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5 tips to get the most out of Dreamforce

David Taber | Sept. 14, 2015
Two thousand sessions. 150,000 attendees. Noise everywhere. So much to see, so little time. Here’s what to do about it.


Dreamforce is not just a tradeshow. It’s practically a cultural phenomenon (bring on the ukuleles!), and it certainly has a significant impact on the economy of San Francisco. 

Whether you go in person or visit via the web, you’ll be subjected to a mind-numbing array of stimuli. Probably 250 press releases, hundreds of video streams, podcasts, interviews, CNBC segments, all screaming “BUY BUY! BUY!!!” – either for the products or the vendors’ stocks. But all of that is in the vendors’ interests, not really yours. 

The meat of Dreamforce is in the breakout sessions, not the keynotes. If you’re lucky you can take in 20 of those breakouts. That’s 10 percent of the total on offer, so you have to choose carefully.  Of course, everything important was filled up a month ago…but that’s OK.  Because of Tip No. 1:  if you’re a fully-registered attendee, go to the Dreamforce site and hit the Chatter feed. Some of the session decks are already up there. Load ‘em up. 

And then there’s Tip No. 2:  go back to the DF Chatter feed every weekend from now until Thanksgiving to download the decks, code samples and other docs as they dribble in. 

Of course, all this is begging the question: “What’s important to you?”  Depends on who you are and your role. If you’re lucky, Salesforce has a pre-defined track that helps you filter and prioritize, such as “sales leadership” or “financial services.”  For most of those tracks, the news is not jarring:  Things just get better, you have more choices, and maybe paying your vendors and consultants to get the latest and greatest is in your future. (OK, “maybe” should be read as “count on”.) 

That brings us to Tip No. 3:  If you’re a manager, your task at the show is to figure out for the goodies you like, how much is essentially “a freebie with some behavioral change” versus “a new product with a new way of looking at things…which means training that borders on indoctrination.”  Choose wisely. 

Not everything you’re going to see at the show is “it just gets better.”  If you’re a developer or IT strategist, there are going to be some choices that send you down paths that will be painful to reverse. SFDC has been really good about keeping technologies in place and not forcing ugly transitions over the years. And they are superb at encrypting painful messages into pleasant ones. Every transition is going to be push-button simple. Everything is going to be backwards compatible with just a couple of verb changes. Uh-huh. 

Your job as a technologist at the show is to identify the euphemisms and decrypt the signal from the noise. With each announcement that you are interested in, figure out what “difficult choice” is being masked. And that brings us to Tip No. 4:  when you’re trying to really understand, ignore the slideware and get straight to the reference docs. No reference docs?  Go to a developer’s camp or other expert session and ask the techie about the object model, the services, and the APIs that are relevant to your needs. 


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