2016 was my sixth year attending Dreamforce, the premier networking and learning event for all things Salesforce. Each year has been a totally unique experience that has allowed me to expand my knowledge of the Salesforce product, attend memorable keynotes, learn from the industry’s best, and squeeze in time for some fantastic networking events and parties! I was privileged to be able to attend this year for free because of my participation in the Data Defender program, a small group of Connect Rainmakers that earns special privileges due to their involvement in the community. For more information about this special program, check out this link. I’d also encourage you to learn more the Connect Champions program, of which I have also been a part and that also offers special rewards.
As a well-seasoned Dreamforce attendee, I can tell you that the most critical piece of advice I’d give to first-timers is to PLAN, PLAN, PLAN! Dreamforce attendees have their pick of 3,300 sessions, and are encouraged to pre-register for sessions of interest because they often do fill up (although some spaces are reserved for walk-ins). I used the agenda builder tool to help identify the sessions that would be most beneficial to me and made sure to reserve early. Given the size of the conference, going in with a game plan is critical to ensure you get as much out of your week as possible. This year, due to my participation in Trailhead, I attended a mixture of sessions related to either Data.com or the general Salesforce product, and mainly took advantage of sessions dedicated to small- and mid-sized businesses, including a small biz assessment workship, and several sessions on data quality. Salesforce Einstein and Trailhead were big focuses at this year’s event, and the outdoorsy theme permeated all of downtown San Francisco. At times I felt like I was on a wilderness hike as I went from activity to activity:
Aside from the smaller breakout sessions, one of the highlights of Dreamforce every year is the phenomenal keynote speakers. This year included memorable speeches from Melinda Gates, Tony Robbins, and Billie Jean King, to name a few.Quite the impressive and diverse lineup! Many conferences and professional events I’ve been to focus primarily on showing attendees their product offerings and customer testimonials; Dreamforce, on the other hand, puts a much bigger emphasis on its philanthropic efforts and the importance of giving back, in line with its “1-1-1” Model. We learned about the organization (Red) and its mission to end the AIDS epidemic, and how Salesforce products are helping it achieve that goal. We then learned about their exciting partnership with the Gates Foundation. For every dollar raised by Dreamforce attendees up to $1 million, the Gates Foundation would double match. Amazing!
When attendees aren’t in sessions or keynotes, you’ll likely find them touring the cloud expo grounds, where hundreds of partners have booths that showcase their products. This was one of the most interactive and engaging parts of my week. Being able to see how so many different companies in different verticals use the Salesforce product is always mind-blowing. And, not to mention, this is the perfect place to score some great swag and enter to win some amazing giveaways. The cloud expo is huge, but luckily the exhibitors are there every day of the conference, so you can take your time in navigating through the maze.
The breakouts and keynotes certainly make for jam-packed days. Thankfully, San Francisco is known for their many amazing local coffee shops, because the day certainly doesn’t end there! Grab an espresso from a local favorite like Blue Bottle or Philz and you’ll get a taste of local flavor, along with a boost to help keep the party going! There are phenomenal networking events and parties throughout the week that you won’t want to miss. Highlights of this year included a “Magic Art Magic” party at the SF Museum of Modern Art, as well as a roller disco party - make sure to stretch before you come! Salesforce also brings in one headline performer each year for a concert, and this year we were so lucky to have U2!
For me, these parties aren’t just a night out on the town; they’re additional opportunities to network and meet different users of the Salesforce products, learn about their business needs and interactions with the product, and increase my understanding of its breadth of applications (but getting to see U2 perform certainly doesn’t hurt!)
My week didn’t end there! Despite everything I’ve described so far, I also made time to meet up with our Connect team and some of the other Data Defenders and Champions who were able to attend this year’s conference. We had a fantastic dinner at one of SF’s trendiest restaurants, Hakkasan, and it was so fun to actually hang out with the people that I interact with virtually all year long and who keep the engine running.
Whew - I’m exhausted from just reviewing everything I’ve just described! Dreamforce is certainly one of the busiest - but also one of the most memorable - weeks of my year whenever I get the chance to attend. If you or your company uses any Salesforce products, I’d highly encourage you to try and attend one year. The hybrid mix of product showcases, events, and keynotes provided a busy but well-rounded agenda, and I left feeling more confident than ever in my understanding of how to optimize my usage of the Salesforce products and their power for improving my business. I hope to see you at Dreamforce 2017!