How To Craft (And Measure) a Killer User Experience – Virtual Conference Sept 19th

I’m always looking for ways to improve a product’s user experience. Thanks to my friends at Penton Media, I’m excited to announce I am speaking in the 11th annual iPro Developer conference, where I’ll be speaking on user experience…specifically, how to craft and measure a killer user experience!

Here’s a peek:
When you use a product with a killer user experience you just know it. But how do you create one? Even more basic, what elements make up a killer user experience? I’ve worked for years in user experience and regularly get asked that, so I will share how I describe a killer user experience, how it can be measured, and even what emotional responses are at stake. In the end, only our users can describe how they feel about a product’s user experience, and my hope is with this session you will start hearing, “Delightful”, “Awesome”, and even “Killer”.

I hope we can have a vibrant session, and follow up with some great conversations afterwards here on this site.

Check out the conference link for more details.

I look forward to the experience, and hope to see you there!

Here’s My Wall Of Experience – What’s Yours?

I just moved offices, and had to decide whether to move this:
What is it?

It’s my “Wall of Experience” for technical speaking and demoing…layers of badges each representing one or several sessions I gave at a technical conference.

For me, the decision was clear: Move it, Cherish it, Study it.

Why? Because each conference helped me be a better speaker…each session honed my skills. As I pulled each badge down from the old wall and later put it up on the new wall, memories came flooding back…not only about the city/country I was in, but also in what I learned:

It went something like this:

  • Ah, this was my first solo presentation…ever. I learned I could actually do this!
  • This is the one I was so nervous for because the ‘critical customer’ was in the crowd…I learned that honesty and deep technical knowledge beats showmanship
  • Here was the one that I added theatrics…first session went great, second one didn’t…but in the end the attendees appreciated the effort. I learned if you care about your customer, they appreciate it even if it doesn’t totally work.
  • This one was my first keynote…I learned that 10 run-thrus really do make the keynote go smoothly!
  • This is the one where I improvised on the piano…I learned that doing something unexpected keeps your audience’s attention
  • This one I only had one person show up…but he learned a lot because I learned how to personalize a pitch just for him
  • …and on and on.

    Each badge, sticker, pin, ribbon helped shape my skills and unique techniques. I’m grateful for each one.

    I’m starting to think I need to create a wall of experience for other things I’m passionate about to remind me how far I’ve come, what I’ve learned, and that I can still learn something from every single experience.

    I also think we need to start sharing our walls of experience. If I can learn something from your experience, and you from mine, then we both become better.

    How about you? What is your wall of experience? What has it taught you?

    Worst Intro EVER – How NOT To Communicate Your Message

    I was just in Las Vegas speaking at a trade show. I peeked into a 300 seat room the day before my session and heard:

    “I really don’t like these after-lunch time slots…I like mornings when I have a captive audience”


    That was his opening line! In one swift statement, this speaker communicated to the 75+ in the audience:

    “I don’t want to be here”
    He obviously wanted to speak in a morning session. Stupid. If the audience is sitting in front of you, you have a rare opportunity to communicate your message to those specific humans. Who knows where each of these human connections will lead…other contacts, more sales, a better understanding of your product, even unique feedback on your product’s user experience. There are a thousand ways to blow a speaking session, but this is the most dumb.

    “I don’t want you here”
    He insulted his audience by assuming they would be inattentive. It’s like he said, “All of you in this audience are not who I had in mind. Even though you chose his topic over the 5 other concurrent topics, you are bound to be inattentive. After all, the success of this session is really up to you, the audience. If only you people were different, you would make the session more compelling”. Stupid speaker.

    “I’m not really that good”
    On the surface it sounds like he’s so proud of his message that he doesn’t want to ‘waste’ it on the 78 people in the audience. I think he’s just not that good: To lay blame on a lame session…before it even starts…on the audience, the time slot, the lunch, tells me he’s accepted a disastrous outcome and does not want to be responsible for its failure. Heaven forbid he work on his delivery, add some passion, and communicate concepts clearly so it’s interesting to the audience … even during an after-lunch session.


    If I’ve learned anything from my 18 years of speaking about technology is that whether you have 1 or 1,501 in attendance (I’ve had both), they are there because they want to learn what you know…they already chose you over many other options (including exploring the host city). It’s your responsibility to focus, deliver with passion, use stories and personal experience to make it interesting…and make them thrilled they spent that hour with you because it might just change how they run their business.

    How about you? What is the worst speaker intro you’ve ever heard?


    User Experience – Communicating A Core Principle

    In a recent talk I gave, I described our overall mission for Flex System Manager as, “To provide a best-of-breed experience in managing physical/virtual resources across compute, storage, network so that business-critical workloads can thrive.”  I also described that, in order to achieve that mission, we defined a number of core principles that we drive to and measure against.

    I had just finished showing off our new mobile app and enhanced UI in our new Flex System Manager release, and it was clear from the audience applause that we are delivering some really great enhancements that looks pretty darn cool.

    I then got to our core principle, “Enhanced User Experience”.

    To help the audience fully understand what we mean by user experience, here’s what I said:

    “User experience is far more than shiny objects and cute iPhone apps. To us, it’s also about reducing the time to set up the whole PureFlex environment and manage it…it’s about providing automation users can trust so that when they press a button, they trust our software to relocate and optimize their production-level workloads…it’s about providing relevant actions and showing relevant data to help users trouble-shoot and make the decisions they need to manage their data center”

    Yes, ‘shiny’ is important, but ‘fast’, ‘trustworthy’, ‘relevant’…that’s what makes a great, and lasting, user experience.

    How about you, how do you communicate what user experience means to you?


    You can say more in 15 minutes than 35 minutes

    I just killed a keynote session where I was asked to talk about Flex System Manager…our strategy and future directions.

    “Great content…outstanding delivery” said one VP. “This was the first time I understood the value of this technical product” said a non-technical sales lead. “You’re like a technical rock star”, said a technical sales specialist.

    But 12 hours before, I was a complete wreck.

    Originally I had 35-40 minutes to talk…

    …I practiced several times and was ready

    Then, at 8:30pm the night before, I was told they wanted a Q&A at the end so my section was shortened to 15 minutes

    My heart sunk…

    …I had a great arc and story that would most likely be shattered

    …I had 10 minutes of demo I was showing to illustrate what we’re delivering today that was cut

    I mourned

    …then I regrouped, rethought, recovered

    I reshaped the talk…sharpened the story arc…cut out duplicate, less-relevant content

    …and delivered a potent talk that was much more effective than my 35 minute talk

    That makes me wonder? Should I do that for everything I do? For speaking: Is there a way that can take 1/2 the time yet be twice as effective? For UI Design: Is there a way to give users 1/2 the details and be twice as effective?

    What if we were always given last minute changes to our best-laid plans? Would we all benefit with a reshaped and refocused effort?

    What do you think?

    String Break, System Crash, Show Must Go On

    I broke a guitar string during a big gig…nearly 25 year ago…

    …as a result, I’m regularly asked to perform live technical demos.

    Let me explain…

    I grew up playing in a band. My first big gig was at a “Battle of the Bands” contest, where we had only one song to show our skills…

    We start: the song I wrote sounds strong…the chorus ends and I’m just about to go into the big solo and…

    …my high E string breaks.

    That’s bad. What’s worse is I’m playing my Charvel with a tremelo and all the strings are tuned relying on the tension of each other…and when one breaks, the tension moves from the broken string to the other strings.

    Now, while this sounds noble and all ‘how a team should work’, but in this case it just made my whole guitar awful. I was lost, frustrated, and the song completely failed. The solo was awful, and since I didn’t know how badly the guitar was out of tune, I just played with my normal hand positioning…terrible. Not playing anything would have sounded better.

    I was not prepared for the worst, I did not have a backup plan, and I did not have the experience in doing the best with what I had at that second.

    What I learned:

    Since then, I prepare for the worst during live events. For technical demos, I bring backups:  Backup demo systems, backup pre-recorded movies, and even backup slides on an iPad.

    Overkill? Lets see: My primary system has failed. My backup system has not, but the wifi to CONNECT to that backup system did. Once I did the whole demo to a pre-recorded movie. Another time I worked with a crippled system, verbalizing much of what I would have done while moving my mouse around a limited system.

    I’ve learned that effective presentation is putting on a good show. Sometimes shows props will fail, but the show must go on. So plan, practice, and prepare for the worst. You may never need your backups, but you’ll never regret having them.

    How about you? What event caused you to plan, practice, and prepare?

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