The Dreamforce Newbie Survival Kit, 2017 Edition

Dreamforce. The name says it all.

Thousands and thousands of people dream about attending, and once they get there, they feel this inexplicable force that draws them back year after year. 2017 will be my seventh year attending Dreamforce, and if I have my way, I will continue return every year, just like the Monarch Butterfly’s annual migration to Mexico, Florida and southern California, except that I use an airplane and BART for my modes of transportation, since I don’t have wings!

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

1. Leave the laptop at home – 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, even if it’s one of the ultralight laptops. Opt for a tablet if you have one or even just your smartphone if you are comfortable taking notes on a small device. (Please note – I do NOT always practice what I preach, and I usually pay the price for that. If you must bring your laptop, opt for a backpack or messenger-style bag that can cross your body, not just hang off one shoulder. You don’t want to end the week with a definitive lean.)

2. Wear comfortable shoes – You will walk more than you think. WAY more than you think. Many of the sessions are held in Moscone Center, which is actually three different buildings each with at least two floors of convention space. There are also sessions scattered about the city in various other locations including a theater and many hotels. If you are not used to walking a lot, get on a treadmill or get outside and start walking now! You might even want to bring more than one pair of comfortable shoes…just be sure they are not brand new. Breaking in new shoes at Dreamforce is a recipe for sore and tired feet!

3. Wear comfortable clothing – Be sure to dress in layers 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. This will be especially true this year, since Dreamforce in in November. For me, being from the Midwest, this is what I call camping weather. (Hmm…that fits in nicely with Trailhead!)

SFO DF17 Weather


4. Network –  a.k.a., talk to people. Don’t be scared. Talk to everyone you can. Talk to the person on your right when waiting in line to go into a session. Talk to the person sitting to your left once you get inside a session. When you take a break to eat lunch (included in your conference registration) be brave and sit near people you don’t know…and start a conversation! (Be sure to eat! Be sure to stay hydrated as well. With all the walking and mental exercise you’ll be getting during Dreamforce, you’ll need all the nourishment you can find!) Back to talking to people –  Just do it. Outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens. You’ll never know who you’ll meet. 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 “After Hours” – Be prepared for some long days. This isn’t just an 8am to 5pm conference. Sure that’s when most of the keynotes and breakout sessions occur, but there are also many opportunities for networking before and after those hours thanks to many partners sponsoring parties. Your one stop shop for all things Dreamforce is the Apttus Dreamforce All Access site. And don’t forget about the Success Community, with its many Dreamforce related groups like “New to Dreamforce” and “Dreamforce Newbie Reunion Breakfast” (Shameless plug number 1: That’s a group that I am organize, and it’s purpose is to help Dreamforce first-timers make a connection or two, while helping to raise money for Project Night Night. Want to attend the breakfast on Monday, November 6th from 6:30am to 8:30am? Register here.)

6. Training – If you can, take advantage of the pre-conference training opportunities, and if you are considering getting a Salesforce certification, Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity for that too, and at a discounted price too! Once you get your certification, tweet it out with #ThisOneIsForYouTamiEsling, use the same hashtag in the Success Community and on Facebook too! Doing so will make your celebration of certification a tribute to the late Tami Esling, a Salesforce MVP who passed away on March 5th, 2016, who made it her mission to help people get certified.

7. Go Global – Dreamforce doesn’t just happen in San Francisco. Dreamforce happens all over the globe! Attend a Salesforce World Tour or Trailhead Live event in your area. Look here for an event near you. Join a user group in your area and attend the meetings regularly. Look for awesome regional, Community led Salesforce events, and attend those too! The Salesforce Community is an awesome way to expand your knowledge and increase not only your network of people, but also the resources you can count on to help you solve problems.

8. All Year Long – Dreamforce isn’t just a week during the year. Thanks to the Success Community it’s a perpetual event. Get active on the Community and share your struggles and your successes. Get connected with the people you will meet BEFORE you get to Dreamforce and make friends that last a lifetime!

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

Shameless plug number 2: I’m doing a fundraiser for Project Night Night that doesn’t involve eating too! Last year I shaved off my beard for Dreamforce and raised over $2,000 for Project Night Night. This year, I’ll shave it off again if I hit $3,000 or more, and if I top $6,000, I’ll shave my head too! You can donate to that campaign here.

Want to meet up with me at Dreamforce? Tweet me!

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