Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Peek Behind the Convergence Eval Curtain - Follow Up

MVP Mark Polino just released a really nice post about what goes on behind the speaker's curtain - see Convergence 2011: A Peek Behind the Eval Curtain. I thought I would pick up where he left with my own insight on the subject.

Let's start by saying that Microsoft Dynamics Convergence is the biggest stage on the planet for us speakers and presenters in the Microsoft Dynamics ERP and CRM world. The amount of time that goes into preparing our sessions, assembling presentations, handouts, and demos, and making sure we are ready by the time the event actually happens is ginormous. In our case (David and I) it's at the tune of more than 3 months and with a 12-hour difference - we are invited more than 6 months in advance, IF and when we get invited. For those of you who think we just show up on stage, there is no such thing. We actually have to earn our stripes to be in front of you every year.

So how do we earn our stripes you may ask?

Well, the first thing that comes to mind is to introduce topics that are always relevant to the community or act upon the ones that are requested by you. In our case, there's been much interest in the Support Debugging Tool and Development Tools for the past 3 years now (if you also consider the Microsoft Dynamics GP Technical Conference), that we have become the defacto presenters for these tracks.

The second thing is to make sure that we can actually deliver... and here comes the catch 22. Delivery can only be measured by your evaluations. So it takes A LOT of convincing, a lot of good ol' politics (in the good sense), and a good track record with the Microsoft Dynamics community to get on stage the first time around.

Once selected as speakers, we begin working on our presentations for the event. I have to be honest here... David and I always look forward to beat Mark Polino and become The Number One Microsoft Dynamics GP session and the top Convergence session, if at all possible. So yes, 1/100 of a point does count in that pursuit.

As Mark mentioned in his post, this is all in good spirit and the only one benefitting from this fierce competition is you, the attendee. Now, take our collective competitiveness and multiply it times 120. That's how many other speakers and presenters are looking to beat everyone else across all 4 products + CRM. Every single one of us walks into the speaker room just hoping to see our names in the top 10 sessions of the ENTIRE event. Yes, those fancy flat screens are not there to catch up on Days of Our Lives, but rather to see how we are doing overall.

Speaker Room
Like Mark, we strive not only to deliver good presentations, but to hear back from you. Hearing back from you allows us to correct, fine tune, adjust, make changes for IF and when we are invited again. So your comments are important. Here are some of the ones that bring joy to our lives and relieve some of the stress:

"Excellent beyond excellent. Great dynamic between the presenters and the info was beyond useful, wish I would have had this 6 months ago on a project. Thanks for this class!"
"These two should go On first you get worried that their comedy act will delay getting the facts out but somehow they manage to not only give you what you need but even more before the session expires. EXCELLENT"
We don't know who you are, but you sure know who you are, so if you are reading this thank you, thank you, thank you for your input.

We also suffer from the odd comments that makes us scratch our heads too:

"Too much information trying to be pushed out for the time allotted. Speaker talked the whole time while going through slide and the demos were just screen shots no real demos."
Too much information? Talk through slides? Demos were screen shots? If you are familiar with David and I, you will probably know by now that we only used a summary version of our 150+ presentation slide deck and love to deliver lots of information and demos instead. This is why you paid money to come to the event to begin with! So buddy, there's no such thing as too much information when it comes to Convergence.

We also tend to get the one comment that makes us do what we do even more and better:

"I know many people like these presenters, but personally I find them to be a bit over-the-top and too much in love with themselves. They obviously know their stuff, but their ego's get in the way of me enjoying the session to be honest."
I have never (ever) claimed to not have an ego and much less not being in love with myself - ask David or Michael Johnson! Yes, if you want to be on THIS KIND of stage and perform at this level you do have to know your stuff and I am frankly not ashame of either. Attendees want to know that you are a confident person who they can come up to and ask a question that have been tormenting them for months, but better yet, they want to know that they can get an answer on the spot.

That's why I am invited in the first place, but then again, comments like these are very far and in-between.

As for the ego part, the next time you see us, don't be surprised if we are being chauffeured in a limo to our session room. Did I mention Microsoft putting us up in the presidential suite at the Ritz Carlton?

Until next post!

Mariano Gomez, MVP
IntellPartners, LLC

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