Good Things Come In Small Packages

Scheduled just three weeks after Dreamforce 2018 closed, InspireEast shared some of the qualities of the world's biggest tech conference, but differed in just as many ways.

Dreamforce offered 2,000+ sessions, and 171,000 attendees, while at InspireEast we had a choice of 4 or 5 sessions for every time slot and the numbers were into 3, rather than 6, figures.

I have attended Dreamforce four times and you may think that an annual trip to San Francisco is enough conferencing for one season but I find so much value in these smaller community conferences that I was keen to jump on the train to Cambridge as soon as my jetlag had passed.

Here is why I attended InspireEast and have previously travelled to Surf Force, French Touch Dreamin, my local (and favourite) London's Calling, and even the further afield WiTnessSuccess.

There is time to have real conversations with fellow attendees, not just snatched pleasantries. Dreamforce is often called 'one big family reunion' as we meet up with community members we may only see 'IRL' once a year, but at events such as InspireEast we get to sit down and have real conversations with each other. Not just at the social sessions as illustrated in the photo below, but throughout the day, over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

Quality conversations at the pre-event InspireEast dinner

Hotel rooms are not $400 a night, and a lot easier to secure, meaning that we don't need to plan 6 months in advance. Dreamforce is not a last minute decision whereas if you were to realise you could make a community conference work, such as next month's French Touch Dreamin, then it isn't too late, there will still be hotels available that aren't miles away, and don't require a mortgage to afford.

Smaller venues mean no lost time navigating between sessions. I have to admit that I didn't stray too far from Moscone West again this year. I may be just lazy but I like to think that the real reason is that I didn't want to lose valuable time trying to get across town to another venue. At the community conferences I have attended everything is under one roof, or close enough. If there are 10 session slots in the day then chances are you will attend 10 sessions, more than the number I made it to during the entire 4 days of Dreamforce.

Presentations from expert speakers Matt, Amanda, Kerry, and Paul at InspireEast

Same great content but up close and personal. For a fraction of the cost - tens of pounds rather than Dreamforce's $1899, community conferences share many of their speakers,  and even content, with DF. Not only do attendees get to hear presentations previously heard from the biggest stage, but they will enjoy direct access to the speakers. The chances of having your question answered by the speaker at a community conference when you are in an audience of 10s is much higher than when in an audience of 100s.


Keynotes without the queues. Community conferences normally include approx. two keynotes and very often attract big names from Salesforce or even outside of the ecosystem. I have attended many keynotes in my time, from Salesforce employees, from others talking about Salesforce, and non-Salesforce content. Mark Orsborn, Director of IoT for EMEA presented at InspireEast, while French Touch 18 boasts three big names from Salesforce with Leah McGowen-Hare, Tony Prophet, and Eric Jacobson all presenting in November. As with the other speakers, attendees are also a lot more likely to be able to talk to the keynote speakers before or after the session.


Some community events offer different content too, with non-Salesforce subject matter taking centre stage. London's Calling has done this over the last two years with keynotes from Dr Sue Black and Belinda Parmar. Subjects such as empathy and women in tech provide just as much value and food for thought as their technical counterparts and are very welcome. InspireEast bookmarked the afternoon sessions with a session from Andrea of InspireMe, and then a session on happiness in the workplace by Chief Happiness Officer Henry Stewart.

The Expo space is not a badge scanning numbers game. These events would not be possible without partners from the eco-system supporting them via sponsorship or attendance. Whereas I don't enjoy walking around the expo hall at Dreamforce as it will be busy, noisy, and every few steps someone will attempt to scan my badge, the 'expos' at community events are a different story entirely. It is a real opportunity to talk to these SIs, ISVs, and partners to find out about their services in a relaxed and non-pressured environment. You will probably pick up some cool swag too!

If I have the means then I am not going to stop going to Dreamforce any time soon, yet I am going to make a real effort to keep attending as many community conferences as I can. This will be made easier as the number of new events is incredible, I just hope we don't stretch the community too thin and we can support them all.

Salesforce maintains a list of the upcoming events here at https://trailhead.salesforce.com/en/community/events
Check it out and see if you can attend one in your neck of the woods.

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