Behind the Scenes of the Architect Track at Dreamforce ‘19

Thank you to everyone who submitted or shared the news about our first ever Call for Presentations (CFP) for Architects at Dreamforce ’19. We received over 350 of your session ideas, and spent ~620 hours reviewing those ideas.

And whether you submitted to the Architect or Admin or Developer CFP this year, I’m sending you a giant THANK YOU for taking the time to actually submit. No matter the status of your submission, your ideas and time matter.

Let’s talk about session review and selection

After the CFP app stopped accepting submissions, the work began for many different teams. Much like the Admin and Developer tracks, many people, from many different backgrounds and roles at Salesforce, started looking at submissions. On average, Architect sessions had ~11 reviews per session, with some sessions topping out at well over 30 reviews. Every session had at least nine reviews. For more detail about the review app, check out Marc Baizman’s great post about the Admin track.

Once reviewers weighed in on the sessions, we looked at sessions by score, by session type and session content. We had just over 80 breakout and theater sessions to fill for Architects. The Architect track, just like the Developer track, is a mix of sessions from the Call for Presentations and from product and internal teams here at Salesforce. We looked to get a good range of topics into both the breakout and theater sessions.

So what can I expect to find at Dreamforce?

Rich, technical content that will benefit Architects at all points in their career journeys. Content that goes beyond technology, sharing insights about the soft skills and career habits that lead Architects to success throughout their careers. Content that will inspire your inner Architect, no matter your current role.

For more about what’s ahead for Architects at Dreamforce, tune into the October 8th episode of Road to Dreamforce.

What if my session didn’t get selected?

We had to turn down many sessions, as I mentioned above. I’ll talk more about how to identify if your session idea wasn’t presented as effectively as it could have been below—but we weren’t able to accept many sessions that were full of high-quality ideas and content. Please don’t let the results of this one CFP stop you from trying to present your session elsewhere in the coming year.

Share your session idea with your local (or virtual!) Trailblazer Community groups. Look at local groups on sites like Meetup. Ask to host a lunch-and-learn with your company. Take your idea to one of the many community-driven conferences (AKA Dreamin’ events) worldwide.

What kind of submissions didn’t do well?

We don’t give feedback on individual submissions, and this can be frustrating if you’re reading this post, hoping to figure out what you could have changed about your submission or do differently next year.

If you’re looking for advice about being more successful next year, here are a few themes our session selection team noticed, common to sessions that didn’t fare well:

  • Titles that were gimmicky, rather than clear
  • Abstracts that had little to no detail
  • Abstracts that didn’t have a clear focus
  • Sessions submitted to the ‘Architect’ track, with valuable content for Admins or Developers, but not actually for Architects (more on this below)
  • Sessions that felt inauthentic (more on this in the next section)

It’s exciting that we now have so many options for content at Dreamforce. But with that variety, there is increased risk of accidentally misplacing your idea.

Here is a simple question to ask yourself, as you classify your submission: Am I choosing the track based on where I want to present rather than who would actually benefit from being in the audience?

If the answer is ‘yes,’ you should rethink your choice. The right way to think about the best track for your submission is to think about who needs to hear your content. Sometimes, you might find that the track you want to present in and the people that would most benefit from your idea align. But if they don’t, you should think about the best audience for your session, and use that as your guide for selecting the right track.

Now, let’s talk about ‘inauthentic’ feeling sessions.

How to identify an idea that can feel inauthentic

Let’s use a fictional submission to talk about patterns and anti-patterns:

Title: 3 Steps to Build with CDC, Einstein Vision and CPQ for Marketing
Abstract: In the Fourth Industrial Revolution, automation is key. AI for Marketing is an important piece of innovating these modern experiences. It is difficult to know how to use CDC and Einstein Vision plus CPQ for Marketing to bring AI to your customers. This session will highlight how these technologies work together, and provide code samples for CDC triggers.
Why should this be presented? I think it is important to know how to use CPQ and Einstein Vision for Marketing, as this is not a topic that is talked about much. This session is for architects, developers and admins.

Let’s start with what’s working. There are good things about this submission:

  1. The title is short and clear.
  2. The abstract doesn’t go on and on, and it talks about a specific takeaway (the code samples).
  3. There is a ‘why’, and the submitter identified some audiences that would benefit from the session.

So what’s off here?

  1. The session refers to a Mix of Specific Products, All By Brand Name and In Really Prominent Ways (vs. a problem statement, with product names mentioned only as a way to clarify the details about what solution will be discussed)
  2. The abstract begins with a lot of jargon, and never has a clear problem statement. (i.e. WHY would you want to use this mix of technologies to improve Marketing? Or, what is the risk of NOT considering this kind of solution?)
  3. The mix of products is not a common combination for the use case or industry (and our fictional example also holds potential anti-patterns).
  4. The odd mix of products isn’t clearly tied to an actual use case or example.
  5. The ‘why’ section doesn’t actually provide a single, clear reason why an audience member would need to know this information.
  6. The ‘why’ section indicates roles that would benefit from the session, but doesn’t provide any clear takeaways for the roles.

This combination can make it seem as if this session is trying to please people at Salesforce, by using technologies that we’ve been promoting. Or maybe it’s aimed at helping the speaker build a unique kind of ‘expertise’ on their resume, with the mix of products sprinkled throughout the session. But what is clearly missing is how this session could actually provide value for a Dreamforce audience.

Dreamforce is the biggest stage in our Salesforce ecosystem, and there’s nothing wrong in wanting to contribute your ideas and your voice and experience to that stage. What won’t serve you well is writing a session submission entirely based on the idea of being on that stage. It’s a good idea that gets you on the stage—and makes you successful once you get there.

I say this as someone who used to also be a Salesforce customer and also worked for a partner, who submitted to the Admin and Developer CFP to share my ideas at Dreamforce. And I also had to guess at what a strong session submission might be, what topics would be judged as useful or timely or relevant by the teams selecting for the Admin and Developer tracks.

After being on both sides of the submission equation, I realize I used to spend way too much time worrying about what ‘Salesforce’ would think about my submission, instead of just focusing on creating a session that would be useful to people like me or my colleagues. Or I too often dismissed session ideas that came from the stuff I actually dealt with over and over in my job, because I worried that it wouldn’t seem cutting-edge enough or technically complex.

Things to keep in mind for next year

Your submissions are reviewed and shepherded through the process by a bunch of folks who:
1. Really, really know Salesforce products
2. Really, really care about making people who use those products wildly successful

If I can give you any advice about being better set for success in future years, it’s to focus on adding genuine value, based on your own experience. That’s what the best sessions bring to Dreamforce, and to any event. Talk about the things that really motivate you, not the things you think (or hope) will look good on LinkedIn or your company Chatter or intranet.

If your session wasn’t selected, I hope you find ways to continue to share your ideas and refine your presentation in the coming year. For a look at what you can expect to see for Admins, Developers and Architects at Dreamforce, tune into episode 6 of the Road to Dreamforce on October 8.

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Behind the Scenes of the Architect Track at Dreamforce ‘19