Glossophobia, or speech anxiety, is the fear of public speaking. A study performed by the National Institute of Mental Health on November 23, 2013 concluded that a whopping 74% of people suffer from speech anxiety. That means 3 out of every 4 people fear speaking in front of an audience. Now, with every phobia, there is a spectrum of fear that most people fall under. Not everyone completely cripples in front of an audience. I, for instance, have a mild case of it. I usually have no problem prepping for a talk, and even once I start giving the talk, I have no anxiety. However, I typically do get nervous about 15 to 30 minutes leading up to the talk. This article will give some information about speaking at Salesforce events that I hope will help calm your nerves and give you some ideas on how to present.
One thing I want to point out right away is that speaking at a Salesforce event is completely different than other public speaking engagements, specifically speaking in front of a school class or other group that is required to attend. No one is forced to attend a Salesforce event. The people you will be speaking in front of actually want to be there and they want to be engaged. This makes the process much simpler on the speaker because there is less fear of completely losing the audience (although you still need to keep your talk interesting). The point is, the people who attend these meetups/conferences want to listen to you and will do their best to pay attention, lifting a burden off of yourself. This will make the entire process more enjoyable.
On top of being a rather fun experience, it can also be a nice career booster. Let’s be honest, we live in a competitive world. Being able to put on your resume that you are a seasoned public speaker is a huge plus. Companies love being able to have that nice PR boost when you go to present and say “I work for So-and-so”. It also gets you out there more and provides the ability for people to reach out to you more easily, opening up doors you never would have known existed otherwise.
Tips & Tricks
As with any public speaking, the key to your success is almost always completely in your hands. Finding a topic that you are passionate and knowledgeable about is crucial. The more you enjoy the topic, the more comfortable you will feel because you will have spent a considerable amount of time researching and understanding the topic. It will also allow your presentation to flow more smoothly and become more conversational with the audience rather than you just speaking at them.
This brings me to my next point, don’t just speak at or read to your audience. Most people choose to use a slideshow of some sort to make the presentation have a focal point that isn’t directly on them. This can be an excellent strategy to help calm your nerves and give your audience members and single focal point, but don’t write your entire presentation down on your slides. The slides should be extra and if removed, your talk should still make sense. Typically this means that your slides are pictures or simple, single words. This type of presentation style was mastered by Steve Jobs. He is an excellent example of how it is done.
While having a topic you are passionate about and a great slide deck are nice, it is also important to engage with the audience. Remember, people want to feel involved. It is good to throw a question into your presentation every so often and get people to feel like you are having an active conversation. “By a show of hands, how many of you do X? Well, let me tell you how you can do it better!” This immediately speaks to your audience and they will pick up on little tidbits like that because they automatically find personal value in what you are about to say. Something as simple as that can grab the audience’s attention immediately. With the preparation you have put in with your topic and slide deck, you will have no problem keeping it.
Finally, and maybe the most important tip of all, find what works for you. If you feel more comfortable holding note cards or having detailed notes on each slide, go ahead and do it! My guess is you won’t have to read directly off of them, but sometimes just having that peace of mind is all you need to make everything going amazingly well. The most important part of your presentation is practice. By the time you are ready to present, you should be able to talk about the entire topic with no slides at all. It should just flow, like a talk with friends. On top of that, once you are at that point, you can be absolutely positive that when you do add your notes and the slides, you will have no problem keeping the flow of your talk going.
There are hundreds, if not thousands, of Salesforce events annually around the globe. At the time of writing this article, there are 175 User Groups, 14 Vertical User Groups, 102 Developer User Groups, and a slew of other events including the Salesforce1 World Tour and Dreamforce. These events are powered by the Salesforce community. People like you and I speak at these events on topics we understand and enjoy. That is what makes the events so great. This events provide countless opportunities for anyone interested to speak on a topic they are passionate about.
Interested in Speaking?
If you are interested in speaking, there are a few different channels you can use to find the right people. Your best bet would be to start interacting with the leaders of the different user groups or developer user groups. Believe me when I say user group leaders are always looking for more speakers. Even if they are booked up for the next few months, they will still having openings in the future and they would be more than happy to have you. If you are ambitious and would like to speak at Dreamforce, the Developer Zone Call for Presentations is open. If you are a Salesforce customer or Salesforce partner, look into working with your Salesforce representative to inquire about speaking arrangements at some of their larger events as well, like the Salesforce1 World Tour. They would be your best option for finding out what is available.
Keep in mind, you may be able to present the same topic in multiple locations. While there may be some overlap, the truth of it is that people simply can’t make every single Salesforce event. If you have a topic you love and a presentation ready to go, feel free to speak at a few different venues using the same presentation. It will make the process easier for you and allow you to feel more comfortable as you progress.
Note: If you are in the Lehigh Valley and would like to talk to the Lehigh Valley Developer User Group, you can contact me directly.
In an effort to get out and speak with the community more often this year, I have decided to speak at the following events (a few are pending approval still):
- May 1st
- Lehigh Valley Salesforce Developer User Group | Salesforce1 Developer Week – Hands-on Workshop | Allentown, PA
- May 22nd
- Salesforce.com Philadelphia User Group | Special Guest, Charlie Isaacs, VP & CTO at Salesforce and a night w/ MVPs | Philadelphia, PA
- June 4th
- FinancialForce DevTalks | DevTalks: Meet our MVPs | San Francisco, CA
- July Meetup
- Lehigh Valley Salesforce Developer User Group | Allentown, PA
- October 13th-16th
- Dreamforce | San Francisco, CA
If you have an event in the Lehigh Valley area and would like a speaker, please feel free to contact me to see if we can work something out.