criticism, it’s better for everyone
Some suggestions for current and future sponsors:
- Bring your fireproof suit, sometimes the discussions get quite warm
- Take the criticism and do something constructive with it
- Keep the pace moving, be prepared to have half or a quarter of the time to present. The schedule is tight and it’s common for things to get pushed back quite a bit.
One universal that I discovered is this, “Just because you work for a vendor doesn’t mean you’re biased and just because you don’t work for a vendor doesn’t mean you’re unbiased.”
I was asked by some EMC folks if we should do these events in the future and I’d say that there is no doubt we get a ton of value for them. The only things I’d like to see different is that the schedule have some more flexibility built in so vendors get all the time they paid for. Towards the end of the last session I think everyone was getting worn down and I give tons of credit to Stephen and the attendees for sticking with it.