For the past 8 years or so I have presented at VMworld, I think I have submitted sessions for the past 10 years or so. I probably submitted well over 60 sessions, and I mean “WELL OVER”. Many of course which got rejected. Some for which I understood why they were rejected, others for less obvious reasons as to me the session(s) sounded awesome. Then again, that is part of the problem: to me. I am usually not the person deciding which session is in and which session is out. Plus, it is easy to forget but there are literally thousands of submissions, and most of which sound very similar unfortunately, which also means that the majority of people submitting a session will unfortunately receive the “rejected” email.
Then there’s the bigger problem: we also have many VMware people submitting sessions, and although it may not sound fair, they usually get picked over community sessions. Unless you are a thought leader in the space you submitted a session for, an example here for instance would be people like Chris Wahl and Jason Nash. They presented on Distributed Switches / VMware networking a couple of times. They are known in the industry and presented at various VMUGs, and killed it at VMworld a couple of times, which was to be expected based on their reputation.
Let’s be honest here for one second, some people may act surprised their session did not get picked and a similar sounding session by a VMware person did, but it makes sense right? Most VMware folks are experienced, have done these kind of events many times, and as such the person picking knows it is the safest bet. Heck, even within VMware there’s some sort of ranking, let’s assume a new version of vSAN is released around VMworld, if a Consultant, Pre-Sales Engineer, Product Marketing Manager and Tech Marketing Manager submit a similar sounding technical session then most likely the Tech Marketing Manager will get the session. Why? Well, that is his job: create and present technical collateral for the product. Safe bet right? However, if the developer submits a session then he/she will most likely get it. Sounds fair right? Now that we got that out of the way, lets focus on your submission. What works, and what does not work? Is there a
First of all: Experience. If you have no experience in public speaking, why are you submitting for the largest virtualization conference world wide? Each speaker will need to provide their experience, I can tell you that when I voted for VMworld submissions this was always something I looked at. If you have no experience whatsoever then you are aiming too high. Go to your local VMUG first, get some sessions under your belt. Start small and work up to some “larger” rooms, at VMworld it is not uncommon to have 700 – 1200 people in your room. Without experience that may end up being a very painful exercise, and it is not a risk which I (as a person who voted) was willing to take.
Secondly: Topic. Come up with a good topic, potentially try it out even at a local VMUG or even test the idea against some colleagues. It needs to be something you are passionate about and (preferably) an expert in. Look around you if you know anyone else who likes talking about the same topic. Can you join forces maybe? Even better, do you know a VMware employee who may be interested in co-presenting? And if so, what can they bring to the table that spices up your session? (Deep dive details for instance.) Try to make sure your topic is “unique”, and as a community member / customer / partner try to add something that we as VMware employees are challenged with: your experience as a “user / implementer / architect”. Make sure this is crystal clear in your abstract, and of course make sure your abstract is catch and does your session justice. Don’t make it too long, if the person voting needs to read for 15 minutes to understand what your 60 minute session will be about you did something wrong.
Thirdly: Title. I was only joking when I said on twitter that the title for my proposed session was “Deep Dive in Artificial Intelligence delivered by Green IoT solutions using Machine Learning in a Blockchain world enabled through the power of containers scheduled by Kubernetes running on HCI provided by VMware vSAN in VMC on AWS“. Although I still may want to submit it, as it is already overbooked according to the VMware twitter account ;). Either way, try to keep it short and make crisp and catchy, and adding a buzzword may help but don’t start buzzword bingo like I did. I usually revise my titles 4-5 times before I submit. It needs to represent the abstract accordingly, and it needs to draw attention if you want your session to be picked from the thousands being submitted.
— VMware (@VMware) February 14, 2018
I hope that helps a bit, in the early years I would always submit around 6 sessions, but my strategy now is definitely: quality over quantity. Work on creating the abstracts and titles for 3 great sessions and submit those, instead of taking a shotgun approach and submitting 6+ half baked sessions… Good luck, and remember: if you don’t end up getting selected, submit the proposal to a VMUG near you instead. They are always begging for community sessions. Good luck.