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Reading Tammy Powlaspost on the call for session proposals at SAP TechEd, I decided to chime in and encourage people (you!) to stand up and volunteer as TechEd speakers. Why? Because in my humble opinion, it’s one of the greatest and most rewarding experiences an SAP professional can make.

My premiere as an SAP TechEd speaker

The first time I spoke at an SAP TechEd was in Berlin 2008. I was neither an SAP employee nor an SAP Mentor than (the latter has been fixed by now ;)), and SAP was less open then but in the process of becoming more open with respect to the wider SAP community. For the first or second time, there had been an open call for session proposals in SCN, and I had thrown my hat into the ring and felt immensely honored to be invited to speak at TechEd.

I wanted to speak about an interesting topic, so naturally, I chose one that was way out of my comfort zone and that forced me to learn a lot in the process of creating the session and preparing to deliver it. I always do that, because it’s a great way to expand my horizon and challenge myself to learn new things. That sort of commitment is a good way of creating a lot of pressure on myself to get down and dirty and learn enough about a subject to stand before an audience of two hundred people, some of whom are much more knowledgeable about the subject than I am, and some of whom might turn out to be hecklers, and still deliver a good and honest session.

Stage fright and adrenaline

There’s always an element of stage fright, but that’s natural and actually improves the quality of the preparation, the focus, and the intensity of the session. That’s good, even though it might involve nightmares of being booed and shooed off the stage.

My own experience is that once the session begins, the stage fright goes away and what remains is an intense, almost dream-like state where my focus on the session content and the audience is almost total. If you haven’t tried public speaking, then you wouldn’t believe how much information an audience sends to a speaker. Delivering a session, if you pay attention to your audience, is actually a very intense and information-rich dialogue, and I daresay that more information flows from the audience to the speaker than vice versa. Imagine processing an information stream from two hundred people, all signaling at once with their eyes, facial expression, body posture, etc. how interesting (or not), comprehensible (or not), relevant (or not), funny (or not), and so on the content you’re delivering this very second is to them. Working with that constant feedback allows me to adapt the session to the audience’s needs and make it more interesting to them by modifying the emphasis on certain areas, level of detail, or aspects of my speech such as speed, tone, volume, modulation, and so on.  The adrenaline helps with that.

What is it good for?

There’s a long list, and I don’t think I can capture It all, but here are some reasons to do it:


  • Connecting with the audience is an awesome experience.
  • You learn a lot about the subject.
  • You learn a lot about public speaking.
  • It boosts your self-confidence.
  • It boosts your professional reputation.
  • You get a free conference pass.
  • It might open doors – sitting in your audience might be your next employer or big client.
  • You become (if you aren’t already) a member of the community of expert contributors to the SAP community.
  • You get to meet people who want to talk to the speaker – I’ve made wonderful connections this way.
  • If you become an ASUG speaker, you might get to meet Tammy Powlas, who is one of the good souls of the SAP community and a great mentor. Tammy always encourages people to go one step further and offers them opportunities to learn and grow.

Take action now

To quote the title of Tammy’s blog: Don’t Glance at this Last Chance to Submit your ASUG Abstract to SAP TechEd.


  1. Think of two or three real-world stories that would be worth people’s time.
  2. Describe them briefly.
  3. Don’t worry about not knowing everything. The things you know will easily fill one or two hours, nobody knows everything, when somebody asks you a question you can’t answer, it’s perfectly okay to say: “I don’t know that.” I do it all the time.

Do it now – you have ten minutes of work to lose, and a fantastic experience, and possibly a career as an expert community member, to gain.

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34 Comments

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  1. Tammy Powlas

    Lovely blog, Thorsten, and thank you for chiming in.  I agree it is a great opportunity for all the things you said.

    I forgot to add on my own post of the great speaker support that SAP provides in the SAP Speaker Ready room – true thanks to the team behind that – and I must single out Audrey Stevenson for all the help she gave me last year.

    Here is the link to submit.

    Best regards,

    Tammy

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    1. Thorsten Franz Post author

      Oh, right! And special food for speakers – in some locations better food, such as sushi! How could I forget to mention that! 🙂

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  2. Richard Duffy

    I would love to present a few sessions at TechEd but unfortunately it keeps telling me SAP employees cannot submit sessions….any workaround for this?

    Richard

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    1. Tammy Powlas
      Richard,   Thank you for your Interest but this is for non-SAP speakers  I believe SAP had a separate call for SAP speakers, separate from ASUG  Regards, Tammy
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  3. Joshua Fletcher

    Excellent advice Thorsten. I can really relate to picking a topic that is outside your comfort zone – I use this as a way to ‘encourage’ myself to learn as much as possible about a new topic, but it always helps you grow.

    I always have nerves up until the presentation, but as soon as it starts it all melts away.

    I haven’t yet had the privilege to speak at TechEd, but I’m going to submit some abstracts now! 🙂

    Josh

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  4. Robin van het Hof

    An excellent and enticing blog post!

    By the very way you conveyed your message here, I felt like a Labrador puppy running up and down the stairs, full of high energy to jump in too — if only I could think of a TechEd-worthy topic… 😕

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  5. L. van Hengel

    Hi Thorsten,

    I recognize all the experiences you mention in this great blog. In 2008 at SAP TechEd Berlin I also had the privilege to host a session 🙂 . To this day I remember this session as one of the highlights of my career. Speaking at any event is still way out of my comfort zone, but I love doing it more and more and the feedback and recognition is really worth it.

    Leo

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  6. Peter Langner

    Hi Thorsten,

    thank you for engouraging me to get active. Do you know, when the dateline for TechEd Amsterdam is and where to submit my proposal for a session? The page Tammy  mentioned is for Las Vegas only.

    Peter

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  7. Jan Laros

    Hi Thorsten (and Tammy),

    You’ve inspired me to submit a topic to speak about. I see this call for action is just for Las Vegas and ASUG members, but those are just details.

    I think it’s important that people who think to have something interesting to say, should feel a bit obliged to submit a session. All visitors of SAP TechEd most likely have visited or contributed to #SCN, so by providing them with a session is a way of giving back to the community. And of course all the advantages that Thorsten sums up are true benefitis for speakers as well.

    Now to find a way to actually submit my topic(s), because I am unable to submit on the link provided by Tammy Powlas Any tips?

    Regards,

    Jan

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    1. Tammy Powlas

      Hi Jan – it looks like the link to submit went down early 🙁  

      I am sorry – I have contacted the SAP TechEd content team to get it re-opened – please be patient as it is a holiday weekend here in the U.S. and that team is on the West Coast.

      I will post when it is reopened.

      Thank you for your interest.

      Regards,

      Tammy

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  8. Kumud Singh

    Hi Thorsten,

    I am sure many would get motivated to participate after reading this blog. I can’t share expereinces of speaking at TechEd (as I have not spoken at any TechEd so far but would try this time) but I could relate with my experience of training new joinees in the team. Sometimes, the questions asked are amazing. In a workflow training, suddenly a question popped up “Why are there two graphical windows in SWDD screen”? (it was simple but they could figure it out so quickly!) Another one “When a mail is sent from workflow, can I see the mail as I can see in Sent items folder in outlook”?

    I had absolutely great time answering the questions and I myself learnt that trainings always follow bidirectional learning path.

    Audience may be new to the speaker’s topic but they could relate it with their areas of work and come up with astounding questions.

    May be next time, I would have better and broader experience to share with you. 🙂 Thanks!

    Regards,

    Kumud

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  9. Luke Marson

    Super post Thorsten and I really like the tips you provide. I always encourage people to talk, even if it is outside of their comfort zone. In fact, I encourage it more when it is outside of their comfort zone.

    Best regards,

    Luke

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  10. Jyoti Sharma

    Hi Thorsten,

    This is a great post and will inspire many to attempt a debut. I am not sure if I have missed the deadline but will definitely give it a try. i especially liked your piece on the exchange that happens with the audience, that is the most fulfilling part for me in public speaking.

    Warm Regards,

    Jyoti

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  11. Christina Miller

    Thanks for this awesome blog. I sure hope it encouraged a few more people to submit session proposals for the ASUG Customer sessions at SAP TechEd 2013 Las Vegas.  The call for proposals is now closed for Las Vegas, and the ASUG Design team is starting the difficult work of sorting through 350 proposals to find the sessions to approve for Las Vegas. 

    As for Amsterdam, we have a very different process for customer sessions.  The customer sessions are recruited through the customer reference team. If you want to present in Amsterdam, please email your topic idea to saptechedspeaker . info @ sap . com  so we can forward to that team.

    Regards,

    Christina

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  12. Muthu Ranganathan

    Great advise.Personally i have gained a lot speaking at Bangalore Teched every year for last 5 years. Its been a great experience and certainly makes you very popular. One main advise is it to focus on details while presenting at teched, its an event where people come in to learn details – technical, functional and product knowledge.

    Unfortunately over the years i have never had a chance to create my own presentation for Teched as i cover the sessions from other teched. But always ensure that i can bring my own views and thoughts in the session, and get the audience excited.

    Thanks for this blog !

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  13. Tom Van Doorslaer

    great motivational speech Thorsten!

    Presenting at TechEd is one of my personal goals. I just can’t decide what topic to talk about, and I always fear that my topic will be out-dated by the time I actually get to do the presentation 😆

    Maybe I should just go for it…. next year… #Procastinating

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  14. Susan Keohan

    Thorsten, once again you have written a thoughtful blog post – and of course – nailed it.

    In particular, I have found that being forced to prepare for a talk also reinforces your own knowledge, which is  a beautiful thing.

    There was an occasion when I was about to give a talk, and the A/V equipment went kerflooey.  The clock was ticking, the A/V person had been called.  But what to do in the meantime?  Stand there and stare at the audience?  I did acquire that dream-like state you speak of, and I realized I knew the material backwards, forwards, sideways, and inside-out. I would like to think that those next 15 minutes were the best 15 minutes of my public speaking ever.  I had no slides, I didn’t have to fuss with Powerpoint, I wasn’t trying to show specific things from the screen – I spoke about the topic.

    Of course, if anyone was in the audience that day, please don’t burst my balloon and tell me that I stunk, OK?  😉

    Cheers,
    Sue

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  15. Nidhi Singh

    Hi Thorsten,

            To the point ➕ inpiring contents. Persenting topic in TechEd was my wish but now after reading your blog I am plannign to convert wish into Goal.

    Many Thanks for directions.

    NidhiSingh

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        1. Thorsten Franz Post author

          Kavindra,

          Tammy has already answered it, but I just want to add that it’s different from year to year and from region to region. In the US, ASUG (the American SAP User Group) has a number of session slots they can fill – that is a great way for community members to contribute to the conference because ASUG publishes a call for speakers.

          Unfortunately, currently SAP doesn’t call for speakers outside SAP, so TechEd US remains an exception. I would love to see a public call for speakers for every TechEd and SAPPHIRENOW conference, though!

          Best,

          Thorsten 

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          1. Kavindra Joshi

            Hi Thorsten ,

            Thanks for the information. I am surprised why the policy differs from Geography to geography. For certification I knew there is a differential policy and now for tech-ed speakers 🙁 .

            SAP must have some “rationale” for this.

            ~Kavindra

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  16. Joachim Rees

    Hi Thorsten,

    “you have ten minutes of work to lose” -> that’s just for submitting your proposal, right?

    It would be interesting to know how much time you invested in total in preparation for your session – did you take any notes on that?


    best

    Joachim

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    1. Thorsten Franz Post author

      Joachim,

      It depends on how far I move out of the comfort zone for the particular session. Also, over  the years I’ve gotten better at using fewer slides, with less text, and speaking ad lib a lot during a presentation. In the past eight years, time for creating my TechEd slide decks has varied between 40 hours and 4 hours.

      Best,

      Thorsten

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      1. Joachim Rees

        Thanks Thorsten,

        that’s less then I would have expected!

        So max. 1 work-week (40 Hours) investment to hold a great TechEd session? Seems like a good deal!

        Best

        Joachim

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