Dreamforce 2012 was a place for dreamers. The streets were flooded with 92,000 people dreaming of learning new things, seeing new products, meeting new people, tasting great San Fran food and claiming some swag. We were all wide-eyed and open-mouthed as we experienced the largest cloud computing conference ever. Even if you’ve been there many times before (this was my second year), the sheer size of the conference is impossible to comprehend and expect.
And as an employee of Salesforce, I came to Dreamforce to work. But the great thing about Dreamforce is even employees can dream. Here’s how I made the most of my time.
Establish a Home Base
My coworkers and I spent much of our time by the Social Media Command Center, a dreamy palace of engagement bliss. We all had set hours to workflow social media conversations around the conference as well as speak in front of the Command Center to let passerbys in on the awe-inspiring engagement mecca. Nearby we had a room where we could tend to our regular 9-5 job, eat, relax and talk. It was our sanctuary, our meeting ground and a place we could always come to find another team member.
Do it All
Conferences offer more than just keynotes, sessions and expo halls. Networking events, concerts, cocktail hours and other after-hour festivities are prevalent at conferences and are just as important as the daytime offerings (even more important at times). It is here where I established new relationships, learned of new business opportunities, deepened relationships with coworkers and created new, long-lasting friendships. Many of these events are not printed in the agenda or publicly shared. I found them using the event hashtag, asking coworkers or starting up a conversation with the person sitting next to me at a session. So if you’re tired after a long day of sessions, have a coffee and get back out there. It’s worth it.
Use the Hashtag
Every conference I’ve attended in the past year had a hashtag but it’s up to the attendees to make the most of it. I keep the hashtag feed on my phone, tablet or computer at all times. You’ll not only find out about special events as mentioned above, but because many conferences run multiple sessions at the same time, you’ll get real-time notes of sessions happening across the hall. It’s a great place to make new friends, organize meet ups with your coworkers, see pictures, ask questions and more. Just remember to use the hashtag when you Tweet as well!
The Instagram app is my biggest content tool at conferences. It’s easy to take, edit and share photos with your followers as well as fellow conference-goers. I always include the conference hashtag in my description and share the pic on Twitter. The app allows you to publish your photos to other social channels, such as Facebook, to keep friends and family posted on your travels. At the end of the conference, I have a visual story of my experience which makes for a great blog post!
Engage Your Audience
I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to speak at Dreamforce this year. My session, Advanced Content Strategies, looked at 10 content marketing ideas to help your business succeed. I ensured that my speech was interactive because as great as a presentation can be, 45 minutes of a talking head is not appealing. So after each one of the 10 content tactics, I’d stop and engage the audience. It worked out well and the audience was soon sharing their experiences with content and asking questions about the challenges they face. Audience members were answering each other’s questions and the mic went ’round and ’round the room. I also included a Tweet slide after each point (with the conference hashtag) so it was easy to Tweet a quote from my speech as notes for later and to share with those who didn’t attend the session.
Despite an amazing time at Dreamforce, nothing beats coming home to see my family, especially my baby, Parker. After all, we make the most of conferences and work experiences so we can excel and grow. Excelling and growing makes us happy in our jobs both mentally and financially. We do it all for them because at the end of the day, their smiles make the biggest difference of all.
What tips and tricks work for you when attending or speaking at a conference?