Session Selection at Southeast Dreamin’

Submitting sessions to conferences is a great way to hone your presentation skills, teach others and get your name out.  It’s a great feeling when your talk gets selected and a pretty lousy feeling when it doesn’t.  Knowing how session selection occurs behind the scenes can help you know how to make your session more appealing to the people deciding what sessions get chosen.

What makes a good session pitch

This topic has been covered at length by Salesforce on multiple occasions.  There are even some great articles from outside the Salesforce world.  So instead of covering those, let’s talk about what the Southeast Dreamin’ team looks for in a session pitch.

Clear Topic

Sometimes a concept or sentence that may seem clear to you, may not be when taken all by itself.  If we can’t envision the content of your session from the abstract, then your session isn’t going to be chosen.  The abstract field for session submission has room to for lots of text, use it!

Sales Pitches

We get it, you’ve got a company and an awesome product and you want the world to know about it.  Great!  If we had an unlimited amount of session slots we’d love to have a session on your product.  Since we don’t, we look for sessions that are useful to everyone based on the standard Salesforce platform.  This doesn’t mean that you can’t have part of your presentation demo an application, just don’t make your entire presentation be about your product.  Maybe show how you would do something on the platform and then how your product enhances or expedites that process.  If you still really want to show off your product, consider being a sponsor!  You’ll get a chance to show your stuff to all of our attendees.

Stats on Session Submission

Before we discuss how we actually picked the sessions we did, let’s show some stats on the number of sessions actually submitted.

Of the 83 sessions that were submitted, 29 of them were chosen to be presented (that’s 35%).

Session Selection Process

All sessions that were submitted via the website were inserted into a custom session object in the Southeast Dreamin Salesforce org.  After the deadline was reached for session submission, a member of the Southeast Dreamin team that was not involved in the session selection dumped all of the session names, abstracts, durations and track names into a google drive sheet without any identifying information.  Then, each member of the selection committee copied the sheet and gave a score to the session of 0 – 2.  These scores were then combined and shown next to the session information.  After all members voted on sessions, the team met over a video call and picked sessions.  Starting with the highest scoring sessions, the schedule was filled out based on the session’s duration and track.  A concerted effort was made to try to not overlap the non admin talks in order to give people a more sessions for a specific track.  After the highest scoring sessions were added to the calendar, the holes were filled by looking for sessions that fit a track and duration need in the schedule.

After the entire schedule was filled then the committee filled in the schedule with the names of the presenters.  If a presenter was listed for more than one session, an alternate session was chosen from the remaining proposals (continuing to choose from the highest scored).  The decision to try to limit the number of times a person presented during Southeast Dreamin’ was made in order to diversify the speaker pool as well as to give more people a chance to present.

Once the schedule was finalized, all speakers were notified if their session was accepted or not.  If a session’s speaker was no longer available for the conference, then the committee selected a different session for the pool of proposals and notified the new speaker.

How you can increase your odds next year

In addition to the ways we discussed earlier about making your session proposal stand out more, there are a couple of ways you can increase your odds of being selected next year.

Get out of your comfort zone

Think about submitting a session on something outside of the admin track.  As you can see by the graph above, more than half our sessions were for admins.  Because of the reduced developer / exec / nonprofit pool, we had to choose from lower scoring non-admin sessions to fill in the gaps.

Submit all the things!

While 83 submissions is nothing to laugh at, it’s only a 3:1 ratio of submitted sessions to session slots.  While we like our family and don’t want to have to spend 6 months digging through sessions submissions, we want more submissions.  If 10 people submit something on Process Builder and you submit one on Lightning Experience, your submission will stand out and may fill a hole that we’re looking for.