8 Tips for Speaking at Salesforce Community Events

By Lucy Mazalon

Speaking at Salesforce events is one of the most effective ways to boost your personal brand. Not only is building a personal brand beneficial for your career, it’s also highly rewarding to ‘gift’ your knowledge and insight to others in the community. 

The Salesforce community is a network of individuals who support one another, with a big focus on knowledge sharing. The opportunities to speak at events are plentiful – whether that’s at your local Trailblazer user group, a community-led conference, or at a major Salesforce conference; there’s always a stage waiting for you to present your expertise.

Public speaking isn’t for everyone – I understand. Perhaps the thought of standing in front of people and speaking terrifies you, but there’s a solution for that (virtual events). Or, you could be looking to challenge yourself this year, so user groups are a great starting point. There’s nearly always going to be an option for you if you’re curious. Having spoken at a range of Salesforce events, these are my tips for creating an enjoyable (and impactful) session, from start to finish. 

READ MORE: Navigate Your Career With the Salesforce Trailblazer Community

1. Know Your Audience

This seems like a tired tip which many articles start with, however, knowing your audience from the get-go really does ring true here. Who will be attending the session? What context are they approaching this from (their level of knowledge, etc.)? 

For example, I’m the former leader of the London B2B Marketers group, where attendees were a mix of end users (Account Engagement aka Pardot customers) and consultants. In this case, I would start with establishing the baseline of the topic, then move on to the aspects of the topic that were unique to my talk. I have spoken about the new features and enhancement for Account Engagement (aka Pardot) for releases, and always give the baseline ‘what’ before turning it to ‘this is how it will impact you as a [insert role]’. 

The key is to offer something for everyone who may be attending, and the best way to do that is to bring them along with you. In most of my talks, I actually call out who I think the audience consists of.

Below is a slide from the talk I gave at Dreamforce ‘19. The slide may look bare, however, I addressed each of these personas in my talk track – even asking the audience to raise their hands to which one applied to them. 

Raising hands is a good tactic to engage your audience by allowing audience members to feel included, and also to wake people up – after all, you may not be the first speaker in the line-up! Personally, I find the hand-raising exercise puts me at ease – I can see that people are interested in what I have to say, and it moves the focus away from me to the audience members. If you are presenting at a virtual event, encourage viewers to add to the comment feed, or launch a poll. 

At the end of the day, people like being seen and heard. A talk should be a collaborative experience, so make it one!

2. Ask the Leaders

Salesforce conferences and popular community events will be oversubscribed with speaking requests, so ensure that your idea is watertight and relevant (see point #3). 

You may already have a specific idea to pitch to community group leaders, but it’s also okay if you don’t. Most community groups struggle to find speakers (I’m speaking from experience here!) and will happily work with you on a good session topic. To aid the conversation, come with a list of broad topics you can talk about. 

Community group leaders will have a mental catalog of what’s been covered before or what their members have raised questions about. Don’t take it personally if the leader asks you to tweak the topic/angle you’re taking.  

READ MORE: Salesforce Community Groups: A Group Leader and Newbie Talk

Also, ask how long the speaking slot is and if that’s inclusive of Q&A; as we’ll see later in the guide, the Q&A is often the best part of the session. 

Salesforce Ben’s Courses and Community Director Christine Marshall with Salesforce Consultant Megan Tuano at Dreamforce ’22.

3. Why This, Why Now?

Salesforce conferences and popular community events are oversubscribed with speaking requests, so ensure that your idea is water-tight, and relevant. Sound familiar?

If you are submitting session ideas for these events, you will (likely) be asked to provide: 

  • An abstract: A summary of your talk, to entice people to attend your session (therefore, intended to be external-facing).  
  • Context around why your talk is relevant, right now: For example, does it bring to light recent releases and/or show users how to take advantage of them, or address burning questions users have as a result? Are you addressing macro-economic trends, or other current affairs that are impacting organizations – job market, supply chains, and more? These are all examples of juicy context you should put across to the assessor. 

4. Preparation

I’ve become someone who doesn’t prepare much, even preferring to put together a talk track last minute so that it’s not disrupted by other events in my day. 

Although my 5am preparation habit isn’t the healthiest, it works for me; I can walk into a morning presentation, feeling like it’s fresh in my mind. 

I used to prepare meticulously two weeks before, and revisit my talk track every few days to build my confidence with the topic. I would repeat the talk track when I was doing things in my routine that didn’t need my full attention, such as taking a shower, brushing my teeth, waiting for the train, making coffee, etc. It’s best to talk out loud, and I began to not mind people seeing me on the platform mumbling to myself! 

The extent to which you should prepare will be down to: 

  • Your level of comfort in public speaking: I do still write out talk tracks, and read them out to myself, word by word. This gives me a level of security that I’m hitting all the points I need to. With the track, I can sense my brain forming connections between one point to the next, which is a huge help if I get flustered and lose my train of thought. The recommended process is to then break this down into key points and rehearse with those as pointers to keep you on track. Don’t stress – the actual talk may not follow your talk track word for word, but that’s okay!
  • The way you work most effectively: Modest pressure and deadlines helpful in boosting your motivation? As I admitted, I work best under pressure. You will know how much time you will need to learn your presentation effectively. However, don’t leave such a long period of time that you overthink multiple aspects of the talk, and become anxious in the process.  
  • How well you know the topic: You will likely be talking about something you know well. I’ve been asked to present about topics that span a wide range of the Salesforce platform; therefore, I had to ensure I was clued up on the topic (the good, the bad, and the ugly!).
  • The type of event you are presenting at: Some events will require you to do dry-runs with a presenter liaison – namely the larger Salesforce events (Dreamforce, TrailblazerDX, Connections, etc.). With these requirements, you will have to have the talk sound and do the talk track smoothly, well in advance of the event.  
My first (I think) presentation at the B2B London Marketers group, 2017.

5. Body Language

There’s a particular fact that I heard years ago that helped me immensely. One psychologist put numbers to how the different aspects of delivering a talk impact each other – 55% is influenced by body language, 38% is down to the tone of voice you use, and only 7% is down to the words you speak. Sounds crazy, right? However, it’s true that recipients of your talk interpret your talk mostly not by what you say, but how it’s delivered. 

Nonverbal communication trumps verbal communication. You can see how it has such an impact in this article.

As I mentioned, I’ve not always been someone who gets up on stage completely composed, and I have a tendency to fidget (as most of us do – that nervous energy has to escape our body somehow!). Here are some things I do to keep my nonverbal communication in check:

  • Keep your arms by your side. If you find yourself fidgeting with your hands, keep them clasped behind your back. Never cross your arms. While the hands behind back pose is typically interpreted as confidence/superiority, it’s far better than arms crossed, which is a sure-fire show of defensiveness. 
  • Use hand gestures to bring emphasis to a certain aspect, but don’t go overboard and give your talk the windmill effect! 
  • Sometimes you’ll be holding a microphone, or standing behind a lectern (raised table with a microphone). Having something to hold often helps steady your nerves in the first minute. 
  • Embrace the stage! Once you’re in the flow of your talk, take a walk around as you speak. I feel that this gives my talks a more conversational feel to them.
Taking to the stage at London’s Calling, 2020. I was very nervous having been moved to the main room last minute!

Note: Trailblazer community group leaders will give you a shout-out on social media, which is great for your personal brand. At larger events, there’s usually a recording; in the example above, there was a full AV setup, and a recording that you can keep as a souvenir! 

6. Keep it Light

We’re in an age of information overload. When listening to talks, a comfortable attention span is 20 minutes (there’s a reason why TED talks are capped at 18 minutes). 

At some events, you will be asked to fill the allotted time (20 or 40 minutes). However, at user groups, you typically aren’t required to speak for 20 minutes. It’s better to keep your talk impactful, in say, 15 minutes, rather than trailing just to fill time. 

Remember that for user groups that take place in the evening or during lunch hours, everyone has been at work, and will absorb a focused, concise talk more effectively. Regardless of how long your talk is/needs to be, keep plenty of time for the Q&A; I typically keep 20% open for the Q&A.

7. Generate a Discussion

Now for the Q&A – one part that can send speakers into a tailspin of nerves. Don’t shy away from the Q&A, as it’s one of the most rewarding aspects of the session (for you!). As I mentioned, I typically keep 20% open for the Q&A, which may seem like a long time, but trust me here. These are my tactics for making this time less nerve-racking, and more powerful:

  • Think in advance: You have been on the journey working with this topic/feature, so what questions did you have along the way? These FAQs could easily come up in the Q&A, which you will be adept at answering with a little preparation. 
  • Acknowledge every question: Someone asks a question, and you’re stumped. That’s okay. Thank the person for the question, and pause a moment to think – and no, that’s not an awkward silence, that’s you proving you’re taking the answer seriously. If something doesn’t make sense to you, ask for them to clarify. This not only buys you some breathing room, but can also prompt some keywords in your brain to jog your memory. 
  • Tell an edge case apart from other questions: People in the audience come from their own contexts which can lead to ‘edge case’ questions. These are scenario based and very specific to their organization/setup. You can either go ahead and answer, including your assumptions and caveats, e.g. “this is what I would suggest, providing X is the case, and you consider the impact on Y”. Or, if you feel uncomfortable answering without knowing all the contributing factors that led to their question, you can express those feelings too. It would be irresponsible for you to suggest a solution that could send the person down the wrong path. 
  • Strike up a healthy debate: Personally, I love this. Sometimes, an audience member can come with an opinion or ‘this is how we’ve done it’, and another member of the audience disagrees. Get them talking to each other. You can also ‘turn the Q&A’ on to the audience if there are no questions. Asking people to ‘raise hands’ to a ‘do you agree’ question, and then asking an audience member if they would be open to sharing their reason for agreeing/disagreeing means you’ll avoid ‘hearing crickets’ at the end of the talk.
After several attempts (a mountain of rejections), one of my submissions was selected for Dreamforce ‘19. Never give up! 

8. Do Your Follow-Up

There may be some questions asked during the Q&A that you need to go back and investigate. Ask the person to connect with you/speak to you at the end. Connect with them on LinkedIn and reach out to them once you’ve come to a conclusion. 

Always make a note following presentations. These thoughtful questions are great sources of inspiration for follow up content to share with the broader community, either via a blog, LinkedIn article, or LinkedIn post.

Finding Speaking Opportunities

I’ve written these tips to address the wide range of speaking opportunities available in the Salesforce ecosystem. You would have seen some of the following already mentioned, and know that there are differences between how they are structured, and the preparation required.

Trailblazer Community Groups (aka User Groups)

There are thousands of groups around the globe which are role-led (e.g. Admin groups) or product-led (e.g. Analytics). You can search/filter by location here. By subscribing to groups, you will receive notifications for any upcoming events.

Many Trailblazer community groups will have social media accounts that you can follow, such as @LonDevSFDC, where they will announce if they are looking for speakers. If not, follow the leaders on social media (they are listed at the bottom of the Trailblazer group page – example here.  

Note that some events have returned to in-person only and some are virtual, while others will accommodate a hybrid in-person/remote event. 

Community-Led Events

Over the past few years, the number of community-led events has ballooned. As a rule of thumb, you can identify these as they include ‘Dreamin’ in the name, but not always (take London’s Calling or SFBA Summit as prime examples).

Some are listed on our event page, while others you will need to search around for. Follow Salesforce Evangelists on social media in your region to find others. 

These events have a formal submission process that will start a few months before the event itself. You can submit as many talks as you would like, however, be very considerate with each of your submissions, adding ample detail that’s required; the people doing the selection are giving their time for free, so respect that.  

London’s Calling @LDNsCall Twitter.

Major Salesforce Conferences

These events are organized by Salesforce, and gather large numbers of attendees. The bar is set high, so be sure you are up to the challenge and have the time to dedicate to the preparation. Examples include Dreamforce, TrailblazerDX, Connections, and World Tour events, etc.

Salesforce Ben at Salesforce World Tour London, 2015.

To pull off a flawless session, these events will require you to do dry-runs with a presenter in liaison. With these requirements, you will have to have the talk track ready and be able to do everything smoothly well in advance of the event.  

You may also be a customer of a Salesforce partner, and could be invited to co-present with them about your use case.


This guide has shared the tricks I’ve gathered during my years of presenting at Salesforce events of all sizes – from my local Trailblazer community group, all the way through to Dreamforce. I came to the realization that speaking doesn’t intimidate me nearly as much as it used to, and I put that down to taking the leap, putting myself forward, and doing it multiple times. 

I hope that this gives you reassurance if you’re anxious about public speaking. Start small, prepare to the extent you’re comfortable with, and bring the audience in for a healthy debate.  

The Author

Lucy Mazalon

Lucy is the Operations Director at Salesforce Ben. She is a 10x certified Marketing Champion and founder of The DRIP.

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