Hacking Your Dreamforce ROI

Dreamforce is a big investment, not just in terms of the cost of admission and travel, food, and lodging, but also the time commitment – effectively a week away from the office. Salesforce has a lot of resources for planning your experience, including this great Get Ready section on the Dreamforce website, which points you to blogs, videos and more. Here are my personal tips on how to make that big investment pay off.

Set Your Objectives
Start by listing your objectives: key topics you need to learn about, technologies or apps you want to explore, Salesforce resources you need to know more about, people you want to meet, keynotes and events you want to be a part of (like Marc Benioff's keynote on Monday afternoon, and the concert/party on Tuesday night.)

Do the Research
Spend a couple of hours on the Dreamforce site with the Agenda Builder, filtering sessions by your topics of interest, industry, day/time, level, job responsibility, etc. They have many sorting filters to help make the bazillion sessions navigable. Start bookmarking and reserving a seat in the sessions you want. I also bookmark some alternate sessions, as I expect some of my first choices will be full before I can get there. It's always good to have a schedule "plan b".

When you've locked in key sessions, go the the My Agenda section and peruse your overall schedule. Where are the gaps? Which days are packed? Will you have time to get from one venue to another in time for your session (remember, you'll want to get to sessions early or you'll lose your reserved seat.)

It's generally a good idea to leave some gaps in your day: if you've got a session from 9-9:40, it's probably best not to schedule another session at 10, unless the session is in the same theater. These gaps are essential and valuable time for meeting people and making business connections.

One other thing to consider: many of the hands-on sessions are based on Trailhead modules, which are available free, 24/7. Your time onsite is precious, so try to spend it doing things that can only be done while at Dreamforce. You've probably got time to master that Trailhead module before you go!

Speaking of things that can only be done onsite, take advantage of the gathering of the community. There are at least a dozen people I've interacted with (some very frequently) over the past year, but only in an online context through the Salesforce forums and email. Dreamforce is your opportunity for real-life interaction: find that guy that helped you figure out a bug and take him to lunch, or seek out the Salesforce team member that answered your email–just to say thanks. Now is the time to make your list. I also go on LinkedIn and pull photos of the people so I'll recognize them (it's not stalking, it's preparation!)

Make Your Plan
This is the part that operationalizes all your aspirations and turns your time onsite into gold.
  1. Download the Dreamforce '17 app onto your phone, log in, and make sure that your schedule syncs into the app. (When you load up the app the first time, it has to download a lot of data for all the sessions, so give it a few minutes.)
  2. Drop an email to people on your "want to meet" or "reconnect" list to re-establish contact. Let them know you'll be there and ask when and where is the best place to connect with them onsite. Add those meetings to your schedule.
  3. Plan your expo time, or else you'll burn too many hours just wandering around collecting laptop decals and t-shirts. What are the companies/booths you want to visit, where are they located, and when can you fit that into your schedule? Of course, allow for some unexpected discovery, but have a plan.
  4. Map out your experience. Dreamforce is big... really big, and spread out over a lot of space and venues. It's all walkable, but with crowds and traffic and lines to get in, it's going to take longer than you expect to get around. So map out your schedule to minimize transit time, and to have a good spacial concept for the each day. That may give you clues as to when/where you'll be able to connect with people or visit an expo booth. This will also help you figure out your hang space where you can decompress, check your email, consult the Dreamforce app and plan your next few hours. 
  5. Nail the logistics: get all your travel confirmations and conference registration info organized and accessible on your phone. If you can get there, pick up your conference badge on Sunday afternoon.

Don't Forget the Basics
Dreamforce is amazing, but let's be honest: it's big, loud, spread-out, crowded, and a sometimes overwhelming assault on the senses. It's a great experience if you set your expectations, plan your experience, and take care of yourself. We've already covered those first two points, so let's address that last point.

With all the hype, it's easy to think of Dreamforce as a week-long party with too many opportunities to stay out late drinking and carousing. Maybe that's your objective, but I doubt you would have made it to the bottom of this post if that were the case. So at the risk of sounding like your mother, here's my advice: 
  • drink at least as much water as you do alcohol, coffee and/or soda
  • eat like you know you should (and stop eating when you know you should)
  • get at least 6 hours of sleep each night
  • wear comfortable shoes (bring an extra pair so you alternate shoes each day)
  • find some quiet moments to rest and reflect, adjust your schedule, see how you're doing on your goals, and put in a quick call home to the family
Conference Success is About Change
Before becoming a Salesforce Handyman, I spent the better part of two decades helping to plan and execute major technology conferences like Dreamforce. Here's what I learned: most brands are seeking to create experiences that change the way you think about their brand, but the most successful brands create experiences that actually change the way you think about yourself. Your perspectives and aspirations change, you see new possibilities that energize your outlook. Any brand that can facilitate that will be close to your heart forever. So let it happen—be open to new people and ideas. Challenge yourself to discover new possibilities, which is really the best Dreamforce ROI possible.

I'll be at Dreamforce from start to finish, so feel free to ping me if you'd like to meet up. 


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