VCDX – The Presentation

Your presentation should be no more than 60 slides.  No two presentations are the same, it should be tailored to help YOU speak and deliver a continuous flow of information.  So do not stress if your Study Group members have different content/formats to yourself.

List of articles in my VCDX Deep-Dive series (more than 70 posts)

You must deliver your presentation in such a way that demonstrates subject mastery with the Decision Reason and the Basic, Advanced and Expert details on each subject.  Josh Odgers’ blog has a good write-up on this.

For example: “My vSphere HA configuration is with %-based Admission Control, I selected this because I have a small number of large VMs that would skew the slot size calculation of N+1 admission control. (Decision Reason & Basic)  One of the operational risks with %-based is that the percentages for CPU and RAM must be manually reconfigured when new hosts are added to the cluster. (Advanced)  The Master node election process takes 15 seconds and occurs using UDP traffic on port 8182. (Expert).

The presentation is the gateway to your success, it will be used to complement and highlight the information that you deliver verbally.  If you have to start drawing diagrams on the whiteboard, then you are wasting time, when you should have that slide in your Deep Dive section.

The slide deck should be something like:

  • Slide 1 – Title Slide – Who you are – What you are doing here
  • Slide 2 – Project Overview – Who the customer is
  • Slide 3 – Design Process you followed
  • Slides 4 and 5 – Conceptual Model –> Requirements/Constraints/Assumptions/Risks (only the most important/unique that shaped your design)
  • Slides 6 to 20 – Highlight slides that map from Slides 4 and 5 to the Logical/Physical Design
  • Slide 21 – Deep Dive Title Slide
  • Slides 22 to 60 – Deep Dive slides that elaborate on the Highlight slides

Slides 1 to 20 should take you around 15 minutes to complete whilst talking without interruption.  You must practice this until you can present it without looking at the slide deck.  You need to know this back-to-front, inside-and-out.  Each Highlight slide should have 4 or 5 decision points with the justification and three levels of detail that you will deliver clearly and concisely.

Here is the kicker, you have a slide deck with a set of highlights that you can deliver within 15 minutes, however when you present to the Panel, they will ask questions that require deep dives, so practice switching from the highlight section to the matching deep dive slides.  Practice delivering the entire slide deck within 75 minutes.  If you offer up information without the Panel having to prompt you, then your score will be higher because you had more time to talk.

During the 75 minute window, you need to ensure that you deliver your message quickly and clearly.  If you do not know something, either make a guess, qualifying your statement with “I think it is X because of Y” or say “I do not know, but I would check resource Z to find out”.  Do not waste time “blathering”; stay on point and continue scoring.

As soon as you have answered the question, continue delivering your presentation.  Do not stand there waiting for approval or consent.  You are an expert who has answered the Panellist’s question fully; continue scoring.

Make sure you:

  • Practice standing whilst presenting with the VCDX timer running on a tablet
  • Develop your presentation style; Eliminate any rocking, fidgeting, hand wringing, “umming”, “ahhing” or blathering
  • Use a remote mouse with a laser pointer
  • Get used to checking the timer to see how much time is remaining
  • Record/Video yourself and critique your performance
  • Present to a wall/study group/peers/mock panel – practice, practice and practice again
  • Develop an air of confidence that clearly communicates to all who see and hear you – they should be thinking “This person knows what they are talking about, I am glad they designed my solution.”
  • Respond to questions with assurance and authority
  • Do not be meek and hesitant, like a child standing before the principal at primary school
  • Do not get sucked into focusing completely on the presentation and reading every single item, verbatim
  • Do not rush your speech, tripping or stuttering your words; speak with a measured, confident cadence, that delivers information in the most efficient manner
  • Stick to your design decisions, believe in them, regardless of what a panellist says
  • For your major design decisions, have alternate scenarios you considered but could not select due to conflicting requirements or constraints

Up until the day of the presentation, you will be tweaking and fine tuning the slide deck.  Every time you have a Mock Defence, with your Peers, Study Group or VCDX Mentor, you will have feedback and suggested improvements to your slide deck.  This is normal, do not stress about it.

Each time I have defended, my PowerPoint presentation crashed on the Mac OS X Laptop provided, so I switched to my PDF version.  Practice using your PDF version, particularly if you are fond of PowerPoint “hot links” and “transitions”.  Keep it Simple.  Subject mastery will win you the VCDX, not a “fancy” PowerPoint slide deck.

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Chief Enterprise Architect and Strategist, 4xVCDX#133, NPX#8, DECM-EA.

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