Just came back from Dreamforce. What a ride that has been. Being how this was my second time at this event, I really tried to make the most of it and tried to fix all of the things I think were broken during my first trip last year. While it’s all fresh in my mind, here are my main take aways for how to make the most of an event which literally demands omnipresence of its attendees.
- Book Early
Last year, I decided to come to Dreamforce sometime in September and the only hotel I could get was some fleabag near the Golden Gate Bridge. It meant 1 hour commute each way, each day, to Moscone Center. I swore that I wouldn’t do that again, and so I actually watched very closely when the registration opened. I had to have registered within the first few minutes, and as a result, was able to get a hotel across the street from Marriott for under $200 a night. Main take away here: if you think you might be coming, register early. I do believe you can cancel your registration later, but the chance to get that hotel is well worth it. Secondary take away: do not overlook The Mosser Hotel – highly recommend.
- Sessions vs. Networking
This may sound sacrilegious, but I think that the networking aspect of the event is probably just as important as attending sessions. At least in my case, I missed many a session I was registered for because I was deep in a conversation with a colleague from another school. And it’s not that the time got away from me, it’s just that the information we were exchanging was great. As a result, I came back with a huge rolodex of cards of colleagues all over the country who are at various stages of where we’d like to be, and do not feel the least bit sorry about missing the sessions. Main take away here: at least for me, do not rush to the sessions and forsake the conversation. Sessions will be recorded and posted on YouTube, the chance for a great connection may be gone forever.
- Agile approach
Coming into Dreamforce, I had a set of sessions that I registered for and my agenda laid out. Naturally, I missed some sessions because of networking, but I also missed some sessions because the person I was talking to told me about this other session they were going to which I didn’t see, or didn’t care for while planning. But just then that particular session sounded more interesting and would end up being extremely delightful. I ended up in user experience, sales, admin, and retail sessions – all of which I wouldn’t have thought to attend, but walked away with a ton of ideas. Main take away here: plan your visit, but be prepared to go where the dream forces you.
- Do not forsake the expo
This may be a “doh!” kind of statement, but I really didn’t want to walk the expo. “May I scan you?” is just not the question I’m looking forward to answering. I look forward to answering all of the sales calls and emails from the expo scans even less. But some of my most profound “Wow!” moments came at the expo, where I spoke to two vendors I really had hard time figuring out how I’d ever use them. For example, while briefly pausing at a gamification vendor’s booth and trying to figure out how can Salesforce be used for gamification, I started talking to the sales rep and walked away with a great idea for using gamification for undergraduate career services. Main take away here: brave the sales pitches, as even one AHA! moment is worth it.
The main theme that emerges here (outside of book early) is that for me, Dreamforce was actually more about Dreaming, then it was about Salesforce. In other words, I certainly got some of what I wanted – deepening my knowledge of some subject areas, and some ideas along the lines of what I was thinking before I got to Dreamforce. But what I found most enlightening and inspiring was the things I didn’t expect – it was these experiences that stretched my imagination of what’s possible, and the part that I really enjoyed. And the only way this became possible is by me choosing networking over sessions attendance, and being open to other experiences and industries.
Looking forward to the Higher Ed Summit in February, but I can’t wait for Dreamforce 2015.