This is starting to become a bit of a tradition for me. As an organization we like to provide as much useful and relevant information to the nonprofit community we serve. If you frequent our blog you will notice we provide information on every topic we can think of. Anything that we think the nonprofit community will find helpful you can bet we will do our best to provide it through our content. It just so happens that when the blogging hat lands on my head we are usually near the annual “event” known as Dreamforce. For those of you who are new to Salesforce, Dreamforce is the annual Salesforce conference that brings over 100,000 attendees from all over the world to San Francisco for 4 days of sessions, networking, learning and inspiration. Calling it just an event does not do it justice anymore. It really is an experience. One that I have not seen replicated in any other conference I have attended, which trust me, is not a small list.
My first blog post about Dreamforce was covering my initial experience and what I took away from attending for the first time. A year later I wrote about what I learned and some tips after attending my second Dreamforce. This year I wanted to switch gears a little and provide more information on what you should do when you attend Dreamforce.
First, let’s talk about the big elephant in the room. Some of you reading this post might not be able to attend Dreamforce in person. I know that pain through first-hand attempts to convince my previous employer (a nonprofit) to send me each of the 3 years I was the system administrator I just couldn’t make it happen. Fortunately, all is not loss. If you can’t make it this year there are a few consolation prizes and some suggestions I can still make. First, go through the agenda. Even if you can’t go, the sessions are usually available online a few weeks after the event. This means you can still learn all of the great new information shared during Dreamforce.
Second, catch the Keynote live online. I know… it seems like I am asking you to beat yourself up by seeing the packed room during the live Keynote. But really, the Keynote does one thing for me every year: It showcases how important the nonprofit community is to Salesforce and their philanthropic mission. Every year I have attended, or watched the keynote, I am taken aback by Marc Benioff and how he will spend the first portion of the Keynote sharing all of the great work the 1-1-1 philanthropic model is doing. We also get to hear from an organization who has benefited from the Force for Change Grant. Even though he’s surrounded by the thousands of for-profit, sales, and IT professional’s that make up the vast majority of the Salesforce user base, the company’s CEO still leads with how Salesforce continues to innovate how nonprofits achieve their mission.
Finally, if you know you can’t go, see if there are any user group members that are attending and talk to them after Dreamforce. Learn about what they experience and what value it is bringing to their company. This is a quick way to try again with your leadership group next year by have 1st hand examples of the value add that Dreamforce brings.
Now, for those who have the opportunity to attend in person, I have decided to do a little research to put together some recommendations on what-to-do and what-not-to-do. If you are like me, you expect to see something new every year and that has been true so far. So let’s talk about what to do.
Shocker, right? While it may sound simple, you might be surprised. If you are traveling to San Francisco for Dreamforce, get a room somewhere as early as possible. Over 100,000 people attend this conference every year and places fill up quickly. It’s never too early. If you already have a place for this year and you know you are coming back next year, book a place for next year after the conference. I almost find it comical but, trust me, it’s not! In addition to finding a place to sleep, go through the Dreamforce agenda and pick your sessions early since they fill up quickly, too. As of me writing this blog post the agenda wasn’t available yet but check often so that you can pounce on sessions that interest you. If you miss out, don’t worry too much about it. Remember they will be available online in a few weeks so attend as many sessions as possible and watch the rest online. Finally, there are a lot of social networking events provided by the Foundation as well as partners. Go to them, meet people, talk shop, and enjoy the fruits of your labor. This is a great and low pressure way to meet and learn from all kinds of Platform users. If you see me, come over and tell me what you are doing with Salesforce, what you love about it and what drives you bonkers. It’s an open secret that my favorite part of the conference is listening to user stories and learning about how they have overcome adversity because as an system administrator, adversity is part of the job description.
So you are registered for your sessions, you know where you are crashing every night and are set with the networking events. Now what? My recommendation, is explore and play. This is our candy store. Go to the Admin Zone and talk to all the great Super Admins there. Go to the Developer Zone and nerd out! Not a developer you say? Well neither am I but I learned all sorts of things last year thanks to about an hour spent at the Dev Zone. Don’t let the word ‘developer’ scare you off. You won’t come out of there to develop the latest and greatest app but you might just leave feeling a little more comfortable trying. There are stations to get your hands dirty so don’t shy away. Finally, there is the Expo where you will find an abundance of apps, partners and everything in between. Have you been looking at adding some event management integration to Salesforce? This is the place to talk to them. Go there and spend some time learning about what everyone does. Don’t forget that nonprofit partners and apps will have our own section so if you want to skip on the madness of the expo you can go to the Foundation Zone and meet all the great applications and partners working in the nonprofit space.
What not to do!
I wanted to share some don’ts as well when attending Dreamforce. These might sound obvious but it’s worth noting them:
- Don’t get overwhelmed, at the end of the day it is a conference. A huge conference that you will not be able to see all of no matter how fast you walk. Planning helps avoid getting overwhelmed but even if you don’t plan that well, just remember to relish what you experience and don’t worry about what you miss.
- Don’t avoid conversation, it’s pretty easy to walk around look at a both or a company name and assume that you don’t want anything to do with them. That might not be the case and if you have any desire to learn about the organization, approach them. They probably want to know as much about what you do as you want to know about them.
- Don’t miss out on the city, San Francisco is a beautiful and unique city. Make some time to see it. Make sure you know where you are going and that it is safe but don’t just go from the hotel and back every day or you will regret it later.
Well that’s it. I hope you find my ranting helpful this year as you gear up for another great Dreamforce.
You may be interested in reading these other blog posts as well: