Episode 38: Higher Education & Stagecraft with Corey Snow
Corey Snow is the Senior Director for Higher Education over at Salesforce.org. He has been with Salesforce since its pioneer days. He has seen first hand how it has grown up and become a professional business unit.
In his time at Salesforce, Corey has also overcome his fear of public speaking. He now gives presentations for a variety of events, webinars, and summits. In this episode, he shares with us his story and stagecraft strategies.
- The custom products for higher education Salesforce is producing.
- Higher Ed Summit and how it plays into the production of Salesforce products.
- Corey’s empowerment journey towards public speaking.
- The challenges and lessons Corey has learned through the submission process.
- His process for practicing for his speaking sessions.
- How he views and overcomes imposter syndrome.
Corey: So, I went out and I found some boards and I started asking questions because I got dreadfully stuck. I had no idea what I was doing. And people reached out to help me. First person said, hey, that’s really hard. Let’s get on a call. And they helped me for an hour. And I thought, well, that’s a little odd. Thank you. I, you know, I don’t know you. And then, you know, then a week later, somebody else did the same thing. And so what I was encountering was I didn’t even know like, this was so strange. But the second person said to me, and I remember this now, but it didn’t stick at the time. That person said, that’s what we do here. And I thought, here, what are you talking about? Right? I’ve been in technology for a really long time. There is no here.
Josh: That is Corey Snow, Senior Director for Higher Education over at Salesforce.org. I’m Josh Birk, developer evangelist for Salesforce. And here on the Salesforce Developer Podcast, you’ll hear stories and insights from developers for developers. Today we sit down and talk with Corey on a wide variety of topics, including his work with the community is a unique experience with stagecraft. But let’s start with his career at Salesforce.org.
Corey: Yeah, so I’ve been close to Salesforce. org since it was the foundation, and maybe there were 35 employees and right knew most of them. And that was a different time since I was in nonprofit before, before I was in higher ed. And, you know, salesforce.org has grown up over time. There’s just so many more nonprofit education institutions on the platform that no it’s a pretty pretty sizable business unit and become very professional. In fact, you know, we’re producing actual, you know, custom products for the education market custom products for the nonprofit market. And these are not things that that existed when I first started. reframing Salesforce had already gotten really too small to be doing a lot of those investments. So honestly, the community built a lot of things partly because Salesforce started didn’t have the sort of internal capacity to do it back in the Pioneer days. Things like mpsp, which is the most installed app on the appexchange something that most folks don’t know, that was actually built by the community. Yeah. And, you know, we know who those people were, and they’re, they’re amazing, and they’re all sort of my mentors and, and folks who I’ve known for some time. So, you know, I think that early community, a lot of them were actually hired by Salesforce. org. So by the time I moved to Salesforce that Oregon felt like I was just going off to work with all my closest friends. Gotcha.
Josh; Nice. Can you describe some of those custom products that you’re talking about for higher education?
Corey: Yeah, so we’re very excited to have Salesforce advisor link. is really the first kind of package product that Salesforce that are built for the education market. And this is really very much tailored to the idea of academic advising. Yeah. And it’s really, it’s really great to have been able to build something that’s specific for education. where, you know, in the past, it was largely about repurposing things that were built for, for other industries. So that was a really good start. And recently, we’ve announced and we’re, you know, busily working away on a package for recruiting and admissions, which I think will be just really game changing for industry. You know, as you know, sales, kind of everybody knows, right, Salesforce is in an intake machine. I mean, it’s really built to do that out of the box. And so we’re really taking the power of the platform and typing it for specifically for intake for higher education. And I think that’s, that’s pretty helpful. I think we’re at I’d say higher education, I have to remember that we’re serving the K 12. market now too. And I think that a lot of even nonprofit, sort of nonprofits who have educational missions might also benefit from our recruiting admissions package. I say that having worked in a nonprofit that was also an educational institution.
Josh: Got it. Got it. And how do higher ed summit’s play into the production of these products?
Corey: Oh, higher ed summit. So that was my favorite technology Event of the Year for for these many years. It always felt like serve our Higher Ed Super Bowl. And you know, it started before I was involved in higher ed. But groups grew so much to the point where I think you know, had we had the in person event in Indianapolis this year, we were looking at maybe 3000 participants. Wow is you know, triple what it was the first one from the first one. I went too. And, you know, I think by making it virtual, there are some, certainly some things that are lost in a virtual event. And we’re all experiencing that. And in the COVID era, there are some things that are gained. So we have already got more registrants than 3000 because, you know, the ability to participate is just is so much greater. Right. And I think we’re seeing this with just with Salesforce events of all kinds that you know, the ability to participate, enables more people to be part part of the whole thing. So one of the things that we did virtually for the first time ever was something we hold called the open source sprint. And I think you had Jason Lance on on your show. Recently. He’s a big proponent of open source software. Yeah. And we actually hold held, you know, on pretty short notice and, you know, props to Judy stone and and her team for as the organizers being able to turn this around in only a few weeks, but you know, we virtualized that event and had typical participation hadn’t even been in person. But we had folks from India, we had folks from, you know, all over the globe. And one of my favorite things was that if we’re working on something, and we come along, we say, Well, you know, who knows a lot about that. Let’s just call him up. Right? So we have folks coming in to participate in the sprint for, you know, 30 minutes just to bring their one little bit of expertise to the table. Right, that’s pretty empowering. So you know, there is some gains in in our virtualized world. I’ve been able to attend community group meetings from all around the globe. I did a couple weeks where I tried to hit you know, all six continents because I don’t think we have any Salesforce community groups in Antarctica yet. But I was doing pretty well. And it was just so interesting to you know, I was meeting people I never would have otherwise met Yeah, so there are definitely some, you know, advantages of the cove era.
Josh: So yeah, that’s interesting. I do want to note that Jason definitely brought up the idea that even when they go physical again, that there probably will be some kind of a virtual counterpart in order to kind of keep some of that going. So out of curiosity, what was the format of the higher ed summit in the physical realm? And how do you see that moving into the virtual?
Corey: Well, I’m excited. I don’t know if this is safe harbor or not. But I’m excited to have gotten a little bit of a preview on the experience today, and I think people will be pleasantly surprised at how quickly some of the vendors who support events have already improved that kind of event experience into the end of the COVID era. I was very impressed. I you know, I thought that, you know, someday you know, because The COVID era people will invent better event experiences. They’re already on it. Right? You know, they’ve got some kind of, you know, corollaries of the in person experience like lobbies and breakout rooms and what’s on the main stage? So just very impressed by what’s happening and you know, I think people will be, who can hire at summit will be surprised how much of the experience can transcend space and time.
Josh: Nice. Okay, so let’s step back in time a little bit, because I think this was in your earlier days as at least like maybe VP or pre MVP days, but but you had a very specific goal when it came to public speaking What was that?
Corey: Ah, good. So in 2016, I started doing more presentations. I just done a few maybe six, including a speaking engagement at dreamforce. And a lot of folks were telling me that they were getting a lot out of it. Out of these presentations, which I didn’t really expect, because I’m not something I had much practice at. So I didn’t think I’d be much good at it. Worse, I have this thing called glossa phobia, which is fear of public speaking. And it turns out that, you know, I did a little research into it at the time because I thought it’s so strange that I have so much anxiety around being on stage. Well, it turns out that 74% of people have claustrophobia. Oh, and public speaking is rated number one on people’s top fear list above death itself and many things that actually would kill you.
Corey: And I thought this is really strange. So I you know, I asked around, dug into it a little more. And this is a primal thing because, you know, public speaking or just, you know, standing out in your tribe right is an opportunity to say something wrong or do something wrong. We’re in person. More times may have caused you to be cast out of the tribe, which was, you know, essentially a death sentence. You know, in a, in a kind of Stone Age era, right. So, I think we carry this forward and our lizard brains as a as a really big fear. Yeah. And the other thing I learned just from asking the folks who were doing presentations who I admired most turns out most of them also were fearful of public speaking, they had imposter syndrome. And I thought, Well, wait a minute, if the presenters I admire most, who I’m getting kind of the most value from, are also afraid of public speaking, there must be something to it. So I don’t usually set new year’s resolutions, but in New Year’s 2017 I made to one of them was that I would be on 26 stages in 2017. And the other was that I would figure out this Twitter thing, which kind of didn’t make any sense to me, but I felt like I was missing out on a conversation. See those two things really changed the kind of arc of my career and in unexpected ways. You know, the Twitter thing has become my, you know, sort of this crazy trusted Learning Network, open all kinds of opportunities. I’ve met so many people, and then on the public speaking are, you know, I met my goal, like, I exceeded the 26 I got, I believe, 32. For the year, I was on 32 stages for the year and I counted a stage as anything where I had a prepared, you know, presentation on stage in front of people or, or webinar, you know, kind of corollary of that. And so I started doing a lot of presentations and then one of the things that happens when you do a lot of presentations is people ask you to do more presentations and I didn’t really know how to say no, because I’ve never had so many, so many invites in So in the first quarter of 2018 I was on 39 stages in one quarter, which is too many never do that. That’s too many. Yeah. And so, you know, I had to cut back on that. But I think the thing I really learned is that it wasn’t, it wasn’t so much that I needed to be on stage. It was more that what I learned in this sort of empowerment journey is that there are a lot of people with really great stories who are afraid to be on stage or don’t know they could be on stage or nobody’s asked them to be on stage. So I started doing that instead. So I use my community group platform as a means of organizing an event. So you know, a single you know, an all day event I might have 10 presentations that’s 10 people on stage telling stories that otherwise would not have been told. And then you know, the big combination of that was really northeast cream and so you know, we got got northeast cream and go in that was 36 stages to fill. And I was on the content group. No, which is a really, really great team. And that’s 36 stages with stories that would not have been told, and I’m on none of them. But we were really, you know, we’re really careful about saying, look, you don’t need any speaking experience, and we will have you and right down to will work with you on developing, you know, your presentation from the idea you submitted, all the way through to being on stage with you on the day to support you. Yeah. And this was all, you know, sort of from my, my base of being a fearful public speaker, I thought, if we’re going to create the best speaking experience anyone’s ever had, this is what you know, I would have wanted when I was, is starting out on doing a lot of presentations, right. That’s sort of the book on it.
Josh: Well, okay, so a couple follow up questions there. First of all, how did you come up with the number 26?
Corey: Well, I figured that I could do one every two weeks. So it was it was as simple as that. And then You know, I also figured I don’t have to really do one every two weeks. If I go to World Tour and I present three times, that’s three in one day, or if I go to pirate summit I present five times. That’s five in one week. So yeah, they tend to be clustered around events, john, and I would sort of throw extra events around the events, as well, you know, just to just to maximize it out, right. Yeah. Just to multiply that more stories.
Josh: Okay. So 26 is high enough and 39 is too high. What’s about right?
Corey: Well, I think 39 in one quarter is
39 in a year, you know, that might be that might be a stretch, but you know, I’ll tell you, and you know, you as someone who’s worked for Salesforce for a long time, I think, you know, for example, 12 presentations at dreamforce is too many
iJosh: s it’s it’s it’s way too many and let’s see Adams episode will have come up by now and we talked about this to a certain extent and from at events like Dreamforce, which is like roughly a week long, you know, you, you want to enjoy the event. And if you’re speaking even five times at Dreamforce, you’re going to be distracted a lot, and you’re not going to enjoy the event so much. So, you know, speaking once or twice at Dreamforce is still a huge achievement and just run with it.
Corey: Yeah, that’s funny, and it’s really not, it should never be about quantity. So sometimes I regret that I set a quantity goal, but it was more just challenging that version of me. Yeah, have a new version of me, that could be more courageous in in storytelling. And, you know, but not not for me for the value of sharing information with other people and enabling them, you know, to travel the journey that you know, that were other people that helped me so it was really just paying it forward. I had so many people in the Salesforce ecosystem that had enabled my career and I Oh, That back with interest. And so, you know, the the two people who reached out to me in those first few weeks when I was just getting started, I had a goal that I would help at least two other people with calls, you know, two hours of outreach and calls, I felt that that was what I owed back to the community so that my goal was always to have at least two hours of outreach calls. And, you know, I would find people who were posting things wherever on the Trailblazer community or, you know, on a Slack channel or on Twitter or anywhere, and if they look like, you know, I could help them, I would reach out and say, Hey, how about a call that I can probably help you through that? That was the way that I, you know, paid back a little bit of interest, what everyone else had given me over that time.
Josh: Gotcha. So let’s talk about some of those tips. I want to talk about stage craft. But before you can get on stage you have to Have a session that’s actually being accepted. So what are the challenges and lessons learned you’ve had through doing a submission process?
Corey: I do have a story around that. So for the the first higher ed summit, which was the first place that I thought I might use speaking in 2016, I submitted, I think, five, five sessions and none of them are accepted. Not even one. Gotcha. And so, I, you know, I tried to learn from that. So I actually looked at all the presentations that had been accepted. And I looked at presentations that hadn’t been accepted. And I started to kind of learn what the algorithm was for presentations that had kind of that right balance of being relevant to, you know, to the audience, and being really meaningful and empowering and part of it is sort of the the wording you know, trying to get, you know, a powerful message you know, in 80 characters is actually a special challenge. So I think for the next one I had, I had eight accepted, which was too many I had to cut back on that. But more importantly, I learned from that process, how to enable other people to do the CFP submission process. So I was able to get somewhere around I think is about 18 accepted presentations at the next higher ed summit that I had helped Shepherd people through. Yeah, just largely by just from my experience and what I was seeing, and also what I was hearing, and you’re kind of the market, I guess, of ideas for where things were trending and there wasn’t enough if there weren’t enough stories around it. You know, one of the things that we had in, in higher education was once people learn how to spell CRM, they started saying Well, that’s great. But maybe we want to communicate with those people, right? There was a secondary wave of interest in marketing tools and marketing automation. And when that wave hit, we didn’t actually have a lot of really great storytellers for that. So don’t try new if I could find folks who were able to do presentations on marketing, cloud par dot marketing automation, I knew that those were in demand and that you know, emerging technologies like Einstein, you’re definitely in demand. So, you know, things that were emergent, often have fewer experts to talk about them, then they have consumers who are interested. So there’s this sort of this arbitrage gap in the idea of market
Josh: and what’s what’s your process for putting the deck together and practicing for the session?
Corey: when I was when I was in even more fearful public speaker, right, I would spend 50 hours Probably preparing for a 40 minute session. Gotcha. I was so fearful, I would write out every word that I was going to say. I would practice it using all those words. And one of the things I’d find is that even if I did all that I would get on stage and I would forget, no matter how many times I practice it, right. So, and I think a lot of folks can relate to that. So I definitely had to cut back and I, you know, Mark baseman, who I’m sure you know, very well, Mark baseman is probably the person who more than anybody introduced me to the power of the Salesforce community. Yes. He was the nonprofit leader in Boston before he wound up working for Salesforce. org and then Salesforce comm as well. Yeah. He would talk about and he has a really great presentation he does on on being an improviser. And the thing is, if you have five presentations, In one day, you’re going to have to improvise. You spend 50 hours preparing for all of the all this presentation. So I think it’s much more important to put out what you’re hoping to convey and thinking about the messages that you want to convey, and worry less about the specific words. And I was always surprised that the words would come to me, even if I hadn’t read them written them down, right? This is still for me a giant leap of faith. Right? I’m talking. I’m talking to your audience. Now. I have no script. I’m just making this up as I go along. And I’m hopeful that when you ask me a question, that the idea is there and the words will follow, and sometimes they do and sometimes they don’t. But that’s, that’s just the reality. If you want to be out there, if you want to be sharing ideas, if you want to be helping other people, you’re going to have to take some risks. And this is, you know, one of those risks is that the ideas don’t come or the wrong words. Come, or you know the wrong words come at the wrong time, or the right words don’t come at the right time or whatever it may be. From here, it can be challenging. So you know, being on stages is a risk right away. And I haven’t found that hyper preparing helps me in any special way. Before my very first presentation at dreamforce, which I’d spent a lot of time preparing for. I actually by accident, ran into a session at dreamforce on the first day, just because the door was open. I didn’t even read the side. That was starting now. I’m standing here I’ve got an hour to kill. Yeah, I’m just gonna wander in and see what they have to say. Yeah, well, it turned out that it was being put on by the folks who make all the keynotes for Salesforce executives, and it was about how to put on a killer presentation. Yeah, and I went, I went home through the whole thing away and started again. Fortunately, my presentation was on day three. Yeah. And then I went back to I was staying with family and I, I practice in front of my 10 year old niece, if you want a tough audience is going to tell you what’s what, practice in front of a 10 year old girl. They’re gonna tell you eat and they’re gonna give you no slack. They’re unfiltered. There’s no one
Josh: more courageous than a 10 year old is perfect. Nice, nice. And I just have to echo some of those points, because I’ve coached a lot of people as well. And I’ve actually found that sometimes over preparedness can actually add anxiety to the speaker, because they realize that they’ve gone off script and they just sort of, you know, freeze when they’re doing like dry runs and stuff like that. And so that’s, you’re describing the style that that I eventually adopted over the years as well, where where every slide, I could remember key points that I was trying to describe, but basically it was improv is definitely a way to put it because it also felt like it was a more natural way of speaking to people. So I I think those are are excellent strategies.
Corey: Do you think that, you know, folks who have a technology background like, like us? You know, does it, it feels to me like many of us carry, maybe a greater fear of public speaking in a way. And maybe it’s because we’ve kind of selected to be technologists, we’re a little more back office in nature. We’re not it doesn’t seem to bring out folks who are extroverts, you know, the technology industry. So, you know, what do you find in that regard, you find that, you know, it takes a little extra to get somebody who’s a developer up on stage.
Josh: It definitely can. And it actually, when I was first talking to Dave Carroll about this job, which is just very much like that, right. Like it’s part development, part coding part technical enable, but in a lot of public speaking, and he’s like, he’s like one of the hard things to do is find somebody who’s really comfortable in all of those things. And I was lucky because not only was developer in a previous life, I was also a consultant. And as a consultant, I had to like sell people and technical ideas that may not be comfortable with them. But like members on my team, for instance, they didn’t have to do that, because I was the guy in the room doing that. And so I have had people who have submitted sessions in the past where they are very much they have a technical thing that they’re very much an expert on, but they’re not really sure how to how to frame it, and then how to sell it on stage. And, and some of the, I think you’re right, I think our demographic probably leans to that a lot. And I think it’s really good work to try to help them bridge that gap, you know, to get that technical information or that story that they have that may be unique to them, and help them you know, get that to stage. It’s one of the things I love about Dreamforce is I know that we have few success stories of that every every year, one of the years I did that the developer track we broke our record when it came to average survey scores. And when we did the end, you know, thank you to all our Speakers I just I just had to ask him like, how many of you are first time speakers like this was your first ever speakers, and about 30% of the people raised their hands. So to be able to get, you know, have a conference like that, and have all these people for community have that like really special moment. It was, it was really, really great. And I also have to admit, like self, I’m kind of a, I’m a closet introvert. And that probably will surprise some people since I think most of you have probably seen me at workshops and public speaking and things like that. But to follow up with with all of this, and I think you’ve touched on it a lot. It’s like, the other thing that’s hard for me is like doing things after the session like networking, and in talking to a lot of other people, but how has your experience been without because it sounds like it’s actually been very key to your success?
Corey: Well, I think like you I’m inherently an introvert. And the other thing I’ve learned is that most of the people who I admire, who do a lot of presentations are actually introverts and exploring that more. I think there’s a reason for it. I know folks who are introverts that are on a stage, they’re not on the stage for them right there to give for I don’t want to be on stages. That’s exhausting to them. Right. But they’re there. That means they’re going to be there for their reasons. Yeah, I think biases them towards having better, better presentations, jazz. Have you just that predisposition? And that’s something that I see among, you know, a lot of the folks I admire it’ll fall off shares is someone I really admire on stage and we often talk about how, you know, we’re both introverts, we talk about imposter syndrome is Salesforce MVP. Amy clinger has a whole support group you can join on imposter syndrome right now. She has a presentation on imposter syndrome. Yeah, we have that why you should own it. You know, in my my sort of whole theory on that is that we should always feel like imposters because we’re really pushing ourselves, if we’re really pushing towards our full potential, we’re always gonna feel uncomfortable. And we’re always gonna be imposters. And it’s actually a sign of learning because you’re an expert in something. But the perishability of knowledge in technology is really short. Right? You need to be a beginner at a whole lot of things, you know, you’re an expert at something, so that the next version of you can be that next expert in the right thing. Yeah. And that means that you’re an expert and an imposter at all times. And to the extent that you feel more like an imposter. That means you’re really pushing your bounds. Yeah. So that’s why you should own it.
Josh: And that’s our show. Now, before we go, I did ask Corey about his favorite non technical hobby and turns out there is something of a trend showing up here. And the fact that people who work in the digital world want to get their hands on the physical.
Corey: My favorite non technical hobby is building physical things. So You know, I mean, your day job is always building virtual things. I really enjoy building physical things. So I was coaching a coach youth robotics. So, you know, I really enjoy, you know, building robots. I’m building a barn in my backyard. I just I like building physical things when I’m kind of like off the virtual clock. And I think in a COVID era, that’s even more important because right, you’re staring at a screen for 18 hours a day. Yeah. Good to use your hands. Right.
Josh: Thanks for listening. Everybody in my thanks, Cory, for the excellent conversation. Now if you want to learn more about this podcast, head on over to developer/salesforce.com/podcast where you could hear old episodes, see the show notes and have links to your favorite podcast service. I’ll talk to you next week.