Salesforce Community Speaker Academy

aka In Diversity We Trust

Rad Radkova of BrightGen presenting at the graduation event in Salesforce Tower

Anyone who has been around the Salesforce community in London for any length of time will have noticed that the Dev/Admin/User Group speakers tend to be drawn from the same, small pools of talent. As a co-organizer of the London Salesforce Developers, I can tell you that this isn’t how we want it to be, but not that many people are comfortable in speaking in front of a group of the peers.

This is an area where the more successful your meetup group, the more attendees you get, and the more intimidating aspiring speakers find the idea.

We probably reached peak deja-vu in the dev zone at the Salesforce World Tour in London 2016.

This isn’t to say that the same content was being recycled — most of the talks were new and around cutting edge Salesforce technology such as Lightning Components and the Lightning Design System — but it was a familiar line up. This situation didn’t arise because the Salesforce Developer Relations team favour a select group, it’s more that the experienced speakers with a strong community presence know the hot topics and can write a great abstract, giving them a much higher chance of being chosen than a first timer.

Once the dust had settled after the event and everyone had caught up on their sleep, a few of us decided that something should be done about this. This needed to be constructive action rather than complaining about the current situation on social media, which I know is somewhat of a departure from standard practice nowadays.

We knew that quite a few people in the community liked the concept of speaking at an event, but for a variety of reasons struggled to take the first step. Ironically one type of speaking that everyone is great at is talking themselves out of things!

What we came up with was the idea of speaker training — a 6 week course covering the key areas of public speaking, including:

  • Conquering the fear (a number of studies have shown that people are more scared of public speaking than death!)
  • Choosing a topic
  • Writing an abstract
  • Building your talk
  • Delivering your talk

We ran this as a Women in Tech initiative, as the current crop of speakers are predominantly male, particularly on the developer side of things, with the tag line ‘In Diversity We Trust’. For anyone that reads this as affirmative action and is wondering when men will catch a break, diversity simply means that we wanted more of a variety of speakers, not that we were looking to promote one demographic over any other.

The sessions were co-led by myself and my fellow MVP Jodi Wagner, assisted by Antonina Romanova and Pauline Dufour, (who covered a session for us while we were at an MVP event in Chicago) and aided by Will Coleman (provided us with a space to work, filmed our candidates and hosted the graduation event at Salesforce Tower). Antonina also attended as a candidate and stole the show at the graduation.

Everybody involved works full time, so the sessions were one day a week for an hour or two with some homework. We started out with a lecture format and ramped up the candidate participation as we went along, including talking about themselves on camera, presenting their abstract, dry-running their talk in front of the entire group, and finally presenting in front of an audience.

The final session was something that I was really keen should form part of the course — presenting at a community event. Without this target it would have been easy for the candidates to lose momentum at the end of the course, and none of us would have anything tangible to show for the effort.

After 5 weeks of hard work, our candidates were ready for action. The graduation event was the August meetup of the London Salesforce Developers and took the form of a series of lightning talks (as in short talks about any topic, rather than Salesforce Lighting technology — isn’t terminology a wonderful thing). Our graduates and their topics were as follows:

Building Rad Communities with Lightning Components

Radoslava Radkova is a certified Salesforce developer and consultant working at BrightGen with 4 years of experience in the Salesforce spectrum.

Getting Requirements Right

Dave Humm has been a Salesforce Consultant for 4 years with 22 years in IT across a wide range of sectors and technologies.

Geolocation Issues or Where Are My Dance Shoes?

Antonina Romanova is Lead Consultant at Purple Vision, Thames Valley Salesforce Developers group co-organiser and blogger.

DEVELOPERS AND ADMINS — Why we need each other

Courtney Prior currently works in Customer Success for Purple Vision. In her role she provides support and works closely with the development team to ensure that projects are tested and delivered on time and to the client’s specifications.

Delight Your Users with Awesome Support

Louise Lockie is a head of Salesforce Support & Administration at Wilmington plc. She is a certified administrator and co-leader of the Salesforce Women in Tech User Group.

Not forgetting Tracy Keeling of BrightGen, who was on holiday the day of the graduation event but will be getting caught up when we run the next iteration of the course.

An added bonus at the end of Antonina’s talk (about dance shoes as mentioned above) was a demonstration of what can be done with a good pair of dance shoes — you can watch the results at :

https://www.periscope.tv/bob_buzzard/1ynKOdvBzyXGR

If you are in the London area and this course sounds like something you’d be interested in, register your interest on our signup sheet. We will be running it again but we haven’t decided on the dates yet. One thing I know it will be after Dreamforce!

This post has presented things from the organiser side — if you’d like to know what it was like to attend, check out Louise Lockie’s blog post on that very subject.

I’m better known in the Salesforce community as Bob Buzzard — Umpteen Certifications, including Technical Architect, 5 x MVP and CTO of BrightGen, a Platinum Cloud Alliance Partner in the United Kingdom.

You can find my (usually) more technical thoughts at the Bob Buzzard Blog

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