Friday, September 24, 2010

The Insider’s Guide to Dreamforce, Part 3


If you read parts one and two of my postings about Dreamforce, you are probably convinced that going is a good idea and you probably have an idea how to get there and where to stay.  Now for the tough, but fun part—how to survive and thrive at the conference.  Grab your compass and follow me.

First things first.  Get a flu shot.  Pretty mundane, but you are going to be slogging around in a soup of 20,000 strangers for the better part of a week, right in middle of flu season.  Just get the shot.  You wouldn’t run your servers with no protection, would you?

On a related note, hand cleaner is your friend.  They typically have zillions of bottles of the stuff all over the place and I suggest you make liberal use of it.  If you’re really paranoid, bring you own, small bottle.

When you first arrive, particularly if Dreamforce is in full swing already, prepare to be overwhelmed.  The sensation is similar to biting down on a hot pepper, while sticking your head out the car window on the highway.  Your first stop will be with one of the smiling, Salesforce employees staffing the registration booths.  Here, you will get your badge and welcome packet.  Carefully check it to make sure it’s correct and clearly printed.  Verify that the color scheme matches your status (Customer, Vendor, etc.).  Wear your badge at all times!  That’s your passport to everything and you can expect to be stopped by security if you don’t have it on.

When you first visit the vendor area, I suggest taking a walk around the edges and then down each aisle, paper and pencil in hand.  Make a note of places to visit, spending not much time at each, right now.  Make note of where to get various things stamped to win prizes—swag is good!

The next time you hit the vendors, zero in on the ones that piqued your interest and demo, ask questions, and learn every single thing you can.  You may never have the chance to see this much knowledge in one place again.  Hand out your business cards like they’re candy at Halloween.  By the way, bring at least twice as many cards as you think you’ll possibly need.  You’ll need them.

When it comes time for the sessions, get out your list and go over it.  Does it still appeal to you?  If not, just go anywhere.  No matter what Salesforce implies, if there are empty chairs, your butt is welcome to fill them.  Note:  The same does not apply to certification tests, classes you pay for, and the like.  Schedule them ahead and notify them if you can’t make it, as there is often a waiting list.

Attend the keynotes.  Some are boring.  Most are too long.  Many of them are amazing.  All of them have valuable information and they’re part of the package of the experience.

Go to the social events.  Hook up with your sales people and their events.  Eat at birds of a feather lunches.  Socialize and hand out business cards.  When you drag your tired self back to your hotel room, take 30 minutes to tap out emails to the people you met that day and follow up with the most interesting ones in two weeks.  Try to add them to your LinkedIn network.  Dreamforce is the single, best way to network in our industry.

In previous postings, I promised to tell you the restroom score, so here it is.  It isn’t pretty.  Maybe this year will be different, but previously, the facilities have been somewhat overwhelmed.  The key to avoiding lines is to pretend the toilets are servers and you are a load balancer.  Everyone heads straight for the ones at the bottom of escalator in the main hall.  Instead, go the far ends of the center, past the vendor areas or all the way past the keynote room—there you will find relatively empty and clean comfort stations.  Silly?  Maybe now, but come Dreamforce, your bladder will be glad you paid attention to this!

One final note.  Be nice and smile!  People are going to be tired, in a rush, and sometimes grumpy.  Don’t you be that way.  Just bring up compassion, smile, and be kind to everyone.

Have fun and look me up at Dreamforce!


  1. Great advice. Giggling at the part about the restrooms...Dreamforce is the one conference I've ever been where the line for the ladies' room is sometimes shorter than the line for the mens' room. :-)

  2. Hi Judy,

    I hadn't thought about that, but you're right. With the female/male imbalance in the tech world, I guess that makes sense.

    Hope to see you at DF!

  3. Although each year there are more and more girls going; that said, I think I've seen two obviously pregnant women in all the years I've attended.

  4. Interesting observation, Geraldine. I hadn't thought about that, but you absolutely right.

    While the two are not comparable, I also have seen only one or two people with obvious, physical handicaps. It would be a real challenge to negotiate the crowds and distances, with limited mobility. I hope the organizers take that into account as the event matures.

  5. Couple of things to add: make sure you come to the Tweetup:, and If you are the sort of person who gets a bit grumpy or groggy when you are tired, bring some snacks you can carry. Sometimes those keynotes go really long and you need a snack. Oh btw, I heard that they will be honoring the session registration this year, so you will have to be signed up to attend.

  6. That'll be a big change if they really do start enforcing registration at each session. I understand that they are trying to control the crowds, but I sure hope they announce it when people first arrive.

  7. Thanks, Jake. Hope to see you there!

  8. What do people do on Monday before everything starts (at least community conf @ 2pm), if you're not doing any certification training? I read somewhere that they advise you to fly in Sunday night, but looking at the schedule, it seems flying in Monday morning is more than feasible.

  9. The advice to fly in the day before is mainly to make allowances for flight delays, traffic, etc. It also gives you time to settle in, particularly if you're crossing several time zones, like me.

    In years past, SFDC has also had civic service projects before the actual start of DF. Lastly, this is San Francisco--lots to do and see! :-)

  10. Good to know, but since I'm in CA and have been to SF several times (sorry, not bragging but just been there/done that from past biz trips) and am swamped with other stuff, it would be easier for me to fly Mon AM. I just was wondering if there was anything structured to attend at Dreamforce prior to 2pm? thx!

  11. Thanks for the tips, especially about the restrooms! I will be one of those "obviously pregnant" women attending so I'm hoping people will also let me cut in line at the bathrooms if need be!

  12. Glad you enjoyed the tips, Mary! Look me up or come by my session--Tips and Tricks of the Trade. Glad you're coming to DF!

  13. This was exactly what I needed, the "tell all" and tips for Dreamforce. This will be my first year and I don't know what to expect except it will be long, exhausting but hopefully fun and informative. I also will be one of the few(er) woman (and pregnant to boot, although I don't think I'm "obviously pregnant" even though I'm hitting month 5), so the bathroom tip was a great one.

    Btw, would you recommend a laptop? I have an iPod touch, but no smartphone. And I'm commuting in on BART so need everything I'll need for the day on me.

  14. Hi Gilda,

    I suggest not bringing the laptop. By the end of the day, it will feel like you're dragging a boat's anchor. If your iPod is WiFi enabled, there is a good signal throughout the Moscone center. Worst case, just about any helpful person or SFDC employee will generally let you jump on their computer for a few minutes.

    Hope to see you there (and not in the line for the restroom)!


  15. Paul, thank you so much for this. It's my first Dreamforce and I think it's just time to dive in, keep an eye on the Twitter and Chatter feeds, and listen to learn!

  16. An, glad you enjoyed the blog. I'm in count down mode now. As I write this, it is 24 hours until the car service arrives to take me to the airport to go to Dreamforce!

  17. My personal recommendation is to watch the keynotes online from the comfort of your hotel room. The crush of humanity to get into the keynotes is ridiculous. Unless you have media credentials, you will not be able to sit close enough to even see facial features of the speakers unless you watch them on the monitors. So, if you are going to watch on a monitor, why not do it in a more comfortable setting, or even in your pajamas?


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