As a Network Delegate …

As a Network Field Day delegate, and past presenter for two different vendors, I have a bit of constructive guidance I would like to offer vendors presenting at NFD so that we get the most engaging session possible.  I believe most people want to get to the product demonstration as fast as possible.  We want to see the product in action.  We want to relate to specific use-cases that we have experiences or have interest in.  We want to ask questions.

With that in mind, the ideal presenter might begin their session something like this Mad Libs:

Hi, my name is <state-your-name> and I am <state-your-title> at <company-name>.  Our customers love our product because it solves <state-specific-use-case>.  The coolest features of our product is <name-the-feature>.  I am going to give you a quick demo of that now.  I’ll then talk a little about our customers, and then dive into a deeper demonstration of our product features.

In the first five to ten minutes following the quick demo, the information I am most interested is:

  • Target Market – Who is buying your product?  Are they service providers or enterprises?  Are they small enterprises or large enterprises?  Be specific and provide rationale to your answer.  If you believe your product can target “all customers”, then I would buy you a nice scotch and we can laugh about that.
  • Killer Features – What makes your product unique against your competitors, or closely adjacent competitors.  You have at least one killer feature, … right?  Let’s hear about it up front.
  • Customer Deployments – How many paying customers do you have running your product in production.  I am not looking for a specific number, but something along the lines of 10s, 100s, or 1000s.  If you are a startup, and I have been at one while presenting at NFD, I realize that your numbers may be lower than you might want to talk about.  Talk about it anyways, and talk about why you were able to win these customers early on.   I am also curious about geographical information.  Are most of your customers in the US, or EMEA, etc.

Then get back to more demo.  If you have slides, then please use those slides to interactively augment the demo.  Bouncing back and forth between slides explaining the demo use-case and then doing the live demo is AOK.  Doing all slides first (death by slides) and then doing all demos, is not a good engagement approach

For software products I would like to hear about:

  • Pricing – I am not looking for specific numbers, but how you price your product.  Is it subscription based?  It is based on device count? Is it based on some form of usage, such as flow-bandwidth?  I am interested in general pricing; for example what is the minimum cost to get started with the product for a typical customer?  I’m looking for information in the range of $10Ks, $100Ks, greater than $500K, etc.  Please do not tell me “it depends” – I realize it does; so describe examples.
  • Onboarding – I am also interested in whether or not your product requires (or strongly suggests) some form of customer engagement services to get the customer network on- boarded into the product.  How long does this process generally take?  What kind of issues or challenges are typically encountered?
  • Training – Does your product pricing include training and what kind of training formats?  It is on-site, virtual, labs, etc?  Is training an extra cost?  Do you offer real classroom style structured training, or does the Sales person tell you that the Sales Engineer or Customer Success team will “put something together for you”? 

There are topics I am not interested in hearing about in the early part of the session. Perhaps at the end if time permits.  I see these slides a lot at the start of vendor presentations.  I realize that it might be important to the folks working at the vendor to talk about these topics.  Again, please do, but after the demo.  All this information is available on your website.

  • Leadership – Who is the CEO, CTO, and what have they done prior?  Not interested.
  • Funding – Who are your investors?  Not interested.
  • Market Analysis – What is your hot-take on the state of the market or challenges in the market.  Not interested.
  • Customer Logos – I don’t go to NASCAR races, but I get why these are important.  Again, nice to show at the end of the presentation to reinforce your customer wins.

Finally, for the love that is all good in the world, please do not use marketing buzzwords.  They are useful for funding and market reports, but serve no practical value at NFD.   Buzzwords that I am particularly tired of hearing: Intent Based Networking, AIOps, Machine Learning, and NetDevOps.  

I truly hope this feedback is constructively helpful.  Really looking forward to NFD28, now just a week away!