Speaker Academy: Better than gouging your eyes out with a rusty spoon!

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, up 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!

Organising Surf Force 2017: The best salesforce adventure you will have this year!

As you may (or may not be…) aware I am part of the team organising Surf Force.

What is Surf Force you ask?

Well it’s a salesforce community event, but not like any other that you may have been to. Through surfing, we encourage you to take a chance and to step out of your comfort zone.

Surfing is something that not a lot of people have done, and that people might find scary or challenging… But when you have people around you who are there to guild you and help, you will realise it wasn’t so hard after all.

This is a lesson that we can apply to the salesforce community, and the community at large. We can all step out of our comfort zones, learn something new, do something great, and help others. Surf Force is here to prove this to you, teach you new things and empower you to do this.

I helped with Surf Force in 2016 (Which was held in Aberavon, Wales) and loved the concept and what the founder, Shaun Holmes was trying to achieve. Shaun’s enthusiasm for the event, and helping others was inspiring and I knew that in 2017 that I had to be part of it and help to make it bigger and better!

Organising Surf Force 2017

Organising an event takes a lot of hard work, even more so when everyone has day jobs and their own lives to live. All of the team work full time and have varying family and other commitments, and to make things even more challenging, we are holding the event in a different country!

To spite the challenges, the team of Shaun Holmes, Kerry Townsend, Scott Gassmann, Jenny Bamber, Lauren Touyet and myself have made amazing progress on making Surf Force and we had our first trip to Bundoran, Ireland to scope out the venue for this years event, talk to local contacts and charities and, of course, go for a surf!

If you’ve never been to Bundoran (or to Ireland in general) then you are missing out, it is an absolutely gorgeous place and the people there are incredibly friendly.

The venue we have chosen for Surf Force 2017 is the Great Northern Hotel, which is right on the beach had has some excellent facilities for the event, as well as for leisure (pool, spa, sauna, golf course, etc)

We also met up with the amazing people at the Donegal Adventure Centre, who will be providing the surfing lessons and all of the kit required. The organises and instructors there are amazing and really make sure that you are both having a good time, learning and being safe.

I am very excited to be a part of this event and to work with the amazing group of people who are organising it and I hope that you all will come along. I also wish to thank our sponsors, who help to make events like this possible. So please check out Taskfeed and Good Day Sir!

To find out more about Surf Force, visit the website here, follow us on twitter, instagram or facebook!

Salesforce Community Events – Surfforce

If you’re in the salesforce space, no doubt you have heard of some of their events. The biggest and most well known being Dreamforce. Perhaps you’ve been to a Dreamforce, or world tour or one of the other official salesforce.com events.

But perhaps something you didn’t know about were salesforce ‘Community Events’. These are events that are not run by salesforce.com themselves, rather, they are organised by the community (often sponsored by salesforce.com partners, ISVs, etc). Community Events are relatively new in the space, but they are picking up pace quickly, an excellent example of this was the London’s Calling event here in the UK (that I unfortunately didn’t make it to.. next year!)

So why am I talking about community events? Well, I went to my first one recently – Surfforce.

Surfforce was billed as ‘a salesforce user group with a difference’ and it certainly was. Held in Aberavon, Wales, the basic idea of the event was ‘lets go for a surf in the morning, then talk salesforce in the afternoon’. It was the brainchild of Shaun Holmes, who’s passion for both helping others, the community and salesforce is incredible.

The event was aimed at people new to the salesforce community, with several excellent speakers sharing their journeys within the salesforce world. As well as this, there was a focus on helping local charaties.

I only found out about the event about a week before, so lucky enough I was able to organise the trip down with Scott. Given my late coming to the party, I was not able to secure a spot in the surfing portion of the day, which suited me fine, I am from Australia after all and the water temperate in wales was a little different to what I am used to!

When those brave enough to strap on a wetsuit where finished in the ocean it was time for lunch, networking and chatting with sponsors.

surfforce-agenda

After lunch, we were treated to some excellent talks. First was Danielle from the wave project, she took us through what the project was about, and the amazing impact that it has had on the kids in need who were able to take part. They are doing excellent work with kids in need, providing ‘surf therapy’, teaching them how to surf and helping them with mental health issues such as anxiey and depression. Thanks to surfforce, over £500 was raised to help them in their efforts, as well as the opportunity for 15 kids to take part in a surf lesson at the same time as the surfforce attendees.

We next heard from Anna, a local businesswoman and entrepreneur, who spoke of her humble beginnings in Poland during the cold war, and how she was able to make the most of what she had and how she was able to keep challenging herself to be better and better. She has won multiple awards and is CEO of two successful companies, her talk was definitely inspiring.

We then heard from Dave and Mike from salesforce, both of them very early employees, they gave a very informative presentation that went through the journey salesforce as a company has been on, from having a handful of customers in 1999, none of whom had to pay for licensing for the first year! (interesting side note, one of these early adopters was a previous employer of mine) to launching the AppExchange, running on a box under dave’s desk, and originally called the App Store (sound familiar?) to the multi billion dollar success they are today. This was a very interesting talk, and if you get a change to see/watch it I would highly recommend it.

After a brief break for lunch, we heard from several more excellent speakers. The first of whom, Louise spoke of her personal journey from someone who had no experience with salesforce (or computers really, she has a background in Literature) to becoming an Awesome Admin. She spoke of how she found that she had more of an interest in the systems she was working with, than the actual work itself, and how that when she has salesforce ‘forced’ upon her, she decided that she would learn as much as possible and make a go of it. Louise described how much the salesforce community has been a help to her, the sheer volume of resources out there and how inclusive and helpful people were.

Next up, Antonia took us through her journey to bring her to the position she is in today (Lead Consultant) and how that her journey and the salesforce community is anything but boring. She explained that using the salesforce platform, anyone who wants to try can become a developer thanks to the supportive community, excellent declarative tools and wealth of documentation.

Finally, Jodi spoke to us about her journey from Salesforce Admin to Consultant, with a presentation entirely of GIFs (no death by powerpoint here!) she spoke of how she was constantly looking for new challenges, from being an Administrator, to setting up a Centre of Excellence, to finally making the move into the consulting world. Her journey in particular is one that I think a lot of people in the salesforce consultancy world will be familiar with (I know I am, I started my salesforce journey as an Admin back in 2008)

Proceeding ended with drinks and networking. To spite not being the exact target audience, I think that I got quite a lot from attending Surfforce, I met a load of amazing people and got to be involved with, what I think, is an excellent concept.

Shaun, Kerry, the speakers, volunteers, sponsors and everyone else who worked so hard to get this event up and running deserve a huge pat on the back for what they achieved with this event. I think the Surfforce concept would fit in perfectly back home in Australia. Something like this could be easily done in both the Gold Coast and Sydney, and given the salesforce community in Australia, could be very successful. I hope that someone seriously considers this concept, and that the next event is even bigger and more successful than the last.

I think the concept of community events is a great one, it goes to show how inclusive the salesforce community is as a whole and how excited people are about the platform. Surfforce may have been my first community event, but it most definitely won’t be my last.