A Dreamforce Newbie Survival Kit

A survival kit for a Dreamforce Newbie

Dreamforce. It is very appropriately named.

Thousands of people dream about attending, and once they get there, they feel this inexplicable force that keeps drawing them back year after year. 2013 will be my third year attending Dreamforce, and if I have my way, it will continue to be an annual pilgrimage.

Here are a few tips that I think all first-time Dreamforce attendees should know:

1. Leave the laptop at home, or if you must bring it to San Francisco, leave it secured in the safe at your hotel room. You will quickly find that it becomes very heavy to carry around with you all day. Opt for a tablet if you have one or even just your smartphone if you are comfortable taking notes on a small device. One side note, I’ve never owned or used one of the newer “Ultrabook” style of laptops, so my recommendation is based on a traditional laptop weighing in at around 7 pounds. If I had an “Ultrabook” I’d probably carry that instead of my iPad simply because of the ease of use due to the full featured keyboard.

2. Wear comfortable shoes. You will walk more than you think. A lot of the sessions are held in Moscone Center, which is actually three different buildings each with at least two floors of convention space. After the first day at my first Dreamforce, I installed a pedometer app on my smartphone to see how much walking I was doing. I discovered that I was walking an average of about 5 miles per day, with the bulk of that travel being between sessions and wandering the Expo floor, since I did not return to my hotel during the middle of the day.

3. Wear layered clothing or bring a light jacket. San Francisco has beautiful weather nearly all year. It never really gets terribly hot or very cold, but with the proximity to the ocean the chances for a breeze are pretty good, and once the sun goes down, the air could get a little chilly.

4. Network, a.k.a., talk to people. Don’t be scared. Talk to everyone you can. The person on your right when waiting in line to go into a session; the person sitting to your left once you get inside a session. When you go to breakfast or lunch (both included in your conference registration) pick a table with a few people and see if they will let you join them. Out of the 45,000 + people at Dreamforce 2011, I managed to sit down for lunch at a table with one of my brother-in-law’s co-workers. (Cue the Walt Disney music: It’s a small world after all!) If you are shy, take the high-tech approach to networking. Bring a surge strip with you and hang out at a charging station between sessions – one surge strip could mean five instant connections.

5. Dreamforce isn’t just an 8am to 5pm event. Sure that’s when all the keynotes and breakout sessions occur, but there are also many opportunities for networking before and after those hours thanks to many partners sponsoring evening parties. Also be sure to check the Dreamforce App for groups like “DF13 Newbie Reunion Breakfast” (Shameless plug…that’s a group that I am organizing)

6. Dreamforce doesn’t just happen in San Francisco. Attend a Customer Company Tour in your area. Look for an event near you at http://www.salesforce.com/events/ . Join a user group in your area and attend the meetings regularly. You can find the user groups at: https://success.salesforce.com/userGroups . The Salesforce.com Community is an awesome way to expand your knowledge, increase the resources you can count on to help solve problems. You might even land a new job thanks to the power of the community. (I did – email me at eric.dreshfield@gmail.com or tweet me http://www.twitter.com/ericdresh if you want to hear more about that!)

7. Dreamforce isn’t just a week during the year. Thanks to the Dreamforce App it’s a perpetual event. Get active on the Chatter! Share your struggles and your successes. Get connected with people who you will meet BEFORE you get to Dreamforce and make friends that will last a lifetime!

So why do so many people attend Dreamforce year after year? In a word, because it is AWESOME!

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