Dreamforce 2023, Salesforce’s flagship event, is just around the corner – and if you’re planning to attend this immersive experience in San Francisco, you’re in for a treat. As tens of thousands of professionals, thought leaders, and experts converge to discuss the latest trends, networking becomes an essential part of your Dreamforce journey.
That can be easier said than done; Dreamforce is total sensory overload and the idea of networking is anxiety-inducing for many. Fear not, in this article I’ll be sharing my top networking tips for Dreamforce, and keep reading till the end for a special section for my fellow introverts!
Dreamforce Networking Tips
1. Plan ahead, but also plan for non-planned networking (make sense?)
I’m a typical ‘Type A’ personality which means I LOVE to plan in advance. Truth be told, planning helps reduce any anxiety I have and allows me to feel more in control.
Planning is essential at Dreamforce where you can expect a ridiculous number of sessions, parties, and other networking opportunities. So, first up, plan your essential sessions, gatherings, and parties. Once you’ve planned them, have a think about who else might be there and what your common interests, passions, and goals are. This gives you a good basis for potential conversation topics (more on this later).
However, I’m learning that you also need to make time for spontaneous fun and networking to truly get the most out of any event.
My advice? Once you’ve planned your time, be sure you’ve also planned in blocks of time to do whatever takes your fancy in the moment – whether this be coffee with your new Salesforce buddy or accepting a last-minute invite perhaps!
2. Excited to be here? Tell your face!
I’m as guilty as the next person for having a very serious face when I’m working/concentrating/randomly wandering around. The trouble is, it makes you look unapproachable. As you’re going about your day at Dreamforce, remember to smile!
Smiling will make you more approachable and welcoming, making it much easier for others to speak to you.
That said, let’s give each other plenty of grace; it’s not natural for most of us to walk around with a smile in place all day. Just because someone isn’t smiling doesn’t mean they don’t want to socialize or network.
3. You are not alone – look for other solo attendees
If you’re attending Dreamforce alone or perhaps this is your first Dreamforce (or even first Salesforce event) then I promise you are not alone. It’s like going back to high school, isn’t it? It feels like everyone already knows everyone else and you’re the only one alone.
You’re not. There are thousands of people in the same boat as you. The only way to change this is to get out there and network. Use Dreamforce as your opportunity to start building your network so you always know someone at a Salesforce event.
Look for events and parties aimed at first-time attendees or solo travelers. Lunch is also a great opportunity to spot other people eating alone – you can easily strike up a conversation along the lines of… “My turkey sandwich is great! How’s your lunch? Would you mind if I sat here?”
4. People feel connected to you when they help you
Ok, this one’s a bit more psychological. When we help others it activates parts of the brain associated with pleasure, trust, and social connection. Helping others makes us feel good about ourselves, and in turn, we associate feeling good with the person we helped.
What’s this got to do with Dreamforce? Well, if you’re unsure how to start a conversion, why not ask someone for help and see where it leads?
I’m not talking about asking “Is this seat taken?”, I’m talking about asking someone to clarify something, or explain a feature to you. After a session, you could say “I was really fascinated by the new ABC feature but I don’t know much about XYZ feature. Could you explain it to me?”.
5. Remember we all have a shared goal
The joy of networking at a Salesforce event is that we all have a shared goal and interest – Salesforce. So, if in doubt, we can always talk about Salesforce!
People go to Dreamforce for many different reasons but primarily they are there to network, socialize, learn, or sell. With this knowledge, you are armed with plenty of initial questions. This leads us very nicely onto our next section…
6. Plan ice-breaker questions
Stuck for ideas? Don’t worry, here are a few suggestions:
- “What brings you to Dreamforce?”
- “What are you most excited to learn about at Dreamforce?”
- “Can you recommend any must-see sessions?”
- “Is this your first Dreamforce?”
- “Can you recommend any good parties?”
- “Are you going to Salesforce Ben’s AfterParty GPT?”
- “Did you catch the keynote? [Insert product name] looks really cool. What did you think?”
- “What Salesforce products do you use?”
- “What’s your Salesforce role?”
- “As a fellow [insert role], are there any sessions you would recommend?”
- “What industry do you work in?”
- “How long have you used Salesforce/been in the Salesforce ecosystem?”
- “Have you had your photo taken with any of the giant mascots yet?”
- “Do you have any tips for [insert quest name]?”
- “Could you recommend the best place to grab lunch?”
- “Do you have any tips for newbies?”
And if all else fails why not just be honest?
“Hi. It’s my first time at Dreamforce. I don’t know anyone yet and it’s pretty overwhelming! What was your first Dreamforce experience like?”
With any luck, you’ll find another newbie or solo traveler, or someone who will be happy to have a chat and give you some tips or even let you tag along with them.
7. Find your tribe
Before you can determine your tribe, you may need to figure out what your networking goals are. Are you looking to meet people in the same role or industry? Are you looking to meet people facing a similar challenge? Are you a solo admin simply seeking other admins?
Whatever you want to achieve, plan your sessions and activities accordingly in order to meet those people.
Let’s pretend I’m a solo admin from the UK, it’s my first Dreamforce, and my role primarily uses Sales Cloud. Here’s what I would do…
- Pick up badge while it’s quiet and say hello to a few fellow attendees
- EMEA Community Gathering at Dreamforce
- Newbie Reunion “Bacon” Breakfast
- Explore the campground, complete a quest, collect some swag
- AfterParty GPT
Although the keynotes and roadmap sessions are available on Salesforce+, if it was my first time at Dreamforce I would want to experience the magic of these sessions in person.
Aside from the activities above, I would make time to simply wander around, have lunch each day at a different location, and attend any other sessions I was interested in. You can see my recommended sessions here!
8. Remember your tribe may not be where you expect
I am 100% Salesforce Admin but some of my favorite people in the Salesforce ecosystem are Developers or people that work on different products such as Tableau. Whilst I love Salesforce, my other passions include data analytics and sales strategies so I enjoy seeking out a wide range of people – not just fellow admins.
Think about what you enjoy or feel passionate about. Like giving back? There are opportunities for volunteering. Enjoy boba? There’s a #BobaBlazers meetup at Dreamforce. Fancy a game of pickleball? You’re in luck, you can join this event.
As much as we have a shared interest and goal at Dreamforce, we are all unique individuals with lives and hobbies outside of Salesforce. Don’t compartmentalize; you can find other Salesforce Trailblazers with common interests and base future friendships on more than our shared love of Salesforce.
9. Diversify your interactions
While it’s natural to gravitate toward people who are similar or familiar to you, make an effort to diversify your network. Dreamforce is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to engage with individuals from various industries, roles, and backgrounds. This diversity can lead to fresh perspectives and unexpected opportunities.
10. What’s in it for them?
Successful networking is easier once you figure out what people want – what’s in it for them? The easiest way to figure out what’s in it for them is to figure out what’s in it for you. Most of us simply want a kind interaction with someone that makes us feel welcome, heard, and understood.
Networking isn’t just about talking; it’s about active listening as well. When engaging in conversations, pay attention to what others are saying and ask thoughtful follow-up questions. Being a good listener shows genuine interest and helps you build more authentic connections.
Approach networking with a mindset of giving rather than just taking. Be prepared to offer insights, share resources, or provide assistance to others. Adding value to your interactions makes you more memorable and encourages others to reciprocate.
Networking Tips for Introverts & Social Anxiety
Networking events can be extra daunting for introverts or individuals with social anxiety – but with the right strategies, we can still thrive and make meaningful connections. Here are six tips tailored to help introverts navigate in-person networking with confidence:
1. Quality over quantity
Networking isn’t about meeting everyone in the room or collecting the most connections. Instead, focus on making a few quality connections with like-minded people. Set achievable goals, such as engaging in meaningful conversations with two or three people. Quality interactions trump quantity.
2. Preparation is key
Introverts often feel more comfortable when they are well-prepared. If there are specific people you’d like to connect with, you could reach out to them prior to the event to ask what events they are attending and express your interest in meeting them. If you are extending this kind of request, make it personal and let them know why you’d like to meet them and what’s in it for them.
For example, if there was an MVP you wanted to meet and they are speaking at a session, why not send them a message to let them know you are excited about their session and would love the opportunity to speak with them after. Let them know if you’re simply looking to say hi, or if you have a specific query.
Knowing what events you are going to attend and your goal (e.g. meeting three new people) can help you feel both in control and provide you with a quantifiable achievement. If you set out to meet three new people and you achieve that then you can give yourself a pat on the back for a job well done.
At these types of large networking events, celebrate every achievement, and mentally speak to yourself as you would a friend or a child. I know it sounds silly but that negative voice in your head is far crueler than anyone else would be.
Before you berate yourself for not attending enough parties or not speaking to enough people, ask yourself what your best friend or mother might say to you. I’m pretty sure it would go something like: “I’m really proud of you for pushing yourself outside your comfort zone. Just attending Dreamforce is a huge achievement, anything on top of that is incredible.”
Things you can say to yourself:
- “I’m proud of myself for attending Dreamforce.”
- “I hit my goal of meeting three new people. Meeting the next three people will be that much easier.”
- “I didn’t manage to meet my goal of meeting three new people but I had an excellent conversation with [insert name] and feel like I made a genuine connection which will make it so much easier to speak to that person again in the future.”
- “I’m proud of myself for stepping away for a short while to get some much-needed alone time to recharge, instead of leaving the event completely.”
- “I don’t have to go to every party to have an enjoyable and memorable Dreamforce experience. I can feel comfortable honoring my needs and boundaries.”
- “I accept that I may be tired/jetlagged/hungry and morning events may suit me better than evening events. I can enjoy the breakfast meetups and not feel pressured to go to parties in the evening.”
- “I am grateful that I put my needs first and have nourished myself with quality connections leaving me refreshed enough to enjoy the full conference.”
3. Arrive early or pick quieter events
Arriving early at events can be incredibly beneficial; it’s usually less crowded, giving you the chance to ease into the environment before it becomes overwhelming. This also allows for more one-on-one interactions, as the number of people is still manageable.
I like to pick up my badge on Monday afternoon when it’s still quite quiet. You can get familiar with the route from your accommodation and this is the perfect spot to try some networking while there are only a few people around.
4. Focus on meaningful conversations
Rather than trying to engage with a large number of people, aim for deeper conversations with a few individuals. Introverts often excel at active listening and asking thoughtful questions. Use this to your advantage by showing genuine interest in what others have to say. Remember, it’s about quality connections, not quantity.
It can also help to find out more about the person you are speaking to that’s not Salesforce related. Discussing Salesforce is a great ice-breaker but don’t forget to ask questions that aren’t about Salesforce.
5. Schedule some “me time”
Recognize your limits and take a break to have time alone when needed. Find a quiet corner or step outside for a few minutes to recharge. These moments of solitude can help you manage any social anxiety and maintain your energy throughout the event.
One of the easiest ways to get a little “me-time” is to wander up the street, away from the conference center, and find a coffee shop. You only have to go about two streets away to lose the Dreamforce crowds. There’s a Starbucks on Market Street that always seems to be empty.
If you’re looking for somewhere you can breathe a little more over lunchtime then my recommendation would be to grab lunch outside at the Yerba Buena Gardens. Lunch inside Moscone can feel very claustrophobic.
6. Embrace JOMO
“Joy of Missing Out” or JOMO is an essential part of accepting your introverted nature! There are plenty of differing opinions on this topic and you’ll hear many people tell you that you must make the most of every second and you have to go to every party to really experience Dreamforce.
Absolute nonsense. If I did everything, I would enjoy nothing. Far better to prioritize the events you really want to go to and enjoy those. This way you can plan in time to rest, recuperate, and mentally prepare yourself for the next activity!
Attending Dreamforce 2023 presents an unparalleled opportunity to network with professionals from diverse industries and backgrounds. Don’t feel deterred if your first, second, or third attempts at networking don’t pan out. People are super busy at Dreamforce and rushing between sessions and events. Don’t take it personally and keep trying!
Finally, networking doesn’t end when Dreamforce does. After the event, follow up with your new connections via email or LinkedIn, or other social media platforms. Reference your conversation, express your interest in staying in touch, and suggest potential ways to collaborate or share insights.