A Polymath’s Guide To…Submitting Speaking Proposals

There are 6 days left to submit a speaking proposal for Dreamforce 16. If you’re considering it, on the fence, not sure, I’m here to tell you to give it a shot. You have something to share. I promise.

Sit down, let me tell you a story.

Within 6 months of starting this job (the one that I’m saying goodbye to this week), I was a Marketo Certified Expert. And you know, I still didn’t feel like an expert.

Less than a year after that, Marketing Nation Summit put out a call for speakers. I had never done a speaking engagement that large. I wasn’t a Marketo Champion. I still didn’t feel like an expert. Maybe I just was feeling invincible, or more likely a little nihilistic – what does it matter if I’m accepted to speak or not? It won’t solve the world’s problems. *dramatic weeping*

I figured it would be a good practice for writing a proposal. I thought I might get some feedback about why my submission was passed over.

Instead, a few months later, I got an email saying “Hey! We’re super excited to have you speak at Summit!”

I was really excited, too. And then I was nervous. Now I had to actually, you know, create content and present. It wasn’t enough to feel kind of ready to share information, or to kind of feel like I knew what I was talking about. I had to present myself like an expert. I had to ensure that people weren’t wasting their time. No pressure.

Now, I’m going to let you in on a secret: these events want you to speak, and they want you to succeed. I had two contacts to help me prepare – one to make sure I had everything I needed, and one to help me ensure the content was accurate and helpful. We did dry-runs and presentation reviews, and they were available to answer any questions. I didn’t have to be an expert in everything because they were there to help me become one, at least long enough to impart some wisdom.

Moral of this story: there is no reason not to submit, if you feel even somewhat inclined to do so.

speaker

But how do I go about it?

  1. Think of a mistake you made, especially early on – some lesson you learned the hard way. OR think of something that your users or coworkers struggle with that you’re just really good at. Either option will likely be a popular or useful topic.
  2. Every day, navigate to the speaker submission page. Trust me. It’s weird, but it helps. Just a tab that sits there, reminding you to at least consider it.
  3. Determine if you want to present solo or with someone. If you want to present with someone, reach out to a few people you know or would like to get to know better, and ask them.
  4. Come up with a few titles – a funny one, a serious one, a straightforward one. Whatever you think of, write it down/type it up. You can settle on one before you submit.
  5. Write an abstract. It needs to be fairly short, and it needs to pack a punch. I’m a fan of extended metaphors, so I usually default accordingly.
  6. Ask people 100% unrelated to your job to critique them – could they reasonably understand what your session is about? If so, guaranteed someone even remotely associated with what you do will also understand it.
  7. Fill out the submission form. Don’t send it in yet – you’re nervous, I get it.
  8. Fill out the submission form again. Your confidence is building. The information is already there, right?
  9. If you didn’t press submit the second time, go ahead and fill out the form once more, and this time press that button.
  10. Congratulations! You just submitted an idea!

Now guess what? You’ll probably forget about it. It takes a while for event folks to pour over submissions and decide what makes the cut, and your life is going to continue on. You’ll have the same people complaining, the same folks asking questions, the same men and women inviting you out for a happy hour(I imagine you’re more social than I am – maybe not. Maybe, like me, you’ll just keep playing games.).

I’ve since had sessions rejected, too. And, yeah, it kind of sucks, but it’s really not that bad. It doesn’t mean you can’t go to the event, doesn’t mean you have nothing to offer. It also means you don’t have to miss any presentations to be there for yours. It means that you can go and have fun and not be pacing around your hotel room reciting the lines to a fake rap you wrote to wow the audience.

So what’s stopping you, really? Only you are.

 

West Michigan Women in Tech

February 25th marked the inaugural West Michigan Women in Tech User Group meeting.

The first meeting for the West Michigan WIT User Group was snowed out – fitting for where we live. And befitting West Michigan ladies, we just rescheduled. *Snow happens* amirite?

Accordingly March 22nd marked the inaugural West Michigan WIT User Group meeting.

We were not snowed or rained or anything out, which was already an improvement. Due to the reschedule, we did have some people de-register. It’s cool; it happens.

I spent the week before the meeting both excited and almost dreading it. As I mentioned at the meeting, I’ve never been a group leader type. I led some things in college, usually because I was handed the thing and said “here. Do something with it.”

I guess in a way this group is the same. I wasn’t happy with how the existing area user group was functioning, and feeling no other recourse, I just thought to start a Women in Tech group. It has been a rocky road.

I don’t like to sugar coat things, even though I’m consistently neck-deep in Salesforce kool-aid. User Groups are popping up everywhere, which is great, but when I initially signed the papers, there were only two people responsible for supporting them, and for the first few months after submitting myself to lead a group, I didn’t feel supported at all.

It is difficult to learn what is expected of you or how you can be set up for success, doing some of the cool things that other groups are doing. It is very much sink or swim. At least it was for me.

Until I got a mentor anyway (Sarah Deutsch, rock star, I’m looking in your direction).

I’ve said it before, and I will say it over and over until I am blue in the face – this community is where it’s at. Once I got signed up with a mentor, things started to move. I met other people who had done this; not to get too metaphysical here, but it was as if once the universe knew what I needed, I developed a Salesforce-mentor-related gravitational pull.

But back to the point. I don’t know what I’m doing, but after last night, I feel like it’s ok.

We had 5 people super cool women attend our inaugural meeting, graciously hosted by Ashima. We decorated wine glasses, so we can drink (whatever we want!) from them at subsequent meetings. We discussed what we want this group to be. We vented. It was positive. I was inspired and reinvigorated.

But this post is supposed to be for those of you A) looking for some support in West Michigan and B) thinking about starting a user group.

If you are looking for support nearby, please join us! We are on the community; we are on LinkedIn. We tweet #WestMichiganWIT. We want to hear from you and talk Salesforce with you!

If you are thinking about starting a user group, get a mentor. They have fought the battles that you will have to fight, felt the disappointment and feelings of inadequacy, and they can give you some really solid tips. They can be a cheerleader or a firm hand. I also encourage you to be patient; I originally signed up for this gig in October of last year. It takes a while to get things moving, and it is slow to start. Still worth it!

It’s probably too early for me to writing all of this. I have a cat who doesn’t understand REM cycles. But at least I can say it’s authentic. And so was our meeting.

Next one will be in April. And from there, who knows?