The CRM and digital marketing game is one of many, many players. Every year a new crew of tools show up at the exhibition hall and we’re left to wonder which of them are in it for the long haul and which of them won’t be back next time around. We feel super passionately about the tools we use, and building trust with a new one is often a hurdle to jump over. It’s also a crucial role we play -- the advocate. Our goal is to wholeheartedly recommend what platforms are the perfect fit for each organization, and it’s our responsibility to stay up to date on what’s out there. Attending sessions at NTC embeds us in the conference community now, but we owe it to our clients to dedicate time to the vendors so we can ensure solid partnerships in the future.
About 1/4 of the NTC attendees I spoke to mentioned they felt at least somewhat anxious about being there. Common reasons included:
My organization invested in me being here. I feel pressure to make good on that investment.
I sense I’m getting value from this. But not in a way that I can report back to my manager.
I don’t feel present because my inbox is overwhelming. I have so much work to do.
It’s not always easy or even possible to make the case for investing the time, money and energy on opportunities that can lead to professional (let alone personal) unlockings. Often that value is not immediately clear or tangible, there’s no real way to measure it, and it may take on a completely different form you didn't expect.
For me, the value I get from NTC is taking part in a warm, caring, genuine community full of techies and problem solvers. At my first NTC three years ago I had to take a few moments after seeing Amy Sample Ward, NTEN’s CEO, on stage leading as her authentic self. NTC seeks to create an inclusive environment where you can reconnect with your people and/or yourself. And it sends a powerful message that it’s okay to do so in your own way.
This year I stepped on stage and presented to a large audience on what community building means in my life - a personal unlocking for me. And after my talk, I stopped into the quiet meditation room provided by NTC and took a nap - a conference first for me. I felt comfortable doing so because of my sense of belonging in the community NTC has created.
There’s always one conference session that sticks with me. This year at NTC, it was a session about using data to drive decision making and workplace culture.
As individuals, we already use data to drive personal decisions and lifestyle choices. Take your annual physical for example. We use data about our blood pressure, cholesterol levels and heart rate to verify that we are healthy. If the data indicates we aren't healthy, we can use those metrics to drive specific lifestyle changes.
I spent the rest of NTC considering what a non-profit’s annual physical would look like. Here are some questions we can ask to see if we’re part of a healthy, data-driven organization:
- Can we measure that? Measurement and management are related. If we can’t measure outcomes, we need to manage our programs/fundraising differently.
- What steps are we taking to make sure the data is impersonal? Facts are our friends. Best friends are brutally honest. Let’s make sure we’re showing true values, not just the ones that support our opinions.
- Are we focusing on our next logical audience? We all agree that 18-35 is a desirable demographic. But is it logical for us to pursue them right now? Who is most likely to engage with us next and how do we get to them?
- Do we have an integrated ecosystem? Do all our digital tools play nicely together? Are we taking action to make sure that they continue to do so?
- Are our team members empowered? Do they feel ownership over our data and systems? No one asked for the intern to bring that data to the meeting, but she went ahead and did it anyway!
As Salesforce consultants - or as I’m thinking of it now, primary data care providers - our goal is to help make sure that our clients can always answer these questions with YES!
Now go ahead and treat yourself to that extra slice of pie chart.
It was my second week as a Solutions Engineer at OpenTent, and I wasn't sure what I was walking into exactly. I wanted to cram as much information into my head that I thought might be meaningful to our clients. This was difficult since I didn't really know our clients yet (and I'm still learning). While I did take away some useful knowledge about tools, processes, security, privacy, learning styles, requirements gathering, etc, I was most struck by the genuine nature of everyone at the conference. I've never been in a place surrounded by people doing such incredible work, but talk so common-place about it like it's no big deal.
One of the most moving moments for me was when the keynote speaker, Idalin Bobe had everyone stand and chant an Assata Shakur quote: "It is our duty to fight for our freedom. It is our duty to win. We must love each other and support each other. We have nothing to lose but our chains." It was in those first few hours of the conference that I realized I had made the right decision to join the OpenTent team.
This was my fourth NTC, and it was the best one yet. My first NTC (in San Jose) was just me, and I knew only one person there. This year we had six OpenTenters (!!!), one of our incredible clients (Laura Belinfante from Repair the World), and I got to reconnect with several amazing professionals I’ve come to know and learn from: Katie McFadden and Cat Monaghan (Common Voyage); Brad Struss (Bigger Boat Consulting); Brian Pickett (North Peak); Josh Aranda (Mission Matters Group); Russ Feldman (Mission Professionals); and Isaac Shalev (Sage70) - who was my one person I knew in San Jose!
Spending time with those delightful people was truly uplifting. It gave me a deep feeling of gratitude that I get to work in such a meaningful field with so many good-hearted and collaborative professionals. I’m already psyched for the next NTC (Baltimore!) and getting to keep meeting more potential collaborators and friends.