10 Networking Tips For Dreamforce

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Dreamforce, the largest event in the Salesforce calendar, is here! We’re well-versed on what this mega-event promises to deliver; aside from the technology and innovation, the networking is quoted as a strong favorite – and for good reason!

With thousands of Trailblazers descending on San Francisco (and countless more streaming on Salesforce+), the thought of Dreamforce can be anxiety-inducing for some. Don’t worry, I know how it feels. I’m pulling out this guide from the 2019 archives to share tips that you can keep up your sleeve for a smoother networking experience.

Without wanting to reinvent the wheel, I will be sharing thoughts from a communication coach with two decades of intense networking under his belt. I will reframe this great piece in the context of Dreamforce.

Salesforce Networking Is Different

First, I’m going to kick-off by painting a picture of networking in the Salesforce ecosystem.

Paul Ginsberg, Golden Hoodie awarded, Benelux community leader, and long-time Salesforce evangelist has written about networking within the Salesforce Ecosystem – why it’s important, why it’s different, and how this can open up possibilities for people who were once socially cautious:

“Having given this some serious thought, I think I know 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 prioritize our limited time to get the maximum reward”

– “How to Network in the Salesforce Ecosystem” by Paul Ginsberg.

Dreamforce advocates that 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 approach conversations with the aim to find out who someone is, beyond their work identity.

The Conversation Cushion

Dreamforce is a sensory overload. Conversation ‘cushions’ are a good tactic to use because these questions ease the respondent into the conversation, sparking curiosity to prove you are interested in the other person’s point of view.

The examples that Michael Thompson gives in his guide to conversation 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?”

As an introverted Brit, I personally appreciate a cushion that eases me in. These make the first response easier – a huge improvement on the awkward small talk. You get to have an opinion, and conversation will flow based on your answer.

Let’s look at some examples of general, or Salesforce-related conversation cushions – switch these up for a lively discussion.

Ignite The Discussion

“Over the last few weeks, I’ve been asking everyone I meet this one question…”

  • “…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 missing?”
  • “…What’s the next big thing you are going to do with your Salesforce org?”
  • “…What Salesforce superpower would you like to have?”

The Tie-Breaker

“…would you mind serving as our tie-breaker?”

What I love about the ‘tie-breaker’ question, is that whichever you answer (option A or B), your answer will be heard and respected. There is a real (or imaginary) person that shares 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?”
  • “…Is it better to have generalist Salesforce skills or specialist skills – breadth or depth?”

Read the full list of conversation cushions.

Summary

Dreamforce can rapidly become a logistical nightmare and energy sap if you try to be everywhere at once. The scale of the event geographically (spread across downtown San Francisco), and the huge range of professionals’ specialization, means that you should pay attention to where you should be hanging out.

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.

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 one 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.

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