My friends and colleagues, MVPs Mark Polino and Mariano Gomez have both posted articles which talk about the behind the scenes of the conference session evaluation process. You need to have a read of their great articles to get an understanding of what is involved for a speaker to present a technical session at Convergence (or any other conference).
- Convergence 2011: A Peak Behind the Eval Curtain by Mark
- A Peek Behind the Convergence Eval Curtain - Follow Up by Mariano
I suppose I should give a little background information from my perspective.
My day job as Escalation Engineer for the Microsoft Dynamics GP support team in Asia Pacific focuses on handling support cases and working with my colleagues on their support cases and escalations. I also follow the Partner Forum & Community Forum and respond when I can. Now, when other projects come up, my colleagues are able to cover for me to an extent, but it does place additional pressure on them. We are a team of four engineers and when one person is out doing other things, it makes it hard for the remaining team members. That's why I make special mention of my team in my wrap up posts. Without their support, I could not do the additional projects that the global community sees.
Now, I don't want to add up the hours that go into blogging, but each post can take between 2 and 3 hours to write and even longer for the more technical posts. So far the blog has over 670 posts, most of which are written by me. You can do the arithmetic.
For Convergence alone, about 40 hours of work went into our material and session preparation. The materials actually have many more hours of work in them because we started with the materials used in previous conferences and improved, updated and extended them. The slide decks that we actually present are just a summary of the entire presentation and are also accompanied by a comprehensive word document with all the information from the sesson and much more. We also provide all the code samples used in both the presentation and in the documentation.
On top of the session materials for Convergence, I wanted to have some new features to show off for the Support Debugging Tool. So far, development of Build 15 has added another 64 hours to the total 917 hours recorded since 2008. Build 15 is not finished yet and so I am still working on it in my spare time or when my case load slows down.
Once all the preparation is completed and the Conference starts, then it is time to meet with lots of people and to present our work for you. At a conference where you will have people at all levels of experience, it is very hard to please everyone. We try our best to set the level advanced enough to keep experienced attendees interested, while still being of value to beginners. This is an extremely difficult balancing act and I am happy if attendees at both ends of the spectrum can walk away with at least one gem of new knowledge.
Mariano and I have a lot of fun presenting and try to make what can be dry and boring, fun and enjoyable while still providing lots of information. We have been working on improving the flow of our presentations to keep them exciting. From the feedback we have received, the changes we have made are working.
Feedback. We receive lots of verbal feedback during the conference and especially directly after the sessions. While all this is great, it is not something that "Management" sees. To keep us coming back to the conferences, the attendees need to let the "powers that be" know what they thought of the sessions. The mechanism for this is evaluations.
So, here is the request..... Please make sure you fill in your evaluations for the conference. However, I do have some other requests:
- If you decided not to attend the session or walked out because you were in the wrong session, don't complete the evaluation.
- If you don't give the maximum score, please fill in the comments to explain why. This will help us improve for next time.
- If you did give the maximum score... Thank you, but also fill in the comments to explain why. This will encourage us to do even better next time and keep the things that worked.
All the evaluations are anonymous, so we can't tell who submitted what, but we did get one attendee give Mariano and I all 1's for our first Support Debugging Tool session with no comment as to why. Sadly, this drags our overall scores down and provides no way we can improve.
Here are some of the highlights from the evaluations comments from our sessions:
- This had to be the best and most informational session in my 8 Convergence attendances.
- Someone made the comment that this sessions was worth the investment in coming to Convergence 2011. I second that opinion. This is what I am going to take away from this conference.
- Awesome Product and great job presenting. I attended last year and thought this year's format was much better.
- Mariano and David, THANK YOU! This session was the best one so far to me! Your intelligent approach to the topic finally made me undestand how powerfull this tool is! You bet I am going to start using this tool on all my worstations as soon as I get home. Thank you! You are the best!
- Please do not schedule these two very informative speakers on the last session of the last day. They are awesome. Also please add more technical sessions .
- Yes it can!
And a final point: Yes, our goal is to get invited back for the next conference by achieving the best session of the conference (and hopefully beating Mark's session scores).