You're investing five days plus expenses - the Dreamforce payoff is all about time management
Four weeks out: Focus on what you need to know
It's almost time for the session scheduler ("Agenda Builder") to come online for Dreamforce, but it ain't there yet...so all you can do now is look for sessions to bookmark.
As there are so many sessions, you'll definitely want to pick the 15-20 that are the most important for you, and that you could conceivably see during the show.
But I'd recommend bookmarking an equal number of standby sessions, as the really cool sessions will likely sell out before you get to the session scheduler.
For me, I pay almost no attention to keynote sessions: they are mainly ads, and not very informative ones at that. I also schedule tradeshow floor ("expo") time as my lowest priority. I talk to vendors when I can't get into the sessions I actually wanted.
But in this week's bookmarking exercise, figure out which parts of the system you really need to understand better. That means, things already in production or GA status...not the future whiz-bang stuff.
In looking through the sessions, there's a ton on Lightning... and even the most conservative customers should start learning about it. A good "diet" is one or two Lightning sessions a day, even if you have no immediate plans to go to the new UI.
Why? Because SFDC will be pummelling the customer base with demos and new products and veiled threats...and you need to know what your boss is going to be hearing from the SFDC reps (so you can develop sensible strategies and counter-arguments).
There are three topics where there is a serious and surprising dearth of sessions:
- GDPR and privacy: yes, there's a session or two...but nothing about all the process changes required around SFDC to make a serious attempt at compliance (see this article for more)
- Shield and security: Shield is an amazing feature set from SFDC, and for the serious security professional you need to know lots about it. Not this time...
- How to sell agile to your boss: I hate to beat this drum, but I have to -- too many customers have absolutely no idea what behavior changes they need to make (and that they need to ask of their bosses) to be successful at Agile. The bigger the client, the more likely they'll say Agile and immediately start micromanaging and demand Waterfall metrics
The other item that's missing from the session list right now: all the developer workshops and "camp" sessions.
These alone are worth the price of admission, and you need to get your sessions scheduled as soon as the Agenda Builder is online.
Five weeks out: Plan sessions and other meetings
DreamForce is equal parts technology conference and sales pitches. Personally, I find it amusing that a company get can YOU to pay THEM for sales pitches... so to get the best ROI for my time and money I try to avoid the salesy sessions.
If you really want to meet with sales professionals at the conference, there will be no shortage. You should schedule those in real time, in time slots that are otherwise uninteresting.
Once the Dreamforce session scheduler is actually online, choose your sessions fast! The really good ones fill up in a matter of minutes. I prioritise my session-scheduling this way:
- Technology how-tos: deep dives on topics that I haven't been able to figure out for myself
- Best practices for the business processes I care about (e.g., quote-to-cash or lead management)
- Scalability strategies (e.g., what to do with a 200,000-entry price book)
- Technology one-on-ones ("basecamps" or whatever they call them this year) to help figure out stuff that is poorly documented (e.g., most of the APIs)
- Everything else
Generally speaking, success story sessions aren't that interesting unless (1) it's actually given by the customer (not the integrator) and (2) you can schedule a meeting (like, dinner, drinks...) with that customer to find out the un-sanitized story.
For that second item you'll need to do a little detective work to get the customer information now so you can get on his/her calendar during DF.
Six weeks out: Watch for session scheduling
Dreamforce is the king of software conferences, with over 2700 sessions this year and probably 150,000 attendees. All the full-conference tickets are sold out already, so the only passes you can get are for the show floor and the first day.
For those of you who have full conference passes, the time for homework is now. You can't actually schedule any sessions, but by logging in to the Dreamforce site you can review and bookmark them so they're easy to spot when the scheduling system is turned on.
For whatever reason, SFDC seems to regard the go-live date for the session scheduler as a state secret...they never tell you in advance, and when they do flip the switch all the really interesting sessions are booked out within an hour or two.
Most evocative session titles I've found so far:
- "Connected Chickens!"
- "Engaging the Customer in the World of Lubricants"
- "Engaging with Providers and their Patients for a Better Surgical Journey"
- "Making Disagreement Fun"
- "Three lessons Marketers can learn from Speed Dating"
- "Transforming the member experience"
Supposedly, they'll send all registered attendees a notification email when it's there...but I wouldn't rely on that: every morning when you get into work, log in and see if the site now supports scheduling.
(Reporting by David Taber)