The Dreamforce Newbie Survival Kit, 2018 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. 2018 will be my eighth 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. 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! Corey Snow walked a lot at Dreamforce 2017!

2. 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.)

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. It will be a little warmer than last year, since Dreamforce is earlier by 6 weeks or so. Personally, being from the Midwest, I love the cool evenings!  It’s what I call camping weather. (Hmm…that fits in nicely with Trailhead!)

4. Don’t forget to eat and stay hydrated – Don’t get so busy with the event that you forget to eat. And by all means, keep drinking water too. (But please do so using a refillable water bottle to keep all the plastic out of the landfills and oceans!) Eating and drinking water is the best way to keep up your energy. Now I know what you’re thinking…if I drink a lot, I’ll need to use the bathroom a lot. That’s true. That’s also part of human nature. There’s time between sessions to find a bathroom, although the lines may be longer between sessions, so if you have a time-slot where you are not in a session, make a pit stop, even if you don’t feel the urge. I bet your body will thank you for it anyway. One thing to note: For those preferring gender neutral bathrooms, you’ll find one on the 2nd level of Moscone West, near room 2004, as well as in the Hilton Union Square and the Marriott Marquis.

 

5. 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! (Just don’t get so busy you forget about food and water! Remember tip #4 you just read? 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.

6. 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 the parties at Dreamforce this year is the Anaplan Party List. And don’t forget about the Trailblazer 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 Tuesday, September 26th from 6:30am to 8:30am? Register here.) One more point about “after-hours” – don’t overdo it on the alcohol! You will need to be well rested for the next day’s adventures at Dreamforce, and while alcohol may help you fall asleep, to much of it can make waking up in the morning more of a challenge. (Some people call me the “one-hit wonder”…one adult beverage, and then I’m onto water the rest of the night.)

6. Training – If you can, take advantage of the pre-conference training and certification opportunities, 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 Trailblazer 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 Trailblazer 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 Trailblazer 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!

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

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