I often get asked to do presentations at conferences or user group meetings and although I drive a mean PowerPoint, I feel that showing the actual product and putting it through a few laps adds value and credibility to the production. I’m doing a user group presentation in Montreal next week and I was setting up for it with a colleague of mine. HE asked some interesting questions about why I was setting up my laptop a certain way and I realized that I take for granted that I have been cursed by the demo and presentation gods so many times that I have a few tricks up my sleeve to thwart them. Here are a few of the things I do to minimize the impact of unknown venues with unknown networks:
- Always have a backup of your presentation and and demo VMs. An external drive and/or a cloud drive SkyDrive or Google Drive can be a real saviour when something unexpected happens.
- Always rehearse your demos in the environment you will be presenting in to see how it runs and looks in the venue. Make any changes or restructure the presentation to accommodate for any issues. You don’t want to be surprised on camera.
- Have a backup internet connection avaialbe. A portable hotspot or a mobile phone that has internet connection sharing (like my Nokia Lumia 920)
- Always have a local demo available, even if it’s just a screen recording like Camtasia (full disclosure: TechSmith gives Microsoft MVPs free Camtasia and SnagIt licenses – I also like Faststone Capture since it is inexpensive and also runs as a portable application from a USB key ). Relying on a remote demo is asking for trouble. If you can’t connect to your demo environment for some reason (VPN blocked, network stability, etc.). Also if something goes wrong in the remote location, it is very difficult to troubleshoot.
- If you have multiple systems as part of your demo (virtual or physical) consider using the Sysinternals tool BGINFO or a custom wallpaper with the machine name and/or description to make the different systems readily apparent to the audience (and sometimes to you).
- Make sure your passwords are current and you know what they are. Consider setting demo password properties to “never expire”.
- Set the task bars on your remote demo systems to be in a location other than your primary system so that you don’t get confused as to which task bar you are launching from.
- Explain to the audience the limitations of the demo environment (hardware, data sets, connections to complementary systems, etc.) so that they understand why your demo is designed in a particular way and that it may not be reflective of how a production implementation would work.
I’ve been using Windows 8 and 8.1 since both were in customer preview and I’ve really come to depend on Hyper-V for my demo environment. Before windows 8, I would either boot Server 2008 R2 (or server core) to have a hypervisor available (see my previous blog post about that environment. Before that I would use VMware Workstation or Virtual Box. But they weren’t ideal for every use case as they are type 2 hypervisors not type 1.
I’ve got a few tricks that I use in my demo environment to help build it out and make it present better:
Don’t rely on the Hyper-V Virtual Machine Connection. Enable remote desktop services in your VMs and connect them to an internal network. This allows you to do two things that you cannot do with the Virtual Machine Connection:
- Adjust the screen resolution to meet the needs of the display devices at the venue
- Map local resources like USB drives and printers.
- A cool feature in Windows 8.x and Server 12.x is the ability mount an ISO directly in the OS. Unfortunately, you can’t mount an ISO that is connected through RDP device mapping. You will get the following error:
However, you can mount it in the host OS, it will appear as a DVD drive, and then you access it from the guest VM:
If the demo VM(s) need(s) an internet connection, I like to use ICS to share my wireless connection with my demo VMs. I like this better than the Hyper-V virtual switch bridge because the IP addresses won’t keep changing with the venue. This makes it easier to RDP to them. For step-by-step instruction on how to share a wireless connections try these posts: