Speaking at Dreamforce for the First Time

A recap of speaking at Dreamforce for the first time along with 5 tips for newbies.
Speaking at Dreamforce for the First Time

Speaking at the Permission Sets API session (credit: Adam Torman).

Speaking at a session for the first time at Dreamforce ‘12 definitely was exhilarating and nerve wracking. This year I was lucky enough to speak at two sessions, each featuring one of our free AppExchange applications and how it can help expand functionality on the platform. Compliance Locker was featured as a utility at the Chatter: Strategies and Tools for Ensuring Compliance session, and The Permissioner was featured alongside other Permission Sets apps at Building Administrative Tools with Permission Sets API. Both sessions had a demo of our latest Summer ‘12 release and accompanying slides, and the Perm Sets API session takes a look at Apex code from The Permissioner.

Preparation is Key

Planning and dry runs, though not always in the same format, are the keys to succeeding at a Dreamforce session. William Gradin, host of the compliance session, used a Chatter Customer Group for collaboration. We also did a series of informal dry runs, where you get together as a group and talk about content and delivery. Adam Torman, host of the Permission Sets session, talked with me individually ahead of time and set the expectation for what he wanted from my portion of the session. This session had one dry run, a formal dress rehearsal via GoToMeeting weeks.

In the Spotlight

Speakers are requested to arrive to a ready room or their session early, allowing the conference’s AV team to set up microphones and test audio. As a newbie, I probably asked too many questions about what I should or should not do with the microphone on. If you have an option of microphone, use the lapel mic because it keeps your hands free and you don’t need to worry about how far the mic is from your mouth. One thing that you should never do is walk in front a speaker with your microphone; it makes that loud screeching noise that make audiences cringe (thankfully I didn’t do this). When on stage, there is a large timer showing the remaining time in the session and the lights are incredibly bright, making it a little difficult to see members of the audience.

5 tips for first timers

Here are my top 5 helpful tips for newbies speaking at a Dreamforce or other tech conference.
Know your expertise: my role was to show how our applications can solve two needs for Salesforce users; it was not to be an expert in HIPAA compliance or as an Apex guru. Don’t be intimidated by the session’s topic or audience.
Use humor: humor lightens the mood and breaks the ice. For the compliance session, I used Larry Ellison’s name and Oracle as words that I wanted to block with our application, and the audience laughed.
Be excited: I remember saying “this is going to be an awesome session” a couple of times before each, both to myself and to the team. The more I said it, the more I believed it, and the more confident I felt when I got up to speak.
Test everything: check every scenario several times if you are doing a demo. It doesn’t take long, and when you mentally or audibly speak your points, it’s a double preparation tool.
Using PowerPoint: PowerPoint is a tough beast to master. Use concise and powerful language for text slides, and try out zoom animations to pop a section of code or meaningful text. This animation acts as a visual cue for the audience to look at the screen as you continue to talk.

Did you speak at Dreamforce ‘12 for the first time? or a second time, and want to offer some veteran knowledge? Let me know on Twitter @RogerMitchell, via our Facebook page, or below via Disqus.

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