James O'Neill's blog

Windows Platform, Virtualization and PowerShell with a little Photography for good measure.

Ah, the joy of feedback

Ah, the joy of feedback

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As I mentioned before we're getting updates on the feedback from the roadshow: George has a report for us the next day. On one of our past roadshows I had a serious sense of humour failure about the speed we got feedback - the system then cost a fortune and delivered information too late to act on it. I changed my presentation based on a reported comment which turned out to be unrepresentative and made it less effective.  So this change is one I'm particularly pleased with. Numbers give us something measurable, but the comments are things we can act on. But there's not much we can do when we get successive comments which say "Very well presented, nice to have two presenters covering the topics." and "Chit chat between presenters grated."

So let me just explain why we've taken to having two people on stage. One of things that we know people hate is "Death by PowerPoint" (confusingly some people also want us to provide a slide deck which would stun an Ox). Of the 85 answers to "what was best about the day" we had in London about 1 in 6 picked out demos .

  1. Demoing the product. eye-test
  2. Live demonstrations.
  3. Windows Server 2008 Core demo, explanations regarding powershell.
  4. Demonstration.
  5. I much prefer the hand-on demos than watching power point slides.
  6. Live demos, not all power point.
  7. How to manage Windows Server 2008 presentation.
  8. Excellent demonstrations, little sales pitch (except for hyper-v!).
  9. The material presented, not death by Powerpoint but much more Demo focused. Kept it much more interesting!
  10. The venue was fantastic and demo of installing windows 2008.
  11. The openness of the talks The tech demos.
  12. Live demonstrations.
  13. I liked the fact that we were able to see live demos of the products’ in use and to be able to ask questions.
  14. Quality of speakers and good demos.

Here's the thing though. Demos are HARD. PowerPoint is EASY. Now I say "easy", actually to speak about something technical, to do it lucidly (not reading) and be interesting, to do in front of audience of between 200 and 600 people without being overcome with nerves, and - given the range of the audience - make sure that at any given time 95% of the room can understand you but you're not patronizing more than 5% .... this is stretching the definition of easy. Building a demo which shows the point, which you can actually do on stage, which is repeatable isn't too hard. If that demo involves writing code or entering long command lines  there is always a risk of errors. When you have a dozen or more (virtual) machines on the network the chance that one is on when it should be off (e.g. you have two DHCP or Remote boot servers for different demos) or off when it should be on becomes greater than 50:50. Everyone has seen a demo fail and the presenter battle to get working long past the point when they should give up. And when you need to concentrate on what you're doing you have a thousand eyes staring at you and every instinct you have is yelling "KEEP TALKING". A second presenter can

  • Do the next part of the presentation, while you fix a problem
  • Explain what you're doing when what you have to type needs you to shut up and concentrate
  • Do a step of the demo when you've stepped out to answer a question from the floor

They can also be a stooge "So James what's this great feature here do then ? " - but if they do their job right they can ask the question that the audience want to know, or even say "James, at the last event you explained what that did, would it be good to share that again ?". Bottom line ? Having a co-presenter improves my delivery

A huge amount of effort goes into to these events and we're seeing dozens of positive comments - some by e-mail and some on our blogs as well, and it's good to know we've pleased a large slice of the audience.

There will always be a few who can't be pleased. There was the person in London who wrote "I was under the impression that Windows Server 2008, Visual Studio 2008 and SQL Server 2008 were going to be the focal points for the day." who must have clicked the link to register without reading the description.

And then in Manchester we had a couple of comments in the "What would make things better"

  • An understanding by microsoft to move to a new Operating system (Vista) is not just a technology jump but a huge staff training exercise.
  • Stop banging on about Vista and its benefits. Microsoft has to accept that they have misjudged the market and need to put the customer first. By implying Vista SP1 will fix everything is ignorant on Microsoft's part. We can not keep re-training users just because Microsoft have brought out a new interface/Operating system.

Sorry... "Don't talk about benefits of a new product". Why ever not ? Why come to events about new products if you don't want to hear about them ? Accept that we've "misjudged the market" - that would mean starting to believe that most IT managers are Luddites who don't give a stuff about user productivity or security or the proportion of their own time that is needed just to maintain the status quo. "We can't keep re-training users just to make them more productive". If that were the case we'd still be on DOS, or Windows 3.1 or Windows 95. I doubt if either of these guys have even used Vista. Contrary to what you might think most people who work at Microsoft UK (many of whom are agency staff) work in non technical roles - Sales, Marketing, HR and so on. One great boss in my pre-Microsoft days had sold Custard Powder (he worked for Bird's selling it to supermarkets after the famous factory explosion) and he said he knew no more IT than he did about Custard powder. Our marketing people got 2 hours on vista and office 2007, tops. The greater productivity that you get from both pretty quickly cancels out the initial dip that comes from finding your way round a new environment. With more and more Vista PCs going into homes it won't be long before you have to spend time training people how to use the unfamiliar - and less productive - older software.

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