Dreamforce 2016 – Advice for First Timers

Most people who use Salesforce, whether as an end user, a developer, a Salesforce Admin, a consultant etc. will know about Dreamforce – the annual Salesforce conference hosted in downtown San Francisco.  The conference brings together thousands of thought leaders, innovators and peers for four inspirational days (this year there were over 172,000 attendees).  The days can be used for learning and networking and of course, giving back which is a huge part of the Salesforce philanthropy.  Having used Salesforce since 2011 and getting my Salesforce Admin Certification in 2014, I had always been desperate to go to Dreamforce. Finally, 2016 was my year!

Step 1: Build that Agenda

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With over 2,700 sessions this year at Dreamforce, you had to carefully consider which ones you wanted to attend.  Add to that the fifteen venues these sessions were spread across, you can see why there is such a buzz when the Agenda Builder goes live!  The Agenda Builder is the Salesforce tool which attendees use to search, research and book the sessions they want to attend.  You can view available sessions prior to the Agenda Builder going live (it goes live approximately four weeks before Dreamforce).

My tip – view the sessions before the Agenda Builder goes live and note down the ones you absolutely want to attend.  That way, when the Agenda Builder goes live, you can use the search box to search for these specific sessions and book a place.  For the other sessions that aren’t critical to you, take your time looking through all available sessions and bookmark them for your review later.  Bear in mind that the sessions are spread over multiple venues and you have to allow yourself time to walk/travel between the venues and also factor in arriving ten minutes before the session starts.  I tried to make sure that all my sessions for part of the day were in the one venue and if they were spread over multiple venues, I tried to make sure that the venues were close together.  This meant I could maximize the number of sessions I attended and didn’t waste time commuting between venues.

You can amend your agenda as often as you like to make sure it meets your needs.  I amended mine frequently in the weeks leading up to Dreamforce and I also amended it during the four days of the conference!  The point is, customize your agenda to ensure you get the most out of the conference.

Step 2: Arrive early

img_8367By arriving at least a day before Dreamforce starts, you will have time to familiarize yourself with the campus layout, the venues and of course, pick up the coveted Dreamforce backpack and conference pass!  I arrived late on the Sunday so I was able to collect my conference pass and backpack on the Monday and see the final touches being added to the Dreampark (Dreampark is the place to be to chill out, have lunch, rest your legs and listen to great music!  You can also watch some of the Keynotes from here if you’d prefer to be in the fresh air rather than inside a venue).

Step 3: Prepare for day one

img_8380Be prepared to feel completely unprepared on day one!  No matter how organized you are and how much work you’ve put into building your agenda, day one is overwhelming.  My first session started at 8am and I had four sessions before lunch.  I had planned to attend eight sessions after lunch.  How naive!  I had not given myself any time at all to look around the Admin Meadow, the Trailhead Zone, the Developer Forest or the Lightning Lookout – all which were really important areas for me.  So, in the evening, I amended my Agenda for day two to give myself time to walk around these areas and also the Cloud Expo and Campground.  The fantastic thing is that the presenters of the sessions post the slide decks to the Chatter Feed of the session in the Agenda Builder so even if you can’t attend a session, you can still get access to the presentation.

My tip – make use of the time you spend waiting at the airport for your journey home by going into each of the sessions of interest to you in Agenda Builder, going to the Chatter Feed and downloading the slide decks (I downloaded them to iBook’s).

Step 4: Give back

Day two is usually the day of the main Keynote with Marc Benioff and also Dreamfest – the Salesforce Dreamforce concert (this years headliners at Dreamfest were U2).  The Keynote with Marc Benioff shouldn’t be missed as not only do you hear new announcements directly from him, you also hear of the work Salesforce do on their philanthropic model 1-1-1 : 1% of their technology, 1% of their time and 1% of their resources.  This year’s charity was RED, which raises funds for and awareness of the ongoing fight against AIDS.

Step 5: Slow down on day four

img_8371Day four tends to finish around lunch time and is the day where you can attend the shorter sessions or spend time in the various Zones and Expo in a more relaxed fashion.  It’s also a good day to have a professional headshot taken (in Moscone West) which you can use on all your social media profiles!

To summarize, Dreamforce was the most amazing event to motivate, inspire and innovate and if I am lucky enough to go again next year, I’ll know all the tips and tricks to maximize it even more than I did this year.

Useful links:

How to navigate the Dreamforce campus: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/09/how-to-navigate-the-dreamforce-campus.html

Salesforce philanthropy: http://www.salesforce.com/uk/company/foundation/

RED at Dreamforce: https://www.salesforce.com/blog/2016/09/red-moments-at-dreamforce.htmlimg_0553

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One thought on “Dreamforce 2016 – Advice for First Timers

  1. While the sessions are good, many of them end up in You-tube. What I wished I had known before I went (my first time, too) is how much time I would want to spend in the lodges, trailhead area (and all the stuff in Moscone west) and in the Cloud Expo. I also wouldn’t have schedule a flight home Friday morning!

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