Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Dreamforce: Tips for First Year Attendees

Dreamforce is just a few days away, and at the prompting of my good friend David Schach, I wanted to take a quick moment to help folks who are attending Dreamforce for the first time.

My first Dreamforce: I was lost. I mostly "followed the crowds" and hoped I was heading in the right direction. Here is a list of things I wish I had known that first time:

1.) Check-in early. My Salesforce AE recommended I check in the day before the conference ("go ahead, they're open now, go over and get your badge") and I'm so glad I did. There were a dozen people behind the counters, and only myself to be waited on. When I saw the huge lines the next AM, I was so thankful that I had checked in early.

2.) To the extent that your allowed to explore the Moscone on the day before, take advantage of it. The corridors aren't filled with thousands of people moving between break-out sessions, and you're likely to make a few friends.

3.) Arrive early and get a good seat. I like to be near the front, but not so far forward that I don't have a good view of the presentation screen. Never sit on the isle, always move to the middle. That doubles your chances of striking up interesting conversations with folks on either side of you.

4.) Don't be shy. This is a Users Conference, and you'll get the most benefit from it if you make eye contact, smile, and get to know your neighbor. Find out what they do, who they work for, how they use the platform, how many Dreamforce sessions they've attended. If they are a veteran, ask them for THEIR tips and suggestions.

5.) Bring lots of business cards. Just bring the whole, gosh darn box. You'll probably need it. When you get a business card from someone else, jot notes on the back or face of the card: where you met, what you talked about, etc. Get that information into your favorite CRM at the end of the conference! Send them an email follow-up after the event, referencing whatever notes you took about them at the conference. This is CRM 101, but rather than creating relationships with Customers, you're creating realtionships with the Salesforce User Community -- which has a TREMENDOUS value. It is well-worth nurturing.

6.) Have a plan (I really wish I had made one!). What do you want to accomplish? Who do you want to meet? Which vendors do you want to see and get first-hand demo's from? This is the place to do it.

7.) If you know certain people are going to be at Dreamforce, and you really want to meet them -- make arrangements in advance! With Chatter, there's no excuse to not reach out and make those connections now! Ask if they can get together with you for breakfast, lunch, dinner, coffee, drinks.

8.) This is the hard one, especially for a social media junky like me. Put the mobile device down. I mean it! Remember why you are at Dreamforce: to see the latest cloud-computing advancements (which admittedly, has some pretty cool mobile apps), meet interesting people, and gain long-term, productive relationships. BE SOCIAL. When waiting outside a session, or while sitting and waiting for the session to start, don't have your thumbs madly twirling on your mobile device. At the end of the session, avoid rushing out to the hall, only to flip out your phone so you can scroll through your email or messages. Instead: Connect. Engage. Interact.

9.) Introduce people you meet to other people who are joining your group late. I was delighted when David Schach introduced me to Scott Hemmeter (ArrowPointe), several Dreamforces back. Helping people make connections to each other will reward you with good karma, all the rest of your life.

10.) Dreamforce is like Disney. You can't hope to see it all, not in one visit. Don't even try, and don't stress out about it. Just enjoy thoroughly every part of it that you CAN see.

11.) Cloud Expo. Walk it, don't walk around it. Explore every booth! At my first Dreamforce, I confess, I avoided the expo floor like it was a leper colony. Not so on subsequent Dreamforce events. You can learn so much about ways to benefit your company -- just by having a conversation, looking at the solutions vendors have found for various problems.

12.) Have fun. Leave the office behind, it's just 4 days. They'll survive. Rock out at the Global Gala, get an invite to a vendor party, or have drinks with some new friends you made that day. This is YOUR conference, and you won't back back for another 11-12 months. Make the most of it.

Here are some tips and recommendations from other Dreamforce Veterans:

Brad Gross (@imperialstout): Biggest mistake newbies make is trying to do everything. Relax.
Deep into a conversation with another attendee? Skip that next session. Its recorded for a reason.
Expo people starting to bug you - run to the campground and sit in the Customer Hero theatre for a time out.

Oh and my biggest hints:
- Bring a water bottle
- Bring a coffee mug
- Leave the laptop
- Smile and smile often
- Show patience with the other attendees. For some this is their Disney (<-- That was for you Jeff)

David Schach (@dschach): Bring breath-mints. The coffee is good, which means that we're all drinking it. So be kind to your neighbor and pop a TicTac.

Jeff Grosse (@crmfyi): "Don't worry about getting to a session during every time slot." Breakout sessions are fantastic, no doubt. Something to keep in mind though is that all but the roadmap sessions will be available for future viewing on video where you can listen, pause, take notes, and take it in at your leisure, either by yourself or as a team. The time you have at Dreamforce should have a balance of the must-have sessions and time spent in the Expo talking to vendors, in the Campground talking to cloud experts, and in general, talking to everyone else at Dreamforce. Those are things you can't reproduce at home and require your time and attention wile you're at Moscone.

Michael Gerholdt (@mikegerholdt): My word of advice- Plan your Cloud Expo experience. Last year, when I arrived I glanced over the vendors that were exhibiting and marked off the ones that I needed to see. Then when I had a change to go to the expo I visited them first and marked them off my list. Once I had the information I needed I could wander around and sign up for the fun freebie stuff. It's easy to get caught up in all of the free iPads and flip cams, but remember you should come back with valuable information for your company. [As a side note, my coworker at the time did the opposite, and was very disappointed that he didn't get to meet the vendors he needed to interact with.]

Got your own tips and recommendations for First Year Attendees?  Mention them below!

1 comment:

  1. Excellent list. We added it to our best resources for Dreamforce.