There’s an elephant in the room. You’ve read the article and persuaded your manager; you’ve booked the tickets but now there’s the small matter of 2700+ sessions to choose between.
Credit for this article largely goes to Samuel De Rycke, Salesforce MVP who tore up my initial plans for my first Dreamforce last year. Why? Read on…
Dreamforce is rather large; think of Oxford Street during Christmas sales, Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade or Pride here in Amsterdam. The population of downtown San Francisco quadruples and the locals leave town if they can. With 170000+ on the streets, all trying to change session simultaneously, it’s a lot of people and, with the best will in the world, normality is paused!
That said, there are lots of people to assist and point you in the direction; there’s even Abilityforce ambassadors to help out with any accessibility needs. However, consideration and planning is necessary to navigate the crowds.
Spaces at sessions are limited
The good news is that you can reserve your place at just about every session using the online Session Builder; there will also be the Salesforce Events app (Android/iPhone) but that is just showing Dreamforce 2017 currently. The bad news is that these reservation slots go fast.
Click into the session, and once spaces are open (not yet!, at time of writing) you can then reserve your seat. If you don’t see any option to reserve, this probably means all the seats are already taken, but you can still bookmark it and turn up on the day.
Have a reservation? Great – you’re almost in. You still need to be at the right place at least 10 minutes early (or earlier still for the bigger events), otherwise your space will be released to those queuing for standby places.The exception to this are the 20 minute Theatre sessions which can’t be reserved. They are held in open spaces (such as Lodges, Zones, and The Campground) and have no queuing system – arriving early and get a front row seat to ensure you can hear clearly enough.
For the Keynotes and the largest names, people without reservations queue for at least an hour. You need to decide whether this is worth the time. A friend has described them as “spectacles” but they are designed to amaze and inspire, and you’ll see the themes that are raised work themselves out across the entire year, if not beyond, so you’ll be well ahead of the curve if you do attend. Keynotes are both live-streamed and recorded so you can catch up later, but not everything is – for instance I missed out on seeing Michelle Obama because I presumed I could catch up later – and it turned out I was wrong.
Pro tip: Go to the Keynotes for the overview and then the Breakouts to drill into the details. Here you’ll hear from subject matter experts and they’ll leave a decent amount of time for Q&A from the audience, allowing you greatest chance to interact with presenters, or sometimes ask them questions afterwards. If you have a challenge you’re wanting to reflect on, this may give you the required information or you could be sitting next to someone with a similar interest and can discuss it with them.
Back to Back Sessions?
- that’s insane (well, certainly doing it multiple times around)
- unless you happen to have scored and both sessions are in the same room and follow on from each other, logistically it’s impossible.
Last year, Samuel took one look at the list of sessions I was planning to go to and drew a line through the whole lot. I had reserved places on them all, but what I hadn’t allowed for was the time walking between venues.
There are lots of people on the streets, many of whom are geographically challenged. You just can’t power walk through such a mass of humanity. You need to allow time to get between venues.
Allow 5 minutes to get out of a session, and you’ll want to plan to be at that next session at a minimum of 10 minutes in advance, so that’s at least 15 minutes on the hugely optimistic side. Then there are those busy streets. Check the walking time on Google Maps and then triple it; I found the venue map in the Dreamforce guide useful when deciding on last-minute session changes.
Pro tip 2: Just because lunch is free, this doesn’t mean it’s cost effective. Particularly on the first day, the queues are horrendous as everyone works what’s what (including the staff). Think of the price of your ticket and accommodation, then work out whether queuing for an hour is a good use of your time. There’s plenty of shops nearby or pick something up on your way in at the start of the day. Sometimes the catering station at the next venue has no queues at all, especially if it is off the beaten track.
How to choose the right session?
Right now you can go on to the Session Builder. To be honest, last year it wasn’t my favourite tool, but it’ll do. You should log in (to save your sessions) and then you can choose by role/position, salesforce product, industry, theme or skill level. The Session Builder continues to be updated until Dreamforce itself.
If there’s a name of a presenter you want to see because you read their blog, follow them on Twitter or they inspire you, go for it! A good presenter is interesting regardless of the topic.
That said, first you may just want to search for topics of interest. Samuel suggests searching on the following keywords: keynote, roadmap, hands-on-training/H-o-H, architecture (ok, he might be biased on the last one!).
Then work through the titles and the abstract – they’re both designed to let you know what the topics is, and then have a look at the presenters just in case you’re unsure; this will help as a deciding factor. Star/ favourite the ones you’re interested in seeing.
Pro tip: Check the sessions are appropriate for your level and will teach you something new – please don’t stick to your comfort zone; you should use Dreamforce to stretch yourself!
Second Round Filtering
Then put them all in a Google Sheet/Calendar/notebook with venue location.
Take a second look at the venue location, and you’ll then realise you’ve made lots of impossible choices. You can’t walk from Moscone West to the Hilton in 10 minutes, even on a good day!
Take tough decisions, decide where your priorities lie, consider what sessions you have a reserved space at, and what sessions you will have to queue for, and your schedule will half. You will still be scheduling in more than is sensible, but at least you are more prepared and can make the best use of your time when you’re there.
This doesn’t mean you can’t bookmark some things as backup plans (especially for the sessions where you don’t have a reserved place), but just don’t overdo it.
It’s not all hard work and learning. Make sure you have time for networking and the parties;. If you’re from the Nordics or Benelux I particularly recommend the North Party. You might see some familiar faces 😉
There’s also plenty of other good blogs out there, including Eric Dreshfield MVP’s newbie survival guide, on how to make the best of Dreamforce. My other “pro” tip is to bring compression socks. I’ve never worn them before in my life, but all I know is that my feet hurt less than other people’s! Very much recommended.
Lastly, an offer for nonprofits. Salesforce.org’s Director of Events is running a webinar on 12th September giving the inside scoop on what is happening around campus at Dreamforce.
Final pro tip: You’ve got this far, so take the pressure off your feet. By all accounts Dreamfest (the free party on 26th September this year) is amazing, but to be honest I decided to pace myself and skip it. 50k to 100k do attend but they also all try and leave at the same time. Whilst boarding the coaches on the way there is easy as people are distributed, you’ll want to walk back or wait until the majority of people have left at the end of the concert. And trying to sneak out a few minutes early to grab an Uber doesn’t work, because there are lots of other clever people trying the same thing 🙂
Have a wonderful time, and perhaps come and say hello to me or one of my fellow Community Group Leaders in the Community Cove. If you like my passion and my writing, then I’ll be happy to tell you about your local User Group, and how they’ve inspired me to be where I am today (on my laptop, thinking that I ought to get back to work…).