Dreamforce - Better the second time around?

I attended my first Dreamforce in 2015. It was a truly magical experience that I almost missed. At the time, I was a consultant working on a project in Cleveland. The company I was contracted through did not pay for consultants to attend DF, and I wasn’t entirely happy at the thought of forking out thousands of my own money in order to attend. It was excruciating to work every day with a team making plans for a conference I desperately wanted to attend, but knew I wasn’t going. I entered every contest I could to try to win a free pass to Dreamforce, figuring that if I won a pass, I would fund the hotel and airfare. Well, all the contests closed and I did not win a pass. I was devastated, and gave up my dream of attending the conference.

Then my phone rang on September 1st. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was on my hour long commute home when my friend called to say he had secured a full Dreamforce conference pass for me. I immediately began crying, screaming, laughing, and thanking him profusely. I could not believe I was going to DREAMFORCE!!

As soon as I got home, I registered, booked a flight and hotel. I recall I was so excited, I took a screenshot to savor the moment:

Then the real planning started! I relied heavily on my co-worker, who had attended several Dreamforce conferences. We immediately went to work on getting my session agenda built. (This year’s agenda builder goes live September 7th. You can locate it by logging on to the Dreamforce site.) There was also a Dreamforce app last year, but I have yet to see any dates around it being released this year. One tip I can give you based on my noob experience last year- don’t book more than 3–4 sessions per day. Each day last year, I booked 8 sessions. YES, 8 sessions! I was quite eager, and obviously overly optimistic that I could make all the sessions. That quickly faded after I actually made my way through the crowds to my first two, and realized that there was NO WAY I was going to make even half the sessions I booked. Pay special attention to WHERE your sessions are located. In my excitement last year, I booked solely on session description. Sure, I looked at the maps, and they appeared close together on the map. However, add in 170k people scrambling around the city, and you are pretty much assured that what is normally a 5 minute walk turns into 20–30 minutes or more.

So, having gotten myself all booked for the biggest tech conference of the year, and scheduling the sessions I wanted to attend, I focused on what I consider one of the main reasons to go to Dreamforce — the people. I made a list of people I wanted to meet; you know, those Salesforce Rockstars we all look up to in the community. I went into full on stalker mode. The first person I reached out to was Ms. Kristi Guzman. I followed her on Twitter, enjoying her witty tweets, and followed her blog. I cannot tell you how completely nervous I was when I first contacted her to ask if she would care to meet up at Dreamforce. After sending the message, pictures of her reading and laughing at the mere thought of meeting up with a noob like me danced in my head. Luckily, I could not have been more wrong. Kristi was sweet as could be, and we had a lovely breakfast my first day in San Francisco. (She even taught me how to ride the streetcar down to Fisherman’s Wharf.) I am happy to say Kristi is a friend now, and had I not made that first effort, I would have missed out on such an amazing friendship! Others I stalked included Ryan Lorenzen and THE Chris Duarte- both of whom are completely awesome people! I have a new list this year, so look out Brian Kwong, Jen Lee, Annie Shek- Mason, and many, many MORE. My advice to anyone attending Dreamforce is if there is someone you want to meet, reach out to them. Our Salesforce community is one of the most welcoming groups of people I have ever known in my life, and you will meet some amazing people if you just make the effort!

Ryan Lorenzen, me, Samir Patel, THE Chris Duarte!

So, the final part of planning for Dreamforce is of course the parties/sponsored events. Last year, there was even an app called PartyForce, that made picking out and RSVP for parties a snap. (I haven’t seen it released yet, so watch the Play Store or iTunes for it.) I think I RSVP’d to everything, but like my overbooking of sessions, only really made it to a handful of events. Two events I attended last year, and will be attending again this year, are Eric Dreshfield’s DF Newbie ‘Reunion” Breakfast and CRM Science’s Puzzle Party. Both events offer excellent opportunities to connect with your fellow Salesforcians in a more relaxed environment. Apttus also has a great list of all the parties- check it out here.

My expectation of my second Dreamforce is that it will surpass last year, because I am more involved in the community. I am helping out my dear friend, Melinda Smith, with the 2nd Annual WIT Photo Hunt, sponsored by Apttus. Please check it out on Twitter, and play along to win some fantastic prizes! There is a version for both Dreamforce attendees, and those at home. Secondly, you will get to see me, along with Salesforce Developer Evangelist Mary Scotton and newly minted MVP Shonnah Hughes up on stage, hosting a brand-new Dreamforce event- #AwesomeAdmin Lip Sync Battle! Watch for updates on Twitter soon around this event, and start practicing your best Lip Syncs now!

My first Dreamforce was a truly magical experience-one I will never forget. The learning, the people, the connections and the city of San Francisco all made an indelible impression on my heart. Will this year top it? It will be tough, but I look forward to seeing you all in San Francisco next month and doing our best to make Dreamforce 2016 the best yet!

Me with Mike Gerholdt, Kristi Guzman, Zachary Jeans, Samir Patel, Nana Gregg, Rakesh Gupta, John Graf