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Memo From A Dreamforce Vet

Five [somewhat snarky] tips from a Dreamforce veteran on making the most of your time in San Francisco next week: Where to find the best content, free food, and parties.

Here we go again.

If you’re like me, over the past 72 hours you’ve received countless templated, uninspired emails informing you that Dreamforce is next week.

And if you’re really like me, you shake your head, check your Delta app and your flight itinerary, and then (sigh) click the email and check out the event the email is peddling.

Are they going to have heavy hors d’oeuvres?

Another year, another festival for the celebration of Marc Benioff’s cult of personality and his annual annexation of SoMa.

The good news is Marc - per usual - has packed this year’s preeminent software festival with actually interesting speakers and drawn countless vendors who provide their own entertainment for the huddled masses who subscribe to the software giant’s “No Software” mantra.

So how are you going to survive this week? Here are a few tips from a Dreamforce veteran.

First of all, if you’re a real DF vet, then, unlike me, you’re flying in Sunday. (actually I hate this about myself)

And rather than grabbing Uber from SFO’s departures level like the other basic Dreamforce attendees, you’re heading straight to the BART and taking the train directly to Embarcadero station. Because, like me, instead of heading to your hotel to answer emails, you’re planning to catch the next Sausalito Ferry, then stroll to Bar Bocce for a few bold chardonnays and harbor views to prepare your mind and your liver for the next 96 hours.

But seriously, what are the tips?

Pre-Tip:

Don’t Trick-or-Treat expo booths. Chotchkies are for rookies. Do you really want to be the person who has to repack their bag at SFO Friday because there are 18 different SaaS company shirts and a half dozen stress-balls shoved into their carry-on?

No. You don’t.

And don’t tell me you’re going to mow the lawn in that shirt. You’re not.

And really vendors: how many pairs of custom-SaaS-company-socks do you think people need?

Be better.

Tip #1: Get In A Daily Sweat

Ok, first of all - remember: Dreamforce is a week-long undertaking. Even if you’re only showing up for two or three days of sessions, you’re probably losing another day+ in travel. So while you’re in beautiful early fall San Francisco, get a few Embarcadero jogs in. (I like to start at AT&T park, and run down to Pier 33 - and if I’m really ambitious, I run it back)

Or if you’re like me, you’re packing basketball shoes and scanning Twitter to get some hoops runs in. If you don’t find that game, head over to the best kept secret court in Chinatown: Willie Woo Woo Wong playground.

Lastly, some of the best sponsors (or at least my personal favorites) are putting on a SoulCycle class just for Dreamforce attendees on Monday. Reserve your slot for  the Sales Hacker “Dream Ride”, with my friends from Outreach, Gong, and Intercom.

Tip #2: Figure Out Which Keynotes/Sessions You Care About

Don’t get tricked into a terrible session or keynote. If there is a big group of people huddling around a room, assume they are paid actors until proven otherwise or you verify that the session content is interesting. These are drastic times.

Benioff is typically a “must-see” during Dreamforce, but you’ve got to be there early to get a seat in his auditorium. Pro-tip: there will be multiple cool spots to hang and watch the live stream. Find one with good drinks (lattes or other) and set up shop.

Andre Iguodala - professional basketballer + startup investor - is a great get for Salesforce and I expect him to be an interesting speaker. I plan on attending.

And I will admit, I’m psyched about Al Gore (I know, has anyone ever said that?). Even though he never said he “invented the internet” - who knows what he might say?!? I expect he’ll be an interesting watch and look forward to locking down a seat during his session.

Tip #3: Not All The Best Content Is In Dreamforce

At this point, many sales leaders are sharing their expertise outside the confines of Moscone. There are amazing “parallel” events happening during the week like OpStars and the Sales Enablement Soiree.

I’ve already marked my calendar for 10.50am on Tuesday (9/25) to see two of my favorite sales speakers, Hilary Headlee and Lars Nilsson at Ops-Stars discussing The Art and Science of the Integrated Sales and Marketing Tech Stack at the SF Mint.

Wednesday’s Ops-Stars keynote is a must-see for SaaS founders, How to Optimize for Growth Leading to a Successful Exit. The 10am keynote is also at the SF Mint and features Doug Pepper of Shasta Ventures, Chris Cabrera of Xactly, and Godard Abel of G2 Crowd.

I know I will be seeing my friend Ryan Leavitt of Showpad and his panel-mates discussing the Evolution of the Sales Enablement Charter, on Thursday September 27th, 9am sharp at the Four Seasons.

Tip #4: All Free Food Is Not Created Equal

You can live like a king by strategically choosing happy hours and off-sites that provide light or heavy hors d’oeuvres.

So be strategic. Don’t venture five blocks down Mission for some vendor party just to find out they’re serving pizza.

Usually a quick peek at the event info can save you stomach full of empty carbs.

The last thing you want to do is cram four bagels first thing in the AM because they are piled on a table, when the vendor’s event next door is serving a full spread of delectable options.

Tip #5: Know Your Happy Hour Limits

While some treat Dreamforce like a pseudo Spring Break for sales ops admins, the conference veterans know that a measured approach is necessary for survival.

Sure, hit that Bloody Mary bar at 9.45am (even if it means sitting through a demo!).

Definitely stop by so-and-so’s wine and tapas event.

My friends at WalkMe have a four-year history of putting on an incredible party - this year taking place Tuesday (Sept 25) at Terra Gallery.

And I know for a fact that the Science Fair Happy Hour will be top-notch on Wednesday (Sept 26).

But always remember, the next morning you will probably be sitting in some session with 187 of your closest admin friends, inhaling coffee and bagels between their breaths and watching powerpoint slide transitions. So… BE SMART. Drink water.

Final Advice:

  1. Talk to people on the flight. Instant new DF friends!
  2. Leave the “Salesforce” branded Patagonia vest in the closet. The locals know why you’re here and the other attendees aren’t impressed.
  3. Don’t wear your conference lanyard after 6pm.
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