I Presented at a VMUG and Survived… you can too!

Sitting on the train on my return from another awesome London VMUG event, and I thought I would jot down a few thoughts about the day, and the prep for it.

Firstly I want to say a big thank you to Mike Laverick. He and a number of other key VMware community members (Duncan Epping, Scott Lowe, Hans De Leenheer) have recently started a new programme they call #FeedForward. As the name suggests its all about helping others, specifically people who have not previously presented at a VMUG. As part of the process, the mentor (Mike) initially provided feedback to the mentee (me) on my slides. Once I had them ready to go, I then did a practice session over Skype / phone with Mike where he gave me some valuable feedback and suggestions where the presentation could be tweaked, and some ideas for content I hadn’t even thought of.

The benefits to me were two-fold. Having that second pair of eyes on my slides and presentation from someone who does this day in day out gave me confidence that the content was up to par. Then having a practice run in a zero-pressure environment where the audience understands the subject matter and gives you constructive feedback is absolutely invaluable! I would have asked my wife but having her fall asleep mid presentation through boredom would not have done my confidence any good… (She is definitely not into tech!) 🙂

Just before I got up I was a wee bit nervous, but much like a wedding speech, its worth remembering that the VMUG audience at a community session really want the speaker to succeed. It’s unlikely you will find a more friendly and willing audience in almost any other situation.

I was meant to be presenting a 10 minute lightning talk, but even in practice runs at home I was coming in a little over time, even skipping some bits of the content which were less important. On the day one of the other presenters (Simon Gallagher – VMUG leader and Lego aficionado) had toothache, so myself, Frank and Erik actually had a bit of leeway on timings. Being a bit of a gab anyway my presentation was about 15 mins. This did teach me one valuable lesson; even if you plan your presentation to the minute in advance, things never quite work out that way! You are likely to be asked questions, stopped mid flow, projectors turn themselves off and start smelling a bit smokey etc… the best thing to do is plan a shorter presentation as you will undoubtedly use all the time! On the same vein, when it comes to slides less is most definitely more. I had 14 slides and in hindsight, I was never going to get through them all in 10 minutes!

One other tip which Duncan Epping gave recently and I definitely agree with is to practice your presentation a few times through in advance, but don’t over-practice and end up being too robotic. Everyone has their own style but I like to use the slides as a talking point and guide, rather than planning word-for-word what I’m going to say.

Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience in the end and one I would highly recommend. I have had a great deal of help, support and learning from the community over the past few years, and its only right I should try to give something back.

Should you be considering whether to put your name forward to present at a VMUG in future (or indeed you are being politely but firmly press ganged by your local VMUG leaders… *cough* Alaric! *cough*) then I would definitely recommend you grab the opportunity with both hands, and post a tweet to #FeedForward on twitter if you want a little bit of extra support.

For more info on #FeedForward, see Mike’s blog post here:

You can also grab a copy of my presentation here:
Alex Galbraith – LonVMUG Presentation 23-01-2014

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