Recently I spent a little over a week taking part in the VMUG user conferences, Sydney, Melbourne, and Singapore. I spent some of my time reflecting on the role of commercial organizations in community. There is a fairly well known issue with VMUG, most presenters are vendors and a lot of the time the presentations aren’t great. Often people attend VMUG more to talk to the other attendees or attend the community presentations. With a change of emphasis, I think vendor presentations can deliver more value to the VMUG attendees and to the sponsors.
One change that I’d like to see is more sponsor presentations being valuable to the VMUG audience. Vendor presentations are a fact of life at VMUGs. The reason is simple; someone needs to pay for the event. What is less necessary is vendor presentations that only attract 5% of the attendees. It isn’t unusual for a vendor to have only ten people in the presentation. At the same time slot there might be a community presentation with 40% of the attendees. I saw this in Singapore where Neil Cresswell had a packed room to talk about a container based cloud service. I imagine that the sponsor sessions at the same time were far less well attended. It would be great to see vendor sessions that attendees wanted to watch. What I think the vendors need is a better understanding of what the attendees want. Chris Wahl had great sessions, both as community and in the Rubrik sponsor sessions. Chris believes that a key is to aim to teach rather than sell. I know the VMUG team try to lead sponsors to the right kind of presentation, but many sponsors just don’t get it. The sponsor marketing team hear the words and get a completely different meaning. I plan to develop a workshop for the marketing people on how to have a great VMUG presentation
One of the common vendor mistakes is to use a generic marketing presentation. The same presentation that is used to sell to Fortune 500 CEOs and CIOs. I doubt that many Fortune 500 CIOs attend VMUGs. There are Fortune 500 staff at VMUGs and there are CIOs at VMUGs, but they are not the same person. This is where crafting your message to your audience is important. The VMUG audience is more hands on, less business management. Presentations at VMUG need to show value to a much more technical audience than at a Gartner symposium. VMUG audiences like technical detail and live demonstrations. They are less interested in magic quadrants and NASCAR slides of famous customer logos.
Another thing I see in vendor presentations is the rote learned presentation delivered with little excitement. I know that sales engineers will deliver the same presentation a dozen times per week for a dozen customers. Delivering a presentation to a room full of VMUG attendees is not the same. What works with six people sitting around a table does not work in a larger presentation room. The most engaging presentations are delivered with passion and often depart from the script. Live demonstrations are another great presentation tool for VMUG, although have a high degree of risk. You could even throw in a whiteboard rather than a complex slide build.
I would like to see sponsors getting more value from taking part in VMUGs. One of the ways is to have their sponsor presentations targeted to the VMUG audience. Aim to teach the audience rather than influence them. Allow presenters to show their passion and express themselves. Don’t let the marketing message get in the way of engaging with attendees. If you would like help getting more value from your VMUG sponsorship then get in touch with me, firstname.lastname@example.org.
© 2016, Alastair. All rights reserved.