Dreamforce is only three months away. For first timers and even veterans, navigating the world’s largest independent software vendor conference can seem overwhelming. What activities do I prioritize? What is my overall objective in attending?
The five tips below can apply to attending any large conference, but especially apply to Dreamforce, where cruise ships are now needed to accommodate conference goers in a city where global tourism is a primary industry.
Tip 1: Pre-Plan
Showing up at Dreamforce without a plan is a recipe for frustration. There are simply too many options to try planning on the fly. The first step in pre-planning is figuring out what you want to get out of Dreamforce. Are you attending to improve your company’s Salesforce utilization? Exploring how to extend the Salesforce platform with AppExchange tools? Searching for networking opportunities and professional connections? All of the above?
If you are searching for apps, you will need to spend time in the Cloud Expo. Map out where your target vendors are as they are likely to be spread out, even if offering the same tools. Cloud Expo vendors are loosely grouped on the main show floor by Salesforce “pillar” (Sales Cloud, Marketing Cloud, Analytics Cloud, Services Cloud) but these floor sections alone are the size of many conferences and some vendors are located in Moscone West, which is in a separate building down the street.
If you hold a full conference pass (and you really need one to receive full value from the show), try to attend the Cloud Expo when it is open to only full conference pass holders. In addition to smaller crowds on the floor, vendors are often more focused on the “higher-value” attendees during these times.
Use the session builder on Dreamforce.com to build an agenda that reflects your interest and reserve seating in as many of these sessions as possible. Seek out key salesforce.com influencers such as sales gurus and Salesforce MVPs and see what they are up to (Twitter and Chatter are good places to start), whether its sessions, parties, or group events.
Arrive with a plan; you’ll be glad you did.
2: Find Your Niche
Dreamforce has a group for just about everyone: role, nationality, even gender. Most of these groups host some sort of function during Dreamforce week (GirlyGeeks, VetForce, French Delegation are just some examples). Use Google and Twitter to find out what groups are hosting events and get yourself invited. Remember, Dreamforce is as much about your growth as it is the company you are representing. The two concepts are not mutually exclusive.
3. Don’t Overextend
An easy thing to do with so many sessions and social activities. But with a good plan going in (see Tip 1) you can remain focused on both your corporate and personal objectives. Think about takeaways when planning your agenda: What information or insights are you expected to bring back to the home office and what do you hope to accomplish for yourself?
4. Don’t Obsess Over Celebrity Keynotes
Pick out two major keynotes to attend (the Benioff keynote should be a default pick). Most of the political and entertainment figures that grace the Dreamforce main stage have interesting things to say but queuing up for all the big names can be tiring and time intensive. And remember, all the major keynotes are live streamed on Dreamforce.com, so it may be more productive to catch one or two online rather than fight the crowds.
5. Take a Break during the Day
Don’t forget to take some time out during the course of every day to recharge (and I don’t mean just taking 20 minutes between the end of the sessions and the first happy hour you plan on hitting). The Howard St. “lawn” between Moscone North and South usually has some interesting entertainment going on and even games. I once took a break to play some bag toss (aka cornhole to Midwesterners) on the lawn and got a chance to engage with some new faces. Even better is to take a quick stroll off-campus. Dare to venture west of Market St., even if just for a few blocks, to take a break from the cacophony and clear your head. You’ll be better off for it.
I hope these tips help for starters. Look for another post here at pros.com with some more specific tips on maximizing your Dreamforce experience in mid-July.