So last week I went to the Melbourne VMware User’s Group annual user conference. I was invited to speak by Craig Waters, who is the local Melbourne VMUG leader.
O. M. G.
I’ve been to a few international vendor conferences; Cisco Networkers from back in the 2001 days, NetApp’s thing a couple of years back, DellWorld 2012; bugger me if a local user conference couldn’t put on a do that went well beyond expectations.
Dinner and Drinks
I was privileged enough to spend the evening prior with some VMware luminaries, including Mike Laverick, Stephen Foskett (who I met at Dell World), Alastair Cooke, Michael Webster, and various local others, as well as some VMware folk flown in for the event (more on this later).
There was an interesting discussion about Dell and their going private partway through the evening. I admit to having no idea who Mike Laverick was at the time, but he was interested in the topic, and had apparently read my blog on Dell World 2012 (as had a couple of others) so I was lulled into letting my guard down.
Part of me wants to be embarrassed at having strong opinions (backed by evidence, as you would have seen on a long and chart filled blog post), but hey, fuck that. They’re human too, and we can all learn something from one another if we’re not too shy about discussing things with each other. You never learn your topic so much as when teaching others, and these guys are all class acts, so if you ever get the chance to have a beer with them, jump at it.
VMware actually flew out Mike, Stephen and Michael (so far as I know) and I suspect a few others. They also flew out a support crew of three from the VMware communities team (whatever they’re called); lovely people all.
And a word on this:
VMware have the most sophisticated support organisation for user groups I have ever seen.
Their website, though a tad ugly, is extremely functional, and supports VMUGs around the world. That’s window dressing, and it would be easy to get distracted by that, so let’s get to the serious stuff.
VMware flew out 3 staff from a centralised function dedicated (so far as I know) to user groups. From the USA. To Melbourne, Australia.
They also flew in Mike Laverick from the UK (though he’s moving to the US, the poor bastard), and Alastair from New Zealand. They also paid for Stephen Foskett to come out. Now, admittedly, they had to work both the Sydney and Melbourne VMUGs, but still, it’s a large expense for a user group conference.
And let’s get into that.
The logistics on the ground were amazing. We had 300+ attendees, over a dozen vendors (half of whom I seemed to know from previously lives, ex-Netapp people now working for other storage startups, whee!) and multiple sessions in a single day.
We had easy rego screens on laptops, connected to thermal printers for a badge. One criticism: no Twitter handle. Seriously, conference folks, sort this out. All us major conference goers and connectors have Twitter handles, so put it on our badge. It’s more important than our company name, because that will likely change in 6 months. I’m looking at you @edsai.
The staff Hilton were lovely, and the food/drink was excellent. Coffee was awful filter stuff, but had caffeine, and if you wanted good brew, there was a real shop downstairs. The reasons for this were pricing and logistics based, and I learned all about them from Craig. I suspect there will be a “whole value” style review coming, but more on that later.
But overall, the support provided by VMware and their vendor partners to helping out Craig and the committee for putting on the event was outstanding. I did not expect this level of sophistication for a user group. Even if it is “The Largest in the Southern Hemisphere.”
Other vendors, take note. This is the kind of event you can have when you help out those who are most passionate about your company’s products, and your company, without tainting it with the “run by corporate marketing” effect.
VMware have struck a good balance here between community, partners and corporate support, and I hope it continues. In fact, I hope it inspires other vendors to copy the format, because it truly works well.
A big thanks to Craig Waters, who was instrumental in putting on a great event. A thoroughly nice guy, Craig didn’t make a cent putting in all the effort for what is a pretty significant undertaking, and was superbly good humoured throughout. I’m honoured to have spent time in his company.
Other vendors take note. This is the sort of person you need to be courting to work for you. They do amazing stuff for free with no budget. Imagine what they could do as part of your marketing team.
Provided you don’t insulate them from the techos they love.
Free the techos! Get marketing and engineering to make sweet love to one another and let’s see what happens!
It’ll be like Berkeley in the 60s only with more tech stuff and less Timothy Leary.