The vcdx presentation deck

As part of my mentoring activities, with the defense week approaching I have been reviewing a lot of slide decks.

Now I have seen quite a few , have experience of my unsuccessful approach and my final successful defense I thought it may provide some value to review the process in more detail as a mentor post.

As normal the first place to review is the VCDX blueprint.

This document provides the context , it states,

Concisely explain the design and justify the decisions made to create it”.
(Plan on spending no more than 15 minutes on this part.)

In my opinion, considering the above,

The VCDX slide deck is,

* A secondary presentation and defense aid
* A place to help you provide evide details and save time
* An area to show off your skills as an architect
* Provide some reminder of contents, main point prompts

However, the slide deck is not ,
* The main aspect of the design defense
* Going to have all the answers the panelists ask
* A sales document
* A typical customer facing document (the panelists are peers).

Once your design submission is in the hands of the technical reviewers, you have to spend time ensuring your know your design and plugging gaps in your knowledge or design weaknesses.

Do not waste time making fancy graphics and sales slides.

So , you are faced with a blank slide deck ahead of you, what do you do?

Have a story for your presentation.

In the real world, as a lead architect you will often be asked to just present the current thoughts and areas of a design, whether it’s at the end or in mid-flight.

You may need to

* Get the project team engaged,
* Bring  them back from a destraction that is not delivering requirement value
* Fixing a misunderstanding
* Preparing for a big activity (DR, audit, sponsor review)

As someone who knows your design better than anyone else, you should be able to

* Whiteboard on the fly key areas (i.e. Logical Components, data flow, dependancy relationships).
* Explain why a certain area was chosen for the project.
* Explain the alternatives
* Show the impact to the business , teams, and technology.

How do you prepare for this?

Start by, taking each area of the blueprint,
Create a couple of whiteboards and just think about talking for 2 minutes about them freely.

Review details about design choices, impacts and risks for each area

This is where you want to get to. For any section of the blueprint, you should be able to just chat about it freely.

The slide deck is an added benefit to give you some reminders of the areas you ar covering or useful diagrams.

Don’t rely on the slides having all the words, make it feel natural.

You may hear “You have to control the audience “.

That means, to me – get them engaged and keep them interested.

The more questions the better, its not that you have made loads of mistakes, its an opportunity to get more points.

I have seen a fair few people plan their presentation around the PowerPoint slides.
The risks with this approach for me is “You will not know if you will make it through your slide deck without being asked questions”.

This is not VMworld and questions are not just at the end. It’s a technical conversation.

When you have a story, and you are interrupted or questioned in depth within the defense, you can go back to the story and carry on. Otherwise you may get side tracked, cost yourself some valuable time, look like you have lost control and miss key areas.

At a minimum , go through the blueprint and have a slide per objective – covering the blueprint is imperative.

If you have a slide that does not directly answer something from the blueprint – ask yourself why you are bothering?

Consider practicing without slides and use the whiteboard for everything. This can help consolidate approach and evaluate your understanding of the design

Summary Tips
1. Less text is better – simple, easy to read colours.
2. Think Conceptual, then logical –  Design Choice, Why, Impact, Risk, Migitation.
3. Don’t worry about a nice “About  Me” page – the panelists know who you are. Give a quick hello and move on to score points.
4. Check each slide – if it’s on the blueprint – fine. If it’s not – Delete it
5. You are using the slide deck to prove design skills – not documentation or reference info. It is design choices, and impacts for infrastructure that is being reviewed.
6. Create a way of moving between the slides – bouncing between areas (I like a Small menu on each screen).
7. Practice delivering this slide deck on webex or other recording – remember 15 minutes
8. Review the slide deck – check for inconsistencies with design
9. Cover the weakness or risk areas of your design specifically – dont hide – show how your overcome these areas , just like in real life.
10. Have a couple of  summary diagrams for logical and physical to refer too when answering questions. This could save time
11. Don’t spend hours on the slides when you could be studying the design
12. Do not use the phase “I have a slide for that, erm erm”.

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