The First Timer's Guide to Surviving Dreamforce, 2019 Edition

November 11, 2019 Joe Shearer

Not to take issue with Andy Williams, but NOW may just be the most wonderful time of the year. 

It's time for Dreamforce 2019! It's the most exciting four days in technology and conferencing. Trailblazers the world over will get together for exchanging information, networking, sharing stories and successes, and having some good, clean professional fun. Dreamforce is today's experts, tomorrow's technology, and the workshops, keynotes, and sessions that will give you heaping helpings of both.

Since 2003 Dreamforce has been the standard for technology conferences, evolving into a one-of-a-kind experience with a reported 170,000 annual attendees and visitors to San Francisco's Moscone Center, Salesforce Tower, Marriott Marquis, InterContinental, Palace Hotel, and Hilton Union Square. The industry's best sessions and companies cross paths with a slew of celebrity speakers, afterparties, and so much more. 

In other words, you want to be a part of this. 

Dreamforce 2018 Campground Moscone Center

And no doubt, first-timer, you want your Dreamforce experience to be all it can be. You’re already feeling the effects of FOMO—fear of missing out—and you’re eager to hear the words and advice of those who have been there before on how to best navigate these rather deep waters. 

This guide does just that, walking you through the before, during, after, and after-after, letting you know what to expect from the juggernaut that’s Dreamforce 2019 and how to not only survive but thrive in this environment.

Preparation

Dreamforce is NOT a show-up-and-wing-it kind of event. It's a massive conference with countless sessions, activities, booths, and things to do. It's easy to get swallowed up by the enormity of it all. if you want to make the most of your experience, you will need to be prepared.

The must-pack essentials for Dreamforce

  1. Comfortable shoes. In the movie Forrest Gump, Lt. Dan tells Forrest and Bubba the key to surviving in the jungle is taking care of your feet. So too is this true for Dreamforce. You'll be on your feet and moving. A LOT. Wear shoes that won't hurt your feet. Or make you need magic legs.
  2. Clothing options. Attire is business casual, but be sure to pack layers: San Francisco can get chilly in November. And don't forget the rain gear. And extra clothes, just in case. 
  3. Power cables/chargers. You'll need to be plugging in both your phone and your laptop/tablet. Have chargers at the ready—and maybe an extra or two because you'll be on the go. If you have a mobile charging block or three, all the better. 
  4. A good carrying bag. Do you prefer an over-the-shoulder messenger-type bag to hold your supplies? This conference-goer suggests a sturdy backpack with plenty of storage pockets. You'll not be catching it on people and other obstacles as you navigate crowds, and you’ll find your hands are freed up much more. 
  5. Business cards. Yes, we live in the digital age of tablets, online portfolios, and social media, but nothing is quicker than just handing your business card to a new contact. Yes, take advantage of LinkedIn, or just drop a text, but nothing beats the convenience of simply handing someone a good, old-fashioned business card. Have PLENTY with you.
  6. A laundry bag. You'll need a place to put your dirty clothes, and you don't want to trust the hotel to have an appropriate bag.
  7. First aid. Ever notice you get sick at conferences? That's because you're meeting new people who introduce you to brand-new viruses, bacteria, and assorted other germs. Bring some flu medicine, ibuprofen, and other assorted remedies. Vitamins and dietary supplements like Emergen-C can help boost your energy, metabolism, and immune system. Be creative. It's better to have them and not need them than the other way around.

Arrival

Get your pass early. The line fills up FAST. Expect to wait a half hour or more, even if you arrive at 7 a.m. If possible, get your pass on Monday evening, or get up REALLY early Tuesday. Also, while you're in line, chat up your fellow line-standers. 

Set your itinerary. Know which sessions are must-see, which are nice-to-see, and which you can skip. And then register for the sessions you want to attend ahead of time.

Pace yourself. FOMO will get you moving, but don't let it rule your life. Burnout is real, and it can sneak up on you in a second. Don't try to cram in everything. Schedule breaks throughout the day. Have some me time, and don't try to solve ALL of your company's problems at once.

Stay positive. Keep in mind that your mood affects the mood of those who interact with you. If you have a good attitude and remember to be kind, you're more likely to get the same response.

Pro Tips: 

Buddy up with a local or two. They'll know the best spots to eat, relax, and cut loose. 
Bring snacks. Nuts, jerky. Lots of protein. Whatever you like, but beware sugary snacks and drinks that will make you crash. Stay hydrated.
Find a "safe space." An unofficial spot you enjoy where you can unwind, relax, or recharge yourself. 
Get the Salesforce Events app. If this seems like a no-brainer, you're right. It has all the details you need to navigate Dreamforce like a boss.

The Event

Avoid Burnout
The first-timer is often bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, excited to be at this huge conference and overwhelmed at the sessions and the opportunities they have in front of them. 

If you can, try to dial back that excitement a little and be realistic. You have only so much energy, and your brain is capable of absorbing only so much information in a given day, so pace yourself. 

Don't let FOMO exhaust you to the point that it ruins your convention experience. Yes, you want to see this speaker and that, and this networking session may indeed do so much for your business, and this other session might inspire you to fundamentally change the way your entire business operates. But it's important to not let all of this stimulation and information lead to overload. 

Staying Fresh (and Clean Clean)

Set limits for yourself. Prioritize what you'll get the most out of, and decide if you want to cast a wide net, learning a little about a lot, or if you want to deep-dive into one specific aspect. 

Map out your week. The key to a successful Dreamforce experience is to HAVE A PLAN. If you have a plan, you’ll always know where you need to be and when, so you can give yourself time to relax and unwind in between being “on.” Don't work too hard.

Don't forget to stay connected!

Social media is vital to the success of Dreamforce, and both sharing, and being privy to new events, is a must. Don't forget the hashtags: #Dreamforce, #Dreamforce2019, and #DF2019. Also, don't be afraid to ask vendors about their hashtags! Spread that social net! Want more social insights? Our Social Media Tips and Tricks for the #DF19 Newbie blog will help you raise your social game even more.

Get enough rest! Take some time off to unwind and re-energize. Overstimulation is your enemy—be sure to schedule breaks throughout the day. If you live multiple time zones from San Francisco, it might take some time to acclimate to the time change. Be aware of that, and make sure you get plenty of sleep, or you're bound to crash. How are you going to learn how to change the focus of your entire company if you can't keep your eyes open? Whatever happened at 4 a.m. won't be nearly as cool in the morning when it could have been an extra four hours of sleep instead. 

Sessions 

Get to your sessions as early as possible to find your seat. Take notes, and don't be afraid to snap some pics of particularly worthwhile slides. Don't forget to ask questions during the Q&As, and, if possible, chat with a presenter or two after the session is over.

Networking

Dreamforce is a veritable haven of professional contacts, and so many can't wait to expand their professional networks. Professionals of all stripes and types are all itching to connect and chat and get their products and services in front of you. 

And with all the power breakfasts and lunches and cocktails and meetups at local watering holes, there are more than enough opportunities to network with others, expand your contact base, and make new friends and possibly business associates along the way.

Networking Tips

  • Have an Elevator Pitch. That's your hook that gets everyone up and ready. Know it by heart and be ready to use it. Also have talking points ready ahead of time—"yes" or "no" or overly simple answers aren’t allowed. Be engaging.  
  • Don't waste time in line. Yes, you're going to be waiting in line sometimes. But maximize that time by making friends with the people around you. Keep in mind they're a captive audience, so be gentle. Make small talk and don't give them the hard sell. 
  • Keep expectations realistic. You're not here to meet the world. You're here to get a few relevant contacts you can establish a relationship with. Rather than pinging from person to person like a pinball, focus on a handful, and give them the care you’d like to have. 
  • Don't be pushy. Don't give everyone the hard sell. Talk to people; let your personality shine through. Ask open-ended questions, and don't just overwhelm people with product info and sales pitches. 
  • Don't be afraid to move on. A little "excuse me" goes a long way. Give GENTLE brushoffs when you need to. For even more subtlety, excuse yourself to the restroom.
  • Mingle. So what if you don't know anyone in the room? Introduce yourself—even to speakers; don't be afraid to talk to them. Strike up conversations. This is why you're here! Observe the three-foot rule: Anyone within three feet of you is fair game to speak with.
  • Don't ignore social. Other people will be tweeting, Instagramming, Facebooking, LinkedIning, or whatever else. Monitor your channels and hashtags (don't forget the hashtags! #Dreamforce, #Dreamforce2019, and #DF2019) and keep up with what people are saying online. You might even be able to score a meeting or two. While you're at it, if you're promoting a certain vendor, ask them their hashtag or handle, so you can give them a social shout-out.

Pro tip:  Have a pen with you all the time. When you get a business card, write notes on the back to remember your conversation later. 

The Parties

Simply put, there are parties EVERYWHERE. Find the ones you want to attend, and have a good time. Have a strategy: Do you want to be a consistent presence for a certain crowd, or do you want to get out there a little? Have at least one day where you turn in early, and don't party yourself out. 

Parties are a great way to unwind and network at the same time. They're generally after-hours events, so they are less formal and have less pressure, giving you the opportunity to cut loose a bit and have fun. Reconnecting with people you've already met is a great way to make parties more tenable and strengthen bonds with potential clients. Just be sure you're there to have fun first, make contacts second. 

The City

San Francisco is a picturesque, lively city, and if you visit there without seeing some sites . . . well, what would be the good of that? Make it a point to check out some of these San Fran landmarks:

  • The Golden Gate Bridge
  • Alcatraz
  • Coit Tower
  • The Marin Headlands
  • Muir Woods
  • Fisherman's Wharf
  • Pier 39

If you're really feeling adventurous and want to wander out of town, you can check out Lake Tahoe, Santa Cruz, Yosemite National Park, or do a little wine tasting in Napa Valley. Just don't neglect Dreamforce too much. It's important to remember why you came! 

The Fallout

Okay, so you survived your first Dreamforce—now what? You probably have a bag full of swag and business cards, a ton of great memories, and at least a low-grade headache. 

So once you're done, it's time to decompress. Figure out what you learned, what contacts you have for the next year, what you accomplished for your business, and how you can turn all of this into actionable, measurable insights. 

Take inventory. To whom did you speak? What contacts did you make, and how can you establish and/or improve a business relationship with them? 

Follow up: Maybe the number one post-Dreamforce disappointment is leaving a potential contact or client hanging. If you spoke with someone and promised to get in touch, make sure you do it as soon as possible.
 
That's not so tough, now is it, first-timer? Dreamforce is a one-of-a-kind experience that you'll never forget. While these tips are meant to enhance your experience, you're certain to have a great time while you're there. Dreamforce is a game-changer for many of the professionals who attend. Best of luck, and hope you have a great time!

About the Author

Joe Shearer

Joe is a Content Writer at Appirio. A 20-year veteran of the writing and editing game, he has produced high-performing content for a variety of brands.

More Content by Joe Shearer
Previous Article
32 Must-Follow Twitter Titans for Dreamforce 2019
32 Must-Follow Twitter Titans for Dreamforce 2019

Next Article
Salesforce Einstein Analytics: Your DataOps Super Tool
Salesforce Einstein Analytics: Your DataOps Super Tool