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October 4, 2018 Sales

Dreamforce Virgin: A First Timer’s Take on San Francisco’s Largest Convention 

Sonja Fridell wearing a blue blouse and a dainty necklace.
By Sonja Fridell

They said it would be overwhelming – and all those veteran Trailblazers were right. I took it all in for the very first time and put together my top five takeaways from Dreamforce 2018!

Dreamforce Virgin Sonja Fridell, standing on the lawn of the Mascone Center.

1. Plan ahead, but not too far ahead.

Dreamforce offers over 3,000 sessions over five days. Thankfully, Salesforce has an awesome agenda interface on their website and a great Dreamforce app. Both the website and mobile app have filter features that narrow or sort sessions by track and type.

I had over a month to plan my schedulebut when it came down to it, I was only able to make two or three sessions day. I spent the rest of my time walking to the different venues, networking, exploring the convention and the surrounding San Francisco area, finding food, and catching up on work emails. 

2. Make a (small) list of goals.

Jot down a few things that you want to accomplish. This list doesn’t necessarily need to be a rehash of sessions you want to attend, but of things you want to do that you wouldn’t be able to experience anywhere else. I wanted to:

☑   Meet at least one great Salesforce developer.

☑   Network with other Salesforce partners my size.

❌  Meet Marc Benioff. (Ok, that didn’t happen, but I did get to hear him give the keynote).

☑   Get a handle on what Salesforce’s new message was and what they’re focusing on.

Spoiler Alert: Salesforce Customer 360 – the concept of this platform isn’t radically new, but what Salesforce is doing with it is. They used fantastic case studies and user stories that made it really relatable.

☑   Explore the Expo Hall and gather as much information on the best apps I could find. 

3. Housing and food?

Every Lyft and Uber driver I talked to was floored by how busy the city was. It was so packed around the Mascone Center (and even outside of that small area) that every lunch joint I came across had a line out the door. Hotel rates close to the convention time were upwards of $700 a night. I opted for an AirBNB in the Mission District, two stops from the Mascone Center and drastically less money than a hotel room. I flew in on Monday night and left on Friday morning. This was perfect timing, as the bulk of the convention took place Tuesday through Thursday.

As for food, remember to bring snacks. I was curious about how Dreamforce would feed almost 200,000 people. Turns out, they can’t. They did provide a limited number of boxed lunches, but no snacks or breakfast. I brought a bunch of Cliff Bars with me and it worked out well.

A bike-powered smoothie station. To mix your drink, get on the bike and use the pedals to blend ingredients!

4. What to wear?

Clothing – anything goes.

Shoes – make sure they’re comfortable. I walked nearly seven miles every day. Yes, you could argue that I wanted to see a lot. But all of the sessions are so spread out across city blocks, everyone needs to be prepared to put these steps in!

Campus Map. The convention spans across several city blocks.

5. Don’t be shy!

I wanted to learn the most I possibly could. So I made a commitment to myself to speak to everyone that I came in contact with. This is not my normal M.O., and it was a bit uncomfortable, but it was an excellent networking exercise. I made connections that will last for years to come.

I then narrowed down my commitment to saying hello to every person running an interesting booth in the Expo Hall and engaging them in conversation. Not only did I learn a lot, I got into topics and discussions that I would have never had the chance to engage in. I also talked to people standing near me while waiting in lines and actively introduced myself whenever I sat down at a table with attendees.

Pro Tip: Try not to drink much at shows and events. Nerve-wracking networking meetings are always easier with liquid courage, but if you drink too much, the next day is shot with hangover headaches and low energy.

Dreamforce is all it’s hyped up to be. Start planning ahead and book that hotel room early! You’ll be so glad you went.


All photos taken by Sonja Fridell with iPhone 6s.

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Author bio

Sonja Fridell

Sonja is very active in architecting CRM, ERP and marketing automation solutions for clients across North America. As an ex-journalist, she is adept at exploring a client’s needs and coming up with cutting edge, elegant solutions that fit, drive adoption, and create real results.

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Sonja Fridell wearing a blue blouse and a dainty necklace.

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