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Becoming a First-Time Dreamforce Speaker

By 12.05.19
Reading time: 3 minutes

While flying home and processing all of the fantastic learning and community opportunities that Dreamforce 2019 presented, I realized it had been five years since I last attended Dreamforce. From attending this year’s keynote with Barack Obama to catching so many thoughtful sessions to collecting a Salesforce plushie for each of my children at home, the week was both a full and fulfilling one.

This Dreamforce also included one special first for me — I was a Dreamforce speaker! I had never spoken at any Salesforce event before, and I guess there’s nothing like starting in the big leagues. As I reflect on my journey from selecting a topic to talking in front of an audience about “5 Tricks to Wrangle Your Datasets in Einstein Analytics,” I want to encourage everyone reading this who has even had a fleeting thought about presenting at Dreamforce to pursue that dream. 

Becoming a First-Time Dreamforce Speaker 1

Identify a topic you are passionate about

So what do you present about? This is a big question because it’s something you’ll be focusing on for several months, almost like it is a mini-thesis. You are going to want to pick a topic that you are really passionate about and that you feel others can learn something from in a relatively short period of time. Like many people, I went with the “Learn X Number of Things” model, which helps structure the presentation and informs participants exactly what they’ll be getting out of it. While I didn’t spend as much time on these tricks as my Master’s dissertation, I was researching, reviewing, and revising the content for many weeks.

Submit with colleagues or friends from ecosystem

If it wasn’t for another colleague, our L&D Director Sarah Risen-Robertson, who also wanted to submit a proposal for the first time, I honestly do not know if I would have prioritized this and gotten my abstract across the finish line on time. After all, it is easy to de-prioritize extracurriculars as other work priorities keep popping up. However, by working with someone else, we held each other to deadlines and encouraged each other to write really strong proposals. (And we were both Dreamforce speakers this year!)

Find a speaking mentor

As you’re working through the proposal process, I also recommend finding a mentor who has spoken at Dreamforce before who can help coach you along the way. Lizz Hellinga, our Sales Effectiveness Manager and Salesforce MVP, has spoken at countless Salesforce events including Dreamforce. She worked with us newbies on abstract language, reviewed slides, and even happily listened to a dry-run of the talk. The guidance of someone who’s been there and done that definitely made the preparation less daunting.

Maximize the Salesforce session prep

You may not know this but once your session is accepted at Dreamforce you’re assigned someone from Salesforce who helps with content, holds you to deadlines and listens to at least two dry-runs of the presentation before you even get to San Francisco. I affectionately referred to this individual as my handler, and the time she spent with me each week from when the abstract was accepted to Dreamforce pushed me to keep moving my topic forward. I had been told that the session prep is some of the best public speaking training you can get, and having gone through it, I fully agree. Maximizing the time with my handler just made me that much more confident when I stepped on stage.

Promote, promote, promote

About two months before Dreamforce I had a dream that it was time for my session and five people showed up. I’m pleased to say that wasn’t the case by any means, but with so many competing priorities at Dreamforce, you need to take time to promote your session. Get word out any way you can — including social media, friends in the ecosystem, and the Trailblazer community. 

Get on stage and enjoy the moment as a Dreamforce speaker

Suddenly it was 7:15 a.m. on Thursday morning and I was walking over to presentation space. Was I a little nervous? Of course! However, because I had just spent months preparing and practicing (not to mention figuring out exactly which room to go to the day before) I felt more confident and excited than anything. Before I knew it I was getting mic’d up, the countdown clock was set to 40 minutes, and I was welcoming everyone to my session. I felt completely in my groove and dare I say even had fun — so much so that I left wanting to do it again. 

I hope my experience has encouraged you to get a proposal together to become a Dreamforce speaker at next year’s Dreamforce or any number of regional Salesforce events. Next year you could be up there too!


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