10 Lessons I Learned From My First Dreamforce

Jonathan Keel, Noe Tamez & Trailhead Bear at Dreamforce 2015

Last year, I had the privilege of attending my very first Dreamforce. Although you hear the stories about Dreamforce, you just never know what to expect and it didn’t disappoint. Words cannot describe how massive this event is. I’ve attended other large technical conferences before like JavaOne back before Oracle bought it and Java was considered king, and the ServerSide Conference in Las Vegas but neither of those conferences match up to what you’ll experience at Dreamforce.

What makes Dreamforce different? Dreamforce is part technical conference, part business conference and part self-marketing and networking all rolled up into one huge conference. Sure you could choose to only stick to one silo but part of the fun is to branch out, meet new people and see what’s next for Salesforce and you.

I’ve put together a list of things I learned and took away from my first Dreamforce that will help you get the most out of your week.

 

1. Be flexible with your schedule

Sure you booked a full day of sessions but if an opportunity comes up to network and build a relationship, go with the flow and see where it leads. Most of the sessions will be available online for you to review but you’ll never get a chance again to meet someone new and make a connection.

In my case, I had worked as a remote consultant for a company prior to attending Dreamforce. A couple of those colleagues reached out to me and offered to meet in person and have breakfast. Yeah I had sessions already booked but where else would I get the chance to meet face-to-face with them? You never know where that will take you next. Put your “Type A” personality aside and just go with the flow. You won’t regret it.

 

2. Leave some gaps in your schedule to allow for exploring the Expos, Dev and Admin areas

When I created my agenda my thought process was to get the most out of the conference by jamming my schedule full of sessions. That’s great but you need to build in gaps between your sessions to allow for exploring.

Dreamforce takes over blocks and blocks of San Francisco. Go and explore that. You’ll stumble upon expos where you can talk directly to reps, smaller sessions, hands-on labs and fun treasure hunts. If you’re running session to session you’ll never have time to hit them.

 

3. Drink lots of water and stay hydrated

This one might seem weird but I bet you won’t run across this tip too often in other Dreamforce posts, but keep hydrated. It’s very easy to lose track of time and go, go, go without drinking water. You’ll be walking all over San Francisco, hitting sessions, talking to people but if you don’t stay mindful about it, you could dehydrate yourself without even knowing it. Fill your bottle with water and remember to drink it.

 

Jonathan Keel, Noe Tamez & Trailhead Bear at Dreamforce 2015

Not only did I go to my first Dreamforce but I also met the TrailHead Bear (that’s me on the right)

4. You always have an opportunity to meet someone new and network

Look I get it, especially if you’re in IT. Most people in IT don’t like talking to strangers. We all have a little “Elliot” from Mr. Robot in us but trust me. Get out of your comfort zone and meet someone new. I’m not asking you to make life long friends with someone, just exchange a few words with someone new and expand your horizons.

I know what that little voice in your head is saying right now: I’ll be too busy and won’t have a good opportunity to meet someone new. Well here are a couple of scenarios that are perfect for striking up a conversation:

  • Sitting next to someone before a session starts
  • Walking around an expo
  • Standing in line
  • Riding the shuttle bus
  • After the concert

 

5. Take a tablet instead of a laptop

Again you’re going to be walking around all over San Francisco. If you’re like me, you’re going to wake up, head to the conference and not go back to your hotel until the evening.

Sure you might think what’s a couple of extra pounds between a laptop and a tablet. Trust me, by 4pm those extra couple of pounds in your backpack will feel like tons. Don’t forget the extra weight needed for the charging cord either. Take a tablet instead. You can just as easily take notes with a tablet and normally tablets will last you all day while a laptop may not.

The only time I suggest taking a laptop is if you’re doing a hands on development session that requires coding. When I went, I was unable to use the Developer Console but maybe it has changed since then. Test it out before you head to the conference and make the call.

 

6. Be the first to start the conversation

Similar to number 4 above but the difference here is I’m suggesting you need to start the conversation. It’s human nature to avoid talking to someone you don’t know. The other person is thinking the exact same thing. So be the rebel, be the brave one and start the conversation. Chances are the other person will be glad you took the leap of faith and reciprocate with a great conversation.

Don’t think about it, just do it.

Once you get the conversation started, just let it naturally progress. Don’t shoehorn a sales pitch and try and sell your company or product. If you automatically go into sales pitch mode, the other person will look to end that conversation and move on. If it’s meant to be, it will happen organically.

 

7. Have a clear idea of how to explain what you do and who you work for

This one might seem unusual but trust me on this. This especially applies if you’re a consultant or selling a Salesforce product or app.

Eventually when you strike up a new conversation you’ll be asked what your do. You’ll be surprised at how often people don’t have a clear and concise way to explain what it is they do. Before you head to the conference, take some time to think about this and have an small outline formed in your head so you’ll be ready when someone asks.

 

8. Remember who you’ve met

Over the course of the conference you’ll meet new people and exchange business cards. You’ll also be attending sessions, learning new tips and techniques, essentially overloading your brain with information.

On top of that if you didn’t read this blog post you’ll also be dehydrated from a lack of water so basically, your brain my not be firing on all cylinders. So when you meet new people and exchange business cards, write down some quick notes about the person on the back of their card so you’ll remember them better when you get back home.

 

9. Don’t let the connection end at Dreamforce

Now that you have their business card and you wrote down the notes to help remember them better. Don’t let that connection die once you leave the conference. Find that person on Linkedin and send them a request. Again, take the initiative as you’ll never know where it can lead.

Also, don’t send the canned response that Linkedin creates. Take the time, add in the small details about how you two met and add it to your request. Not only will it jog the other person’s memory about you but it will also demonstrate to that person that you remembered them well. You’re more likely to remember someone that added a personal touch to a Linked request.

 

10. Take advantage of all the freebies

Although the free continental breakfast and lunch are good, you can also visit restaurants close to the convention center that offer a free full meals if you allow them to scan your badge. We attended a breakfast at the Grove that was run by Salesforce Pardot and got an amazing breakfast and some free books.

Also the close proximity of the tables at many of these locations allow you to strike up the conversation I mentioned above. Remember you always have an opportunity to meet someone new.

I hope some of these tips will help you out, whether this is your first Dreamforce or your 5th. Make the most of this week!