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How Not to Be a Monkey Wrench at Dreamforce

With over 150,000 people expected to attend Dreamforce ’15, the question begs: How can you really be effective at a conference of this size?

For a little perspective, the first Dreamforce I attended in 2006 had just over 18,000 attendees.

As Dreamforce has gotten bigger, it’s also become much more targeted and specialized. The feedback we’re getting from everyone is that the Expo Hall has really become a bit of a glorified lobby. Everyone is instead giddy about the specialized lounges and other snazzier events.

The booth has become somewhat of a waste of space (and money). You’re stuck in this cookie cutter box in an area that very few people want to walk up and down just to hear sales pitches. Plus, the game has changed. Everyone wants tactics. No one wants to go in and hear this giant overarching strategy, people want actionable things they can actually do and the steps involved to get them there.

With a conference the caliber of Dreamforce, what you put in is what you get out. And what you get out will depend on your goals. If you’re going there with a specific agenda, to have meetings or for key sessions, or even just using it to make your world smaller, it’s still a great opportunity.

But no longer can you just wander aimlessly and expect to get value.

You’ve probably already read any number of articles out there about justifying going to Dreamforce. It’s a moot point, you’re going.

Just be aware that your boss is going to want to know what exactly you did there and what you learned. If all you’ve learned is how to get a free sandwich and see the Foo Fighters, your boss won’t be impressed. So, it’s important to approach Dreamforce in terms of of what you’re going to take away that will impact your department and the business as a whole. Here’s how to do that.

Tip #1 Build your calendar early

If you’re reading this and still haven’t done so, you’re behind the eight ball. You’re going to have to do whatever you can to make sure you get into key sessions, even if they are sold out. Protip: the most important sessions are case studies. If you’re thinking of attending the launch of an idea or initiative, know that you can get all that stuff online afterwards. The key here is to build sessions early, and pick sessions that are tactical in nature.

 Tip #2 Grab some face time  

If you’re not planning to meet with your customers and vendors, you’re misusing that time. Very rarely will you ever have all of them in one area. Flying out to see them all individually would rack up Trumpian costs (hint: HUGE). So make the most of your time, and take the opportunity to chat up your customers and vendors while you can.

Tip #3

Oops, the original post left out a #3, so here’s a bit of a bonus — have fun! See more here. 

Tip #4 Divide and conquer

If you’re there with your team, make sure you divide and conquer. Personally, I hate seeing LeadMD green shirts flocking together at conferences, as my team can attest. Get your people to move out and spread like wildfire. Never have two of your people in the same session. To maximize their effectiveness, make sure that they are taking advantage of sessions and conversations that pertain to their area of expertise.

 Tip #5 Make sure you’re putting yourself in the right situations

As with anything in business, most things at Dreamforce get done after 5. So when you’re out there mingling, don’t just turn on the schmooze. Make sure you’re putting yourself in situations where you can talk about your company and the solutions you offer. It’s great way to understand the problems people are having out there. For my team, we’ll put ourselves in positions where we can talk to people about marketing automation, content marketing, and any of our other solutions. We’ll be doing that in our lounge with a few of our partners. 

Bottom line: Yes, Dreamforce is a huge, AWESOME event that you can have a lot of fun at. The key is to put maximum effort forward and put yourself in situations that set you up for big wins down the road. Whatever you do, don’t just show up and mill around like a drone, mindlessly checking your email until the Foo Fighters hit the stage. That’s lame, and you’ll have a tough time when you get back to your boss’s office. You don’t want to be that marketing monkey wrench. 




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