How to Have an Awesome Dreamforce

I'll shortly be starting the long journey from London to San Francisco for my 4th Dreamforce and I'm getting my ducks in a row (and packing a large suitcase).

I think it is safe to say that my three past Dreamforces have been quite different. I wrote about year one in my post Solo in San Francisco and Dazed at Dreamforce, I was extremely overwhelmed and found the whole experience too much. Year two as captured in Dreamforce: My Second Attempt, was still a challenge but I knew what to expect and had more contacts to share the experience with. Last year was on a different scale and was all about spending time with people and event after event after event, with quite a few highlights as I wrote about in My DF17 Highlights.

Now I ask myself how I can make the most out of my Dreamforce experience this time, what have I learnt from attempts one, two, and three? Here are my recommendations:

Get Organised
Know where you want to be when. Once each day starts you are going to be out there in a busy, noisy place and it might not be that easy to remember where you need to be. Distractions will be everywhere.
I create a Google Sheet in the run up to Dreamforce with times down the side, and days across the top (Sunday through Friday), and add in the sessions, commitments, and parties I sign up to as they come along. This is particularly useful to me when my calendar is in a completely different time zone so I can't get an easy glimpse before I touch down and my time zone updates. The other benefit of my sheet is that I block out more than just the time of the commitment, I can block out travelling time, or queuing time too, which auto-calendar events don't do. I use this as I juggle booth duty, session, and meetings schedules.
Colour coding also helps me pinpoint the events I cannot miss, either because I am committed, or they are the most important to me. Make sure they are the ones you memorise before you hit the streets.

What are you looking to take away from Dreamforce? Is it learning, making new connections, catching up with friends, or even landing a new job? Depending on whether you are work-sponsored or self-funding, a beginner, intermediate, or advanced Salesforce professional, your goals will be different. You don't need to share them but know what you want to achieve in the week. However far you are travelling, Dreamforce is a massive time, if not financial, commitment, so you owe it to yourself to get the most out of it you can. Do this without running yourself ragged trying to do it all.

Also prioritise your time, you won't be able to attend all the sessions you have signed up for. You'll forgot that you need to navigate the busy streets of San Francisco to get from one venue to another, you will see a friend and get sidetracked catching up, you will walk past a theater and realise the content is too good to pass by, you will remember you need to stop and have lunch, take a break, or send a quick email. Hit your top sessions and don't worry if you miss a lot of the others.

Take the Opportunities
Dreamforce is one of the only times you will see so many 'Salesforce-Famous' people in one place. If there is someone you admire, that has helped you along the way, or is just a generally awesome individual, go up and say hello. You don't have to go the whole selfie taking route but find the right time (i.e. not when they are otherwise engaged) and tell them that you have read their blog, or seen them speak, or follow them on Twitter, and how they have helped you. It is always great to hear, it encourages everyone to continue to contribute, plus you may have made a new friend!
Dreamforce is also one of the few places to see the product managers of various parts of the system speak about what they are doing. It truly is the opportunity to learn from the best, to hear about roadmaps from the horse's mouth as it were. Many sessions will be available online afterwards (but not all) but being there you could ask a question of the expert, a rare opportunity.

Take Breaks
I think it is safe to say that most of us struggle with crowds at some point and being always 'on' is too much for many of us. Remember this and don't feel bad when you need a bit of me time, when your small talk has run out for the time being, or you have hit your hug quota for the day (it does happen). When I find myself in these situations I seek out a spot to relax and turn off for a few moments. I have even been known to nip back to my hotel room and make a cup of tea to enjoy on my own before heading back out. The days are long, don't try and power through every time.

Pack Wisely
You've heard it before but there is a reason why so many of us offer similar advice. It is true:

  • Bring comfy shoes which are already worn in. 
  • Drugs - we may need a little help along the way, aspirin for a headache, vitamin c to ward off that tickle in your throat, cold remedies in case you pick something up on the plane. Yes there are shops but if you have them in your room you are ahead of the game.
  • Flexible outfits - you may not get back to your hotel room between the day's and the night's activities so think about clothes that will work in both settings.
  • Don't pack loads of Salesforce t-shirts, you will pick up more, guaranteed.
  • Leave space for the swag, else bring a 2nd bag for the way home.
On The Day Packing
The alarm clock gets you out of bed, into the shower, and out onto campus but what to chuck in your new fancy DF18 backpack?
Number one for me is what not to bring - leave your laptop in your hotel room, make do with your phone or tablet. 
This saves rooms for the essentials such as:
  • snacks, in case you can't grab lunch in between sessions
  • your reusable water bottles -stay hydrated
  • tissues
  • lip balm
  • mints or chewing gum to stay fresh
  • the aforementioned drugs
  • your battery pack and cables
  • a hoodie for when the AC on full blast or the weather turns
Take my advice and have an AWESOME Dreamforce.
The countdown really is on now. I'm excited, I bet you are too. 


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