If you are lucky enough to be one of the thousands of people attending the worlds largest technology conference Dreamforce at the end of September, you are one of the lucky ones. If this is not going to be your first trip you are even luckier.
Dreamforce, the biggest event on the Salesforce calendar each year looks to be shaping up bigger and better than before (and why would it not be?). I was one of the lucky ones to attend back in November last year and am also attending again this year.
Why one Dreamforce is never enough
Dreamforce is something I have wanted to attend for years, and if like me you are not based in the U.S. it can be a tough sell. Along with the costs of the ticket you have to think about flights, hotels along with food and travel expenses. This can amount to thousands of pounds to cover just four days. Last year I did my pitch, and it worked, and I got the funding to go.
Although I prepared a lot, nothing could truly prepare me for the journey I was about to embark on. For me this was an 11 hours trip to a country I had never visited, to spend a week in a new city and spend a week surrounded by over 170,000 other trailblazers.
All of this led to a slight overpowering of the senses; I did not get a full grasp of where everything was, how to get around the city and where I can pace myself a little bit. To top it off I was flying solo meaning; I had nobody to fall back on.
This is why I believe that the more you attend Dreamforce, the more you will get out of it. You can be prepared from real life situations, you have a better understanding of sessions that you will get value out of and the types of other activities you will get value from, and I am sure you will have a better eye on swag to collect.
Attending the right sessions
With over 2,700 sessions to chose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. This is why I am a firm believer in planning. Decide on the topics and platforms you want to learn more about, speak with people within your business about what they would like to learn more about and figure out your knowledge gaps.
Get onto the Dreamforce website and bookmark, bookmark, bookmark! I did not do this effectively last year as I was not aware of how quickly sessions can get booked up. Keep your ear to the ground to find out when the agenda builder goes live. This is not announced beforehand as I assume this helps the servers from crying. I found Twitter was my friend here keep an eye on the #DF18 hashtag.
Don’t get caught up on missing out on a session, many are recorded and posted online afterwards, so you will not be entirely missing out. This is also great for when you attend a great session and want to get more notes from it. A lot of sessions will still allow walk-ins as well, so you still may be able to catch it.
Plan more sessions than you need and keep an eye on the location. Things change during the day, you may end up meeting somebody or talking with a vendor longer than you planned and might end up missing a session, or the session is the other side of town, and you won’t make it in time. Have a backup or two so you are not frantically trying to find what to do next.
Finally, give yourself a break! Leave time in your diary to attend the expos and different areas. These not only have a lot of value (and Swag opportunities) they give you time to rest. What is the point of attending a session if you can’t take it in?
Take the right kit
Part of my planning from last year was around what should I bring with me? I read a lot of blogs and got some advice. My tips would be pack light each morning, but make sure you have the following:
- Comfy shoes – I can’t stress this enough, you see this online a lot, and it has become a bit of a joke, but this is the most important thing after your badge. Don’t wear heels, break in new shoes or pick style over comfort. One of the days I walked over 30,000 steps!
- Battery pack – If you want your phone to last this is a must! You don’t realise how often you will take it out to make notes, grab photos of slides or check where you nest session is. I got myself an Anker PowerCore+, and I would recommend it. It does weigh a bit, but you have to expect it from a good quality battery (The small free swag one you get have nothing on this thing).
- Snacks – You won’t realise how easy it is to forget to eat, and you need the fule. Pack small things such as protein bars that you can eat in sessions without making a noise or on the go between sessions.
- Layers – The temperature can change in the city, so it is worth packing something like a small light mac that you can roll up, chuck in your bag and use if you get a bit cold or it starts to rain.
That is all you really need, leave your laptop at home, you won’t need it, and you realise how heavy it is when you are lugging it around all day. At Dreamforce you move around a lot, and that bag easily fills up with swag so don’t make life harder for yourself.
I fully believe that I would not have known these things without attending Dreamforce in 2017, and from these lessons learnt I know it will be a lot easier to get more out of the week this time around. I know what works for me and what does not, I have a better understanding of where things are in the city, and I was able to set out a clearer more obtainable plan so I will get the best possible outcome and easier prove that I can get a return on investment from attending. Something many people would be sceptical about and would cause roadblocks in the first place.
The most important thing to do is enjoy yourself. Don’t get stressed out over the little things. It is about the experience as much as the content. Going back to the office with tons of new knowledge, a fresh head and more passion about the platform is what you should be aiming for. If like me you show this when you return, it is easier to make the case to go again (and hopefully again).
Also published on Medium.