Like many people, when given the choice between speaking in public, and gouging my eyes out with a rusty spoon, I’d opt for the spoon.

However, public speaking happens to be a very useful skill, and very good for your career. Luckily for me, there was a third option… two members of the salesforce community here in London run an excellent programme to help people like me learn how to speak in front of others.

Jodi and Keir first ran their speaker academy course last year, with a second course running early this year. I was unable to attend the first two, but as they say, third time’s the charm, so I signed up and hoped for the best.

So what is speaker academy?

It’s a course run by salesforce MVPs, Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden (aka. Bob Buzzard) with the intention to help people in the salesforce community learn how to speak in public, and encourage a more diverse range of people to participate in user groups, community events and even World Tour/Dreamforce.

The course goes for 6 weeks, and covers topics like; Choosing a topic, writing an abstract, developing a presentation, body language and overcoming fears. Each session runs for about an hour and at the end we are given homework. Over the course of the 6 weeks, we develop a 5 minute lightning talk, with the graduation being to present this talk at a user group, in front of real live people!

To add a bit of encouragement and competition, there would be a prize for the speaker that the audience thought was best, last time it was a speaking slot for Londons Calling, and this time, upΒ grabs was a speaking slot for Surf Force! (which I wasn’t in the running to win, since I am co-organising Surf Force)

If you want to read more about it from the facilitators perspective, check out Jodi’s blogs (here, here and here) or Keir’s blog here.

How did it go?

Our graduation was held at the August London Salesforce Developer Meetup. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous, as I’m sure my class mates were. We had all developed and practiced our talks in the relative safety of a small group, by the end of the course we were all pretty comfortable presenting in front of one another.

This was different, this was getting up in front of 50+ people and giving a talk, something I’d not done since being ‘forced’ to in high school! I think I made it both easier and harder for myself by talking about schemapuker… easier in the sense that I wrote the tool and of course have deep understanding of it, harder in the sense that because the topic was quite ‘personal’ to me, I really didn’t want to make any mistakes!

Overall, I think my talk went well, I feel that I probably spoke a bit too fast, I’m not sure how close I was to the 5 minute mark, but to me it felt like it was over in 30 seconds! I definitely need to work on body language and movement (I didn’t do much of it). However, I did get positive feedback from people in the audience, with a few people coming up to ask more about schemapuker afterwards.

My fellow classmates presentations all went without a hitch, at least from where I was sitting.

Connor went first, talking about the advantages of using middleware.

Followed Oliver, showing us how to supercharge our sandbox refreshes.

Next was Jin, on how to make life easier for your sales team with automation

I was up after Jin, presenting schemapuker (slides here)

After my was Kyra, telling us how we can help the scouts

and last but not least, was Sean who spoke to us about securing salesforce communities.

The winner of the Surf Force slot was Sean Dukes, and I look forward to seeing him at Surf Force!

So what did I learn?

One of the things I struggle with (and this applies to my blog too) is having something interesting to say. I’ve often found myself thinking “I could talk about that” or “I should write a post about that” and then going “nah, it’s been done” or “nah, no one would be interested in that”. What I had not considered, is that everyone has unique exiprence and a unique take on things, so while maybe someone has written or spoken about something before, what they have to say and what I have to say may be different.

The fear of getting it wrong/looking stupid/being seen as a fraud goes hand in hand with this, aka. impostor syndrome. Jodi and Kier helped us to, at least somewhat overcome this and to stop comparing ourselves to others… In reality we are all in the same boat!

I learnt that its important that you talk about something you actually care about/are interested in. When it came time to write abstracts, we had to prepare three and read them to the class. That really drove home how obvious a persons preferred topic was, and how it comes across in your talk.

I also learnt that, reading from a script or from your slides is NOT a good approach, and your slides/presentation should be there to compliment and support your talk, not contain it! As Keir said many times, “less is more”.

Finally…

I want to sincerely thank both Jodi an Keir for running the class, they put a lot of effort in to preparing materials, organising, giving feedback and actually teaching the course and it is of great benefit to the graduates and the community at large. Many people who have done the course have gone on to speak regularly at user groups and at other events like Salesforce World Tour. Jodi and Keir should be proud of what they are doing, and I’m grateful for the opportunity to have attended.

Will this be the start of an illustrious speaking career? …Maybe not. Do I still think I’d rather gouge my eyes out with a rusty spoon than give a talk? Not at all, I hope to be able to talk again at another meetup and improve my skills!


Also published on Medium.

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