How We Voted on Sessions for TND19
We were literally overwhelmed with the quantity and quality of session topics for True North Dreamin 19. We came into it hoping we would have enough submissions to be choosy, and designing a voting process that was just as limited. Boy oh boy, were we wrong in the best way.
While there was a large volume of submissions to review, we knew we had to have a baseline understanding among us as to what was important to our event and our attendees. Here are the things we took into account:
Catchy title - We all love to go to a wittily-titled session
Key takeaways in the abstract - We want to make sure that our attendees are able to walk away with actionable knowledge and not have unclear goals for the session’s purpose
Blind voting - None of us are new to this whole Community thing on the Organizing Team, so we want to make sure our biases didn’t inform our choices for Round One Votes. That meant all personally identifiable information was removed from the session for Round One. The session had to stand on it’s abstract and title to be voted forward.
Location is important - We want this event to be for Canadians and by Canadians, but there are way too many amazing folks in this Ohana that don’t live within our borders. We also want this event to help grow our Canadian Ohana, which means giving some Canadians their first chance to present was high on our list.
Multiple Sessions/One Speaker - We want to give the opportunity to speak to as many folks as possible, which means not having a ton of duplicate speakers. And let’s be honest, there were a ton of great sessions that didn’t get selected because we had already chosen the highest rated session from that speaker.
So with that baseline in mind, we set to two rounds of voting for the Voting Team. Here’s what we all looked for.
I’m a sucker for a catchy title. Work in a pop culture reference, even better! But you of course then need the content to back it up. Catchy title and bland abstract? Nope. Think about what your key take aways will be and the journey you hope take your audience on.
Also, less is more - don’t write an essay. You need to grab the reader’s attention in the first sentence, and then wrap it up with no more than 3-4 sentences total.
Double check your whole application! In this day and age we know that these sorts of forms sometimes get autofilled by your browser trying to be helpful, but sometimes it overwrites certain fields. ALWAYS double check every field of your application.
I love Customer stories and seeing how people like me are doing things I haven’t done before. I also want to walk away with steps I can take to skill up, enhance my org, and expand my skillset. I looked for sessions that people could learn from, not necessarily make purchasing decisions from.
I also want to hear stories about professional growth from my Ohana. I know how personal the Salesforce Life can be, and I take deep inspiration from meeting folks who have overcome in order to succeed.
Self Promotion.Self Aggrandizement. Narcissism. This community is what it is and grows because of people who give and serve, not those who take the spotlight for their own self-interests. Ain’t nobody got time for that.
Selling your product. Don’t get me wrong, I want to learn about products...badly. AppExchange partners are the ligaments to the Platform’s backbone. But I don’t want to be sold to, I want to LEARN. And I believe that difference was evident in the intention of the proposal writer and the abstract they submitted.
The first round of the selection process, we were asked to score each of the submitted abstracts - blind. Without personally identifiable information for the potential speakers, we voted on the strength of the content, and the content alone. I was really impressed with this process, and how we were able to “judge” without letting those unconscious biases come into play.
I looked for abstracts that indicated the speaker was going to show me how to use a Salesforce feature or how to solve a business need. I want to walk away from a session knowing that I learned something concrete that I can use in my job. I’ve attended too many sessions where speakers talked at a high level about something but offered no practical guidance on how to solve the problem.
I also looked to screen out sessions that were hidden attempts to sell a product or service. If the session is about a product, tell me that in the Title or call it out directly in the abstract. Don’t try to sneak a 40 minute commercial past me.
I liked that we started the process with the blind voting. There were no other things to pay attention to - no names, companies, location - except for the abstract content. That provided the opportunity to consider various factors, like if the session is bringing something new or is it high level overview of the things that can easily be found in Salesforce documentation. It was easier to see if proposal is actually a hidden sales pitch or someone’s experience that we all should learn from.
It was really great seeing so many different content and we tried to include every aspect that Ohana thought we should know about. So we have embraced diversity and made a colorful session choice, from sessions that cover strictly technical topics to those talking about business processes and career development. We also included the ones focused strictly on one role (Admin, Developer..) and others who will be useful for everyone in the Salesforce ecosystem. We wanted our attendees to get more engaged with latest technologies, but also learn more about Trailblazer community and how they can get involved.
The fact that so many Canadian Trailblazers submitted their session proposals that were never presented before proved that organizing Canadian Dreamin event was the right move.
It is really interesting to see how different people interpret the prompts to submit a track, and I was really excited to see the diversity of topics across the board. Our blind voting made it easier to whittle down the sessions without biasing with names/companies, and I think that was a really important step to ensure we were being fair in the voting process. All in all this has taught me how to submit my own tracks - include what you think people will learn, include a bit more information about what you will cover in clear concise bullets, and a catchy title never hurts! Thank you to all the people who submitted and spent the time to thoughtfully prepare their content. I can’t wait to see these sessions in person in July!
From each of us on the voting team, we thank you heartily for your submissions and can’t wait to see you at TND 19.