Lessons From a First-Time Dreamforce Presenter

bitmoji-20150918155130It’s done and over! I got over a major professional hurdle and presented a fantastic session at #DF15: #AwesomeAdmin Hacks: Tips and Tricks for Nonprofit Administrators. So far the feedback has been positive and I felt great about how both sessions went (we did the same one twice). I wanted to write out a few lessons learned before this whole week is just WHOOSH gone.

Anyone can do it. I mean a few things by this. I was kind of terrified to speak in front of this many people, as I’ve attended Dreamforce for years and watched the slick, highly controlled presentations and presenters wearing madonna mikes and never once did it occur to me that I was actually capable of doing just that. I also mean, we Salesforce admins and power users, particularly in nonprofit settings, have A LOT to offer at Dreamforce. We are doing creative, innovative things with every tool at our disposal, and have so many stories, tips, and advice to share with our colleagues and extended community at Dreamforce.

Don’t get too technical. These sessions are so short. Even if you are presenting a technical solution, don’t get too deep into detail on the steps. You’re not doing a training. If an attendee sees something they want to try in their org, they can find resources and screenshots in the session’s Chatter feed, do some googling, or contact you after Dreamforce. Dreamforce sessions essentially consist of storytelling. Tell some stories, and tell them well! The rest happens afterwards.

Practice makes perfect. It’s true. I reviewed, revised, and ran through that presentation so many times I basically had it memorized. Which meant that when I got up there, adrenaline pumping through me, all the practicing is what got me through. The part of my brain that talks to one or two people shut off and some new, unfamiliar part kicked in that retrieved everything I had practiced and sent it to my mouth and projected it out to a crowd. Somehow. I’m sure some scientist could explain it but it was both amazing and useful.

Use all of your resources. I ran through all of my content with my co-presenters and my work team and then revised my presentation based on their feedback. I also solicited feedback from people who didn’t know the first thing about Salesforce but knew public speaking and pedagogy. Even people who don’t understand fully (or even partially) your content will be able to give you feedback – and if nothing else, they provide another audience for another practice round. Make yourself vulnerable, identify your needs and blind spots, and reach out for help.

High FiveDo what you know and what makes you happy. This means both when choosing the content of your presentation and the visuals in your PowerPoint. I’ve been pretty obsessed with the Bitmoji app, so my presentation was full of cartoons bearing my likeness. It’s fun and entertaining and most important, it gets ME enthused, and then I’m an even more enthusiastic presenter!

Lastly: have fun. I didn’t think this one would be possible. After all of your hard work choosing great content, creating eye-catching and entertaining visuals, and practicing your heart out, you get to cash in. Attendees watching youbitmoji-20150918155948r presentation will get more out of it if you look like you are genuinely having a good time.

I hope I have the opportunity to present at #DF16! But first, sleep.

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Why This Nonprofit Admin is Excited About #DF15

It’s hard to believe that this year will be my 5th Dreamforce. The newbie outsider feeling I had in 2010 still feels fresh sometimes, until I remember all the amazing resources and sessions for nonprofit admins that have been built up and prioritized since that time! The short version, repeat after me: you are not alone.

1. Small But Mighty

bitmoji-20150805142522This phrase did not exist as a widely-used catchphrase in Dreamforce land 5 years ago. I was a part-time solo admin at a tiny nonprofit, and convinced my manager that it was a priority for me to attend Dreamforce. I distinctly remember attending several sessions that I was PSYCHED about when I read the session abstract, only to discover when I attended that the fancy functionality/application/business process being presented was custom built by a consultant at the cost of tens of thousands of dollars. I thought to myself, I thought the whole point of Saleforce for nonprofits was that it was supposed to be inexpensive? I know this tool can do more than I’m currently doing with it, but how do I find out what it can do?

Fast-forward to 2015, resources abound for the budget-conscious yet nimble Small and Mighty nonprofits, including a group in the Power of Us Hub, a podcast dedicated almost exclusively to issues relating to Small and Might nonprofits, and plenty of Dreamforce sessions to hone your skills as the sharpest, savviest Salesforce admin on the small nonprofit block. Salesforce itself is even friendlier than it used to be to the solo admin, especially with the introduction of Process Builder, new in winter ’15, which allows administrators to do a lot of cool button-click stuff that used to be reserved for custom development alone. And of course, there are a number of Dreamforce sessions on learning Process Builder and doing awesome, powerful things with it!

2. Power of Us Hub Comes to Life

power-of-us-hubSince its founding, the Power of Us hub has grown to be a vibrant, knowledgeable community of nonprofit and Salesforce professionals. I was a lurker on the old NPSP google group, mostly because I was so overwhelmed and intimidated by the format and never quite figured out how to jump in and ask questions, let alone answer anyone else’s. The Hub is a place to understand Salesforce better, learn about new and upcoming releases and patches to the NPSP and other nonprofit packages, and most of all, not feel totally alone in your work! Many of us who are solo admins or consultants don’t have coworkers who fully understand how we fill our days or what our struggles are – or can serve as colleagues to discuss issues with or bounce ideas off of. And Dreamforce is where all of those people show up, in person, to be real human beings, in the flesh! Hurray! They are there to share their knowledge through Dreamforce sessions, network, and learn. I can’t wait to see those I haven’t seen since last year, and connect with those I’ve never met in person.

3. 2015 Feels like the most Admin-Friendly DF Yet!

Dreamforce 2014 - home at last at Moscone West
Dreamforce 2014 – home at last at Moscone West

Wow, there are just so many resources and sessions for us administrators at Dreamforce, including sessions for beginner admins, solo admins, admins who want to learn code, other HOTs, live podcasts from the admin zone, dedicated Trailhead workshops, and more! The Admin Zone premiered at DF14 and I felt immediately at home (OK, the superhero posters and buttons might have helped a bit). Last year I got some great tips at the admin zone, including some on how to improve my end-user training that I still find useful. This year, there’s also a dedicated Admin Day (Thursday the 17th) and our own dedicated keynote.

You are not alone, administrators! See you at Dreamforce!