A week from now I’ll be in San Francisco for my 3rd Dreamforce, it is fair to say that I can’t wait. It’s the annual pilgrimage to where it all began, to hear from the people that started it all. If you have never been, prepare for an event like no other. The bus stops are branded, Trailblazer’s faces are on buildings, at least one road gets closed and there will be swarms of people all with lanyards and branded backpacks. Prepare to spend at week mainly eating standing up.
1. Speak to all the people you know online
This was my biggest takeaway from last year. There are lots of people that I feel I know because I see or chat to them so much online. Sometimes I don’t even remember we have never met in person because their face is so familiar. There have been too many occasions where I have had the chance to say hello in person, but social anxiety got the better of me and the opportunity passed.
Over the last year I have made a real effort to push through the short term awkwardness, afterwards I’m always pleased that I said something rather than nothing — Pretty much a metaphor for life.
But let me be clear, when I do say something, it isn’t always my best work, when I met Dave Carroll, the first thing I said was “You don’t know me.” I’m pretty sure that didn’t need pointing out.
Dreamforce is a friendly conference with lots of people from the community, it is a great place to make those in person connections.
Say hello to as many people as you can. If you see me be sure to come and say Hi. I will be at #CommunityCove on Tuesday afternoon.
2. Load Agenda Builder but prioritise People
At my first Dreamforce, my focus was very much on sessions, I didn’t know that many people. I tried to get to as many sessions as I could, but it was never going to be as many as I wanted.
The Second year was entirely different, I spent the majority of time meeting with people. Many of them for the first time face to face. Now, I am writing this is if that was the plan, but the reality is I was involved in 4 different talks, stressing about all of them, and couldn’t even comprehend keeping track of an agenda. As a result I said yes to grabbing a coffee or food whenever it was suggested. I spent time with some great people, most of whom I have been in touch with all year. Including those as far afield as Australia. Thanks to everyone that took the time.
Say yes to getting to know people does mean you miss sessions, but it is worth it.
3. Support Talks representing the UK&I
If you are travelling from the UK&I be sure you checkout the talks from those who are representing.
Being selected to talking at Dreamforce is a massive achievement and one to be celebrated.
What’s more, if you get to know these people you can connect with them throughout the year, why wouldn’t you want that? I was gutted when I found out I would not be speaking this year, but I will be promoting those that are. As a silver lining I won’t be spending this flight staring at slides.
Here is a list of the UK&I people I know are talking:
I have had a sneak preview of both Mick’s and Rikke’s talks’ and they are both great. Let me know if I have missed any talks.
4. Plan to spend very little time in your Hotel
Dreamforce is so busy that you can be forgiven for forgetting what our hotel looks like. This is particularly true if you are working at the event. One year I stayed on the Dreamboat, the cruise liner that was docked in San Francisco. I was super excited about it. As soon as I boarded I went exploring the whole thing. I never saw them again, my alarm went off at 6am and I returned for curfew at 2am every day.
No matter where you are staying, assume that you will leave your accommodation early and be back late.
Think carefully if you need to take your laptop, can you get away with your phone or a tablet? Take a sensible bag, one that is not too big that fits the things you need with a little room for swag. You will get a Dreamforce bag when you get there, be weary of filling it up and carry around additional weight. Remember back health is important, none of these one shoulder bags!
Take an external power pack. No phone is going to have a long enough battery for this event.
5. Look after yourself
Dreamforce is a Marathon not a sprint. It is easy to go hard in the first couple of days, particularly with the parties. I always know when I have done too much because I start to lose things. A successful trip for me is returning home with all my belongings and without Dreamflu. I have had my flu vaccination in preparation.
Think of me as the voice telling you to be kind to yourself. With that in mind here are some other tips:
- Carry Food — Obviously fruit is virtuous but I usually opt for cereal bars and just ignore the sugar content.
- Get breakfast — Don’t skip a meal it will be mid afternoon before you know it. There are lots of sessions that will provide breakfast
- Carry a water bottle — There will be water fountains all over the campus. Staying hydrated will help with feeling sleepy in those late afternoon sessions. This also reduces plastic waste.
- Comfy Shoes — If they are new break them in, or at least bring blister plasters.
6. Join the UK&I WhatsApp Group
Last year Shaun Holmes created a UK&I WhatsApp group for anyone who wanted to join from the UK&I. I really wasn’t sure how this was going to work but it ended up being a revelation. As this event is so large, with so many things going on it is hard to keep people together. The running feed of what people are up to means that you never have to feel isolated. It increases the number of people you can connect to, and you can always find someone to join or eat with.And in case you are worried, WhatsApp has a mute function, which at times can be a blessing.
Contact me on Twitter or anyone else you know who is already in the group to join.
7. Take the time to tell presenters if you enjoyed their talks
This is important at all conferences, not just Dreamforce. Giving a talk at an event like this takes a lot of work. It can be a roller coaster, as you often submit talks long in advance. You wait to find out if you are successful, you think you have time to prepare and then life happens. This has certainly been my experience.
If you attend a session that you like for any reason, let the presenter(s) know.
The obvious choice is to wait around and tell them at the end. If you don’t have time to do that than let them know via social media or even email, many presenters put their contact details on their slides. This may seem like a small thing but it makes a real difference to me when someone tells me something positive. I remember every time. It also massively helps with the imposter syndrome. There is a session on Imposter Syndrome, by Amy Oplinger this year which you can find here.
8. Attend an Ohana Group meet up
With the appointment of a Chief Equality Officer last year Salesforce has been sending out a clear message that there is a place for everyone in this #Trailblazer Community. During Dreamforce many of the Ohana Groups meet up. Attendance is open to all, which makes it a great opportunity to expand your network and find out a bit more about someone that might not be like you.
Allyship is a great way of developing empathy. It is an opportunity to be part of a meaningful and lasting change that will benefit us all. Below is a list of some of the groups that are meeting over Dreamforce with links to their events.
There are other Ohana Groups including Abilityforce, Earthforce, SouthAsiaForce and Vetforce. There are a few more links at the end information about these groups.
If there are any I have missed let me know. Many of us have more privilege than we realise, use it for good. Why not get your Trailhead Equality Ally Strategies Badge
So all in all those are my tips for what will be a great event. I hope to see you there! Be sure to say hello.