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Rob Cowell · 14th September 2022

Lessons learned from not being prepared for Dreamforce

I attended my first Dreamforce back in 2011. At that point, I’d only been in the Salesforce world for a little over a year and it was just a portion of my job role. I’d been to a few Salesforce User Groups—long before they were called Trailblazer Community Groups—but I didn’t know much about Dreamforce and I didn’t know many folks in the community.

This brings us to the first lesson:

Lean on your community

Ask your peers for their tips on getting the best out of the event, and draw on their experiences. Reach out to people that have been before—I can guarantee they’ll love to share their experiences, since nothing gets the Salesforce Ohana more excited than Dreamforce! They’ll be able to share their pro-tips for Dreamforce success, from the practical (getting around, what to pack, what shoes to wear), to getting the most value out of the week (who to meet, sessions to see, how to plan your agenda).

It’s also important to have people to meet up with during the event itself and thankfully, the community is great at welcoming people, whether they’re first-timers or not. Having friendly faces on the ground is invaluable.

It’s now 11 years on from my first Dreamforce and the event has grown a lot each year. Even back then, I was not ready for the size of the event and the number of people that would be attending. For those of you who may not be entirely comfortable in large crowds, this can be overwhelming, so it’s important to call this out early. There’s also the physical size of the venues to consider - while the main location of the Moscone Center is enormous, Dreamforce spills over to a few ancillary locations nearby. You’ll be moving around a bit if you want to get to all the sessions that matter to you, not to mention all the great afterparties (more on those later!)

Get your bearings

Dreamforce is a sprawling event filled with thousands of people. It’s unrealistic to expect to see it all, much like you can’t possibly know everything about every product Salesforce offers these days. Be prepared for lots of walking–this is the main reason people recommend comfortable shoes as the number one essential item to pack!

To the best of my knowledge, there wasn’t such a thing as the Agenda Builder back then, which I’d thoroughly recommend making use of this time around. I went out to my first Dreamforce with only a vague notion of which Salesforce features I was interested in and without a strong game plan for sessions to attend, or knowledge I wanted to bring back to my business. I discovered Heroku while out at Dreamforce by sheer luck, and it turned out to be very useful, but I don’t recommend relying on luck to get value from your visit.

Come with a plan

Agenda Builder was specifically designed to help you find the best sessions. It’s searchable and filterable, and allows you to bookmark the sessions that you’re interested in.

Arrive with goals in mind, both for your own personal development and for your business (let’s face it, chances are they’re the one paying for your visit)! Find sessions, partners, demonstrations and workshops that speak to those goals and get as much out of them as you can.

It’s also worth remembering that Dreamforce runs over a few days—you’re going to get tired and you’re possibly going to be overloaded from the amount of information you’re taking in. I was extremely fortunate to have traveled to my first Dreamforce with my wife. We both love San Francisco and it was a great opportunity to return, even if she didn’t attend the conference itself. Taking time out of Dreamforce to explore together really helped solidify what I’d learned and I came back recharged for more sessions.

Make time for yourself

For the sake of your own wellbeing, be sure to find gaps in your schedule to decompress. I don’t mean collapsing in an exhausted heap on your hotel bed at the end of each long day (or night). Find opportunities to step away briefly from the Salesforce world and experience the city hosting Dreamforce. Don’t let the fear of missing out take hold, you will definitely need time to reflect on all you’ve seen and heard.

The last thing I wasn’t aware of until much later, was just how much of Dreamforce is outside of the main event. There’s a dazzling array of events and afterparties hosted by Salesforce, Partners, and the community to help you let your hair down over the course of the week. There’s also the legendary Dreamfest—an enormous charity concert which is free for Dreamforce attendees and is usually headlined by some of the biggest names. Metallica, Red Hot Chilli Peppers, Run DMC, Fleetwood Mac and Alicia Keys have all featured over the years, so be sure to make some time for yourself to enjoy all else that Dreamforce has to offer.

Have fun!

Dreamforce is as much a social event as it is a serious conference. Many in the Salesforce community use this gathering of like-minds across the world to connect with each other and celebrate. Recent times have made this hard, with in-person Dreamforce being either canceled or restricted these last couple of years. Whether you’re totally new or a Dreamforce veteran, you can expect 2022 to be the year we all got back together again. Embrace this, go to the parties, see your friends and make new ones. Make it a Dreamforce to remember and maybe I’ll see you there!

Don't miss Rob's Dreamforce talk: "Effective branching strategies for Salesforce developers" at the Developer Theatre in Moscone West at 4pm PST on Wednesday 21st September. If you're looking for advice on DevOps, be sure to visit Gearset during the event! Check out what we've got going on at Dreamforce 2022 here.