Read on for next steps, and how to justify the cost to your employer!
A couple of weeks ago a new colleague here at Cloud Integrate asked me whether it was worth going to Dreamforce. After less than a moment’s hesitation, I replied: “Hell, yeah!” It was an interesting exchange. I had been weighing up whether it was worth me returning for a second time (having gone last year, in 2017), but the strength of my reaction told me all I needed to know.
So, three questions: What is Dreamforce, What’s the value to the business and Why should you go? I’ll be keeping the answers local, as the answers have to be a lot stronger to justify the cost, if you are coming all the way from the Netherlands (for example), instead of already living nearby in the US.
Travel and accommodation price will already have started to go up but, failing anything else, you can use this as an opportunity to prepare for next year(!), book well in advance (6 months seems to be sufficient), and get that company budget reserved!
What is Dreamforce?
I’m going to cover this one extremely briefly as there are plenty of other blogs out there, also explaining this in more detail. Dreamforce is the mothership of all Salesforce conferences. It’s a 4-day conference, this year (2018) running from 25th to 28th September.
170,000 people attend each year to learn about Salesforce. There are 2,700+ sessions from the theoretical to the practical, from roadmaps to the celebratory, from the inspirational to the just for fun!
And that picture below? That’s Marc Benioff interviewing IBM CEO Ginni Rometty – I was there. This isn’t something I would normally have access to, by a long way, and it was fascinating to hear her insights, and even see Marc Benioff’s mum in the audience! He was obviously just as proud to be there as the rest of us!
Why should you attend?
From dawn (yep, 7am) until dusk (and that’s excluding the parties), MVPs, Salesforce employees, CEOs, and other people at the top of their game, for each of the 4 days, explain what resonates with them, whether it’s how Salesforce works, what it can be used for, or how it can expand your business and unlock new potential. There are plenty of angles of this story, and this conference will cover them all. I’m a harsh reviewer and I’m now struggling to remember any dud sessions that I attended, although I’m sure that must have been at least one – certainly can’t remember what it was though!
All these sessions sound like hard work. And it’s true they can be. I’m not an early morning person, but the great thing about the 7am sessions is that if you’re still in a different time zone they can work perfectly! 🙂 There were genuine choices such as listening to Michelle Obama or have breakfast with the Amplify nonprofit, who are a collective of Salesforce users focused on helping women (and others) to be fearless leaders in technology. I chose the latter and, to my surprise we started with a mindfulness session with around 70+ others showing (A) you’re in America and (B) well, it was just incredible!
So what’s the value to the business?
Salesforce have already produced the metrics, but here’s my take:
- Speaking to the experts. There’s usually Q&As after each talk, so you get to ask the questions that are challenging you; usually because of the Ohana of the community, presenters are happy to hang around and spend time helping you out.
- Attending the sessions. Despite my love of Trailhead or watching videos online, in session learning is a world apart. You can influence the discussion and ask a question to clarify points you don’t understand. How much is the real world cost be to get that otherwise? And, in practice, you wouldn’t have the time to do so anyway!
- The networking. I’ve previously doubted the benefit of networking possibly because it’s not my natural skillset. Now I’m using all the (Dutch) contacts I met at last year’s Dreamforce, whether to publish this blog, help me out with technical challenges, learn about new AppExchange products, find sponsors and presenters for the my local User Group, or give me opportunities to bond better with those I had met beforehand. The benefit of networking will vary for everyone, but will be centred on the topics of interest to you, because that’s how it works, and there are activities for everyone!
- Reward for hard work! By the way, if you’re flying all the way over to San Francisco, extend the trip by a few days and explore the locality or further afield.
And you come back more impassioned, more dedicated, more efficient and harder working. This is the killer argument, and it’s a typical effect of investment and belief in staff. I came back so inspired that I swear have been working at least 10% harder even since I returned (an impressive ROI). I brushed off the mental cobwebs that had accumulated in the 20+ releases since I entered the Salesforce ecosystem; I was refreshed and reinvigorated. And happier, having reset my perspective.
So, clearly it was fun and I learnt a lot, but now for the hard part, let’s consider the costs.
Currently (as of mid-May 2018, just prior to the Dreamforce tickets being released), it’s €777 for a direct return flight from the Netherlands, €800 for a nearby hotel, $14 for the ESTA visa, plus breakfast and dinner costs; lunch is included. Total: €1600.You can save by using skyscanner.net and changing planes on the route (bringing the cost down to €550), taking longer, and save significantly by being prepared by staying in a dormitory (prices are currently €300) or have a longer journey to the conference area (centred around the Moscone Centre). Budget traveller: €1000 although these deals will disappear very quickly once the Dreamforce tickets are released.
And this excludes the Dreamforce ticket itself: The full conference pass (which is what you need) is $1899 until 11th June but then goes up to $2099. Sometimes your Salesforce Account Executive or friendly Partner may be able to get you an extra discount, so it’s always worth asking, but no guarantees! The price for nonprofits is a bargain $475 but only while discounted tickets last.
And that’s excluding the week off from usual work-related activities.
Even though I started with Salesforce in 2011, the last year has been my best one so far. Would I have achieved the Trailblazer Golden Hoodie without my trip to Dreamforce? I’m not convinced. Thank you Salesforce, and this year, I won’t just be bringing my colleague along, but many of my team, and it will be money very well spent.
p.s. Want this blog in Dutch? – it will be coming out during the next week, with this article updated when it’s ready.