Everybody can become a Dreamforce speaker in my opinion. Enough time and some strategies go along way.
This is my way, there are a million ways of achieving something. Find a way which works for you. I know other people who have a completely different way. Don’t be discouraged from hero stories, there’s a way for everyone.
Being a good public speaker is key for any Admin or Architect career, I would even argue Developer. I’m convinced, only if you can convey my ideas well, you can be an efficient professional. For me, and I think for many of you as well, public speaking is one of my biggest weak points. I’m sure, good public speaking can be improved with the right strategy, tactics, and dedication.
A couple of years ago I set my goal, become a better public speaker. What better stretch-goal, than to be speaking at Dreamforce. Everyone wants to be a Dreamforce speaker, the bar is very high. And on top of that, I wasn’t that good of a speaker and had no experience to show for. Nevertheless, within 14 months, I became a Dreamforce speaker. This post outline my way. Maybe you can get something out of it and become the next big Dreamforce speaker.
Table of Contents
- Topic choice
- Polishing abstracts
- Topic submission and acceptance
- Take away
My journey to Dreamforce started 14 months before the Dreamforce itself opened its doors.
As always, researching is the foundation of my endeavors. I started out watching Dreamforce presentations on YouTube, did the Trails, and interviewed a couple of people who have been there.
From what I could determine: You can submit up to five presentations, you need an abstract and a compelling, tailored story. Furthermore, the more practice you have in designing presentations, the better. I had a rough idea of what’s needed and could get started. I was fully aware, that I’ll have to spend a lot on becoming a Dreamforce speaker.
With the help of friends and colleagues (thank you so much Jonida) I collected topics like candy. It needed to be something I could speak with passion and it needed to be something different, something niche. Once I’ve collected a long list of potential topics, I started to work with them. I had more than 20 different ideas, most of them just a sentence or two.
In the mean-time, I submitted some of them to different community events. Almost all got rejected, but one. I got one acceptance at Paris Dreamin.
Over a couple of months, I developed ten topics into full-fletched presentations. I took every excuse to present one of these topics. These presentations were to gauge the audience’s reaction. At this point, I invested ca 150 hours. I had a list of promising candidates to show for this effort.
Choosing topics was the hardest part. From Salesforce Trailhead and the interviews I got that topics need to fulfill four main criteria: personal, focused, niche and actionable. I started by setting a focus on topics that either relate to for Admins or Business User.
To tell a good story it needs to somehow grasp me emotionally. For me, it’s the easiest to talk about something personal. I think the audience also notices.
The better you focus your presentation on a specific topic, target group, and outcome the better. Setting a clear focus, I found was the hardest part. There are so many good ideas and I’m always am inclined to extend them for a broader appeal. But for the audience, it’s easier to choose your topic if it targets something specifically for them. The topic which got accepted at the end was “Mastering Project Management for Salesforce Admins”. This was as focused as I could get.
As with everything, avoiding competition is something good. If I would do it over again, I would double-down on “Business-Topics”. Everyone talks about the newest APEX functions, SFDX or Flows, but good Business Talks are still rare.
Everyone likes to get something out of a presentation. The more people get out of your presentation, the more they will like it. I focused on topics where I could give actionable advice.
I used these four categories to even more filter down my topics. By now the long list of topics was boiled down to about ten topics.
There are great Trailheads on becoming a better speaker. And part of a good presentation is a killer abstract. You need to be able to convey your presentation in five sentences or less to get accepted. Learning to write good abstracts took me a lot of time. I tried to explain my presentation to as many different people as possible, always in five sentences or less. Each topic had many revisions. Eventually, I got better and had seven topics prepared for submission.
This took me another 50 hours or so, you would be surprised how much work can go into a few sentences.
Topic submission and acceptance
You are allowed to submit five different abstracts, and of course, I submitted a maximum of five to increase my chances. That meant, the weakest two topics had to be left behind. I still feel bad for these topics ☹
Since I already have been working on the topics for a long time, the submission process itself was straightforward copy-paste.
A couple of weeks later, I got the acceptance email and was the happiest person in the world. I think only the CTA email surpassed that feeling. To my surprise, the topic I was the least enthusiastic about was selected, “Mastering Project Management for Salesforce Admins”.
Getting the presentation to “Dreamforce standards” took me another 120h, so altogether I invested more than 350 hours for less about 40 minutes of presentation, but it was worth it.
That’s my story of how I became a Dreamforce speaker as a bad public speaker. I hope many more Dreamforces will follow. And for sure, one day I will see one of you up there on stage.
Becoming a Dreamforce speaker seems to be reserved for community veterans or presentation gods but also attainable for us mortals. As with most things in life, planning and dedication go a long way.
If you’d like to improve your public speaking skills check out Trailhead and FlowRepublic’s Communication Bootcamp (Disclaimer: I’m a coach at FlowRepublic,).
The presentation at Dreamforce was not recorded, but I did a re-recording for YouTube.