Speaking to a Room of Mostly Strangers

Last week I presented my five minute talk about creating a custom setting to disable validation rules to the London Salesforce Developer User Group. It was the graduation from Speaker Academy, which was taught by co-founders Jodi Wagner and Keir Bowden.

To prepare, I watched the video Keir took of us presenting to the class. I sounded confident and entertained the audience. I practiced presenting alone and once to a friend. I re-read my slides and notes.

When I arrived at the user group, I wasn’t super nervous. I knew some people and found my speaker academy classmates. When I got up to present, I was definitely nervous. My brain got unfocused. Presenting to a room of mostly people I didn’t know was much harder than presenting to the class, who I’d gotten to know over the course of 6 weeks.

One of the first things Jodi taught us was that we shouldn’t act nervous while presenting. It really does make it harder for the audience to enjoy what you have to say. Keir mentioned that the last class seemed to be much more comfortable presenting to the class versus a large group of strangers. Logically it makes sense, right?

I spoke quickly, I didn’t pause for dramatic effect,  I stumbled over my words, and I didn’t make eye contact enough. It was definitely not my best.

Since I want to keep speaking, it’s  important to move forward and focus on what I learned:

  1. People didn’t do anything horrible to me for not being perfect. There were no rotten tomatoes thrown and no one booed me. Jodi gave me some good feedback and encouraged me to keep presenting. I got offers to speak at other user groups.
  2. Relax! It’s much harder to do in practice, but next time I’m definitely going to have more fun presenting. I like talking to people, so I’m going to try to remember that speaking is very similar to meeting new people at an event.
  3. Practice! I did practice some, but I think practicing more would have made me more confident.
  4. Make recordings of myself presenting. I did this for another presentation and it helped me learn my “speech.” I used Voice Memos on my iPhone and I listened to myself while walking or commuting. It wasn’t as fun as listening to a podcast or music, but it taught me about my speech patterns and what to fix in my talk.
  5. Talk about soft skills. I really liked Alejandra’s talk about her transition from developer to consultant.

I’ll keep everyone updated on my speaking journey. Until next time!


Creative Writing Major to Salesforce Admin

I studied Creative Writing at university, so I didn’t really expect to have a career in tech. I may not be writing poetry like I did as an undergrad, but having a solid set of writing skills helps me quite often as a Salesforce admin. Clear written communication is crucial for a successful Salesforce project team.

Here’s some places I find my writing background to come in handy:

  1. Descriptions. Ever worked in an org where you wonder why someone created that workflow rule, field, validation rule? I certainly have. Explaining what something does and why it was created can help future generations of admins and devs understand what you did and why.
  2. Help Text. You have a great way to clearly guide your users through their processes, so use it!
  3. Requirements.  Are you sharing why you’re doing a project and what stakeholders expect? Writing clear requirements puts everyone on the same page and ensures that your project stays on course.
  4. User Documentation. Now this one is my favourite. You can’t be with your users all the time, as much as they might love you. The next best thing is to hear your voice explaining how to do something. It will also help users and technical staff to understand the intended process for what you’ve built. For user documentation, I use a friendly and positive tone, similar to the way Trailhead is written.
  5. Technical Documentation. Explain what you’ve built and how. Do this both for your own piece of mind and for your teammates. I tend to over-explain since you may not know who your future audience will be.

Poetry reading at Oberlin College