Dreamforce is just around the corner – the largest in the Salesforce event calendar. We know by now what this mega-event promises to attendees – but, aside from the technology and innovation, the networking is quoted as a staple highlight, and for good reason! Networking is one aspect of Dreamforce you can’t stream remotely – the right connections are a primary driver in the return on investment of attending.
With 170,000+ Trailblazers descending on San Francisco, the thought of Dreamforce can be anxiety-inducing. Don’t worry, I know how it feels. I wrote this post to lend you tricks to keep up your sleeve for a smoother networking experience.
Without wanting to reinvent the wheel, I will be sharing thoughts from one communication coach with 17-years intense networking under his belt, a great piece of writing that I want to reframe in the context of Dreamforce. First, however, I will kick off by painting the picture of networking in the Salesforce ecosystem, and what sets it out from the rest.
Salesforce Networking Is Different
Paul Ginsberg, Salesforce MVP, and Benelux community evangelist has written for the blog on more than one occasion about networking within the Salesforce Ecosystem. Having given it some serious thought, he’s put his finger on why Salesforce is such a great environment to network in:
“…one of Salesforce’s core values is equality and this leads to inclusivity. By encouraging diverse backgrounds, there are far more likely to be people who share common interests or, even better, people wanting to learn about your interests (and vice versa)…Innovation – We’re not interested in maintaining the status quo. We’re there for the future, working out the best way to prioritise our limited time to get the maximum reward”
From the post: “How to Network in the Salesforce Ecosystem”
If there’s one thing that Dreamforce teaches us, it’s not all about the tech; you will come across people from all walks of life, thanks to Salesforce’s commitment to equality and inclusivity. This is why we should dig into conversations to reveal who they are beyond someone’s work identity.
The Conversation Cushion
Dreamforce is a sensory overload. People are overwhelmed, so conversation ‘cushions’ are a good tactic to use. These are questions that ease the respondent into answering; they should spark curiosity while proving you are interested in the other person’s point of view.
The examples that Michael Thompson gives in his guide to networking are:
- “Hello, sorry to interrupt, but over the last few weeks I’ve been asking everyone I meet this one question…”
- “Hello, my friends and I have been arguing about something. Would you mind serving as our tie-breaker?”
Use these openers to navigate any personality difference or cultural nuances in conversation. As an introverted Brit, I personally appreciate a cushion that eases me in, that makes responding easier. You get to have an opinion, and conversation will flow based on that opinion.
Ignite The Discussion
“Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking everyone I meet this one question…”
The first of the conversation cushions could be general, or Salesforce-related – switch them up for a lively discussion.
- “…If you could have any job in the world, what would it be?”
- “…If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you spend the additional eight hours?”
- “…What lessons have you learned from one of your Salesforce mentors?”
- “…What’s the big keynote announcement going to be?”
- “…Which Salesforce skills do you think will be most in-demand in the next one/two/five years?”
- “…What do you predict the next big acquisition will be? What is the Salesforce core platform is missing?”
- “…What’s the next big thing you are going to do with your Salesforce org?”
- “…What Salesforce superpower would you like to have?”
“…would you mind serving as our tie-breaker?”
What I love about the ‘tie-breaker’ question, is that whichever you answer with, your answer will be accepted and respected – there is a real/imaginary person either side that shared your opinion!
- “…Just follow your passion is terrible advice, right?”
- “…Do you agree that working from home isn’t nearly as effective as working in an office?”
- “…It’s better to have generalist Salesforce skills or specialist skills – breadth or depth?”
Read the original post for a full list of great conversation cushions!
Summary: Find Your Tribe
Dreamforce can rapidly become a logistical nightmare and energy sap if you try to be everywhere at once; the scale of the event, spread across downtown San Francisco, means that you should pay attention to where you are in relation to where you want to be. Sessions on one particular product/topic tend to be grouped in one location, so you will be able to find like-minded Trailblazers you have plenty in common with there!
Having said that, Dreamforce is about spontaneity and discovery. Don’t be disheartened when you may not have much in common with your new acquaintances at first glance; remember, you have at least 1 thing in common with all attendees – Salesforce! So, take a deep breath, apply a conversation cushion, and spark a conversation based on curiosity and experience.