I haven’t done a recap post since TechReady 9 for some reason, but I figured it was about time to take a step back and think about the state of app compat presentations, and how I could continue to make them better.

At TechReady 13, an internal Microsoft conference, I presented 7 breakout sessions, but only 6 of those received at least 10 survey responses. here are the scores:

  Win7 App Compat Debugging IE9 App Compat Game Show Inventory Tools App Compat Guy Show
Knowledgeable 10 17 15 16 34 30
Pres. Skills 25 30 33 33 37 45
Content 13 30 32 37 46 62
Demos 21 23 28 32 49 61
Builds Skills 17 44 33 48 56 61
Relevance 27 32 29 58 46 71
Worth my Time 22 20 38 48 44 66
Will Recommend 25 31 37 35 57 59
Overall 20 22 39 37 44 63
Average 19 26 30 37 44 55

In order to make the scores relative to competition, I rank ordered them and placed the rank order here – absolute scores aren’t terribly interesting, particularly given the severe skewness of scores at technical conferences. (The average score at TechReady is around 4.5, meaning that any person who rates you a 4 instead of a 5 is technically rating you below-average.)

Here are my conclusions, based on this data:

People think I know what I’m talking about

That’s good to hear – the top row is notably better, and thus people think I have some sense of what I’m talking about. I hope they’re right… I’m also doing well in terms of demos. Presentation skills is a little lower than I normally expect – I wonder what the underlying cause is there?

The case study refresh is helping scores come back up towards the top

The original app compat presentations were based on demo applications, and these have been around for a while. At the beginning of the year, I did a complete overhaul, and moved from having slides and demos to instead having a few introductory slides (since I still get about 1/4 of the audience new to the discipline), followed by a series of case studies. That’s right, real applications that we apply tried-and-true debugging processes to. That, in fact, was the entirety of the Debugging session, where my friends Trey and Andrew just went through studies of how to apply WPT and/or WinDBG to solve real customer problems.

IE is the harder one here, as I have been using live public websites, and as more and more people use IE9, more and more of these get fixed. I mean, that’s great from a web ecosystem point of view, but it does kill my demos. I spend the morning before the presentation going over everything to make sure it’s still broken that day, and I’m still crossing my fingers!

I still haven’t nailed the conversational format

Scores are coming up on my idea to have a great conversation between product engineering, the Microsoft field, partners, and customers. At TechEd 2011 North America, I had a customer panel, and scores weren’t so great. So, I reimagined the session, and instead had a product engineering panel, where I brought in Eric Lawrence (who is the PM Lead for Fundamentals for IE) and Adrian Bateman (who is the PM in charge of coordinating our HTML5 standards efforts across all of our products) and set about asking the hard questions that I receive from the field and from customers, and left lots of time for audience participation. I had some fun with it, doing it up like a talk show, commercials and all. Scores came up quite a bit, but it’s still the bottom of my session list. So, am I just not executing it right, or is the concept flawed?

Some people are insane

Despite having two of the finest escalation engineers I know doing live debugging – including  troubleshooting a problem that Mark Russinovich hadn’t found! – I still had 2 (two) people rate the debugging session a 200-level session. Really? You think 75 minutes of pure demo with nothing but assembly language on the screen is marketing?

I need to figure out how to refresh

Typically, I only see people once a year. So, truth be told, most presenters have a set of sessions they deliver throughout a calendar year. I did my refresh in January, and figured it would last through 2012. I mean, creating a pile of sessions is HARD – and there isn’t enough time to do a pile of new sessions every couple of months plus do actual work. However, with today’s recordings at nearly every session and every conference available for free, I’m starting to get a lot of people complaining that they saw this content from the previous conference. So, given that it is already hard enough to do significant overhauls once a year, how do I do that every couple of months in order to meet this expectation, but still satisfy the people who have never seen me and need the introductory content (which is necessarily somewhat redundant)? I think this is going to be the hardest problem to solve for folks gunning for top slots. I’m already throwing in a few new case studies each time, but there is a lot of carry-over today.