I had an interesting discussion on Twitter with a few folks (@mkrigsman, @charlieisaacs, @merv, @lningram, @rwang0, and @dandarcy) regarding tips for attendees for the upcoming Dreamforce conference in San Francisco. As pointed out on the tweetstream, many of these conference tips are relevant for just about any conference, so I thought I’d share them here.
- Sit on the aisle in the general sessions – you may get in Marc @Benioff’s keynote! This one is pretty specific to a Salesforce.com keynote, but you may find other presenters competent and confident enough to really engage the audience. Marc will walk the aisles in his keynotes, and will do impromptu Q&A with audience members, which is a big treat for everyone. Sitting at the aisle is always a good technique anyway – you get a little extra room and can escape if you happen to be stuck in a “death by PowerPoint” presentation where the speaker is out of touch with the audience.
- Bring your own backpack so you don’t get your bag mixed up with 50K+ others. At many #EnSW conferences, vendors feel compelled to hand out bags. Not good bags that you’ll want to keep, but generally crappy bags that you will end up throwing away. If vendors really cared about sustainability, they would stop this practice for sure, or at least give away bags you’d want to keep! In any case, everyone else will be carrying these bags during the conference (before throwing them in a closet at home where they will lie until they get thrown out during spring cleaning). If you want to be able to identify your bag, bring your own. You can always stuff the cheapo conference bag inside it.
- Bring an extension cord with multiple outlets (and an appropriate adapter for your nation). For many reasons, you will be glad if you buy a $20 extension cord with multiple outlets and built-in USB adapters for your conference trip. It helps in airports, where you can share an outlet even if someone is already using it, and charge your laptop, tablet, phone, and Kindle all at the same time. It surely helps at conference centers like Moscone, where outlets are few and far between. Also, cell phone coverage is weak in many convention centers, like Moscone, so your cell phone battery drains faster – having an extra cell phone battery, external battery, or at least an extension cord for charging is essential to a good conference experience.
- Plan an extra five minutes for walking. Better make that ten. Or fifteen. All conference centers seem to have some sessions that are miles between them. Or you have a meeting in a hotel or restaurant that is just too far away. Moscone has its multiple halls, and getting from one to another is a bear. Plan extra time to get from place to place, because you will need it.
- If you’re driving in, carpool. You’ll have interesting things to talk about when stuck in traffic. Lots of Dreamforce attendees are local, from the San Francisco Bay Area. Or you might be stuck in a hotel by the airport, which can be an hour from Dreamforce in traffic (more if there is some sort of protest). Carpooling will not only save the air and the planet, it may also save your sanity!
- You can watch most of the keynotes on monitors throughout Moscone, in comfort and while discussing with colleagues. Because many of the keynote sessions are full way past overflowing, particularly at Dreamforce, Salesforce.com (and hosts of some other conferences) display keynote events on monitors and via speakers placed throughout the facility (or even on the Web). You don’t have to be in the room to watch these events, and you can be comfortably seated in some overstuffed chairs somewhere, sipping a nice chai tea, talking with colleagues about what you’re hearing – a far more civilized way to experience the event!
- Bring a couple of Granola bars (or your favorite alternative) for when you get stuck without a chance to get a meal. Sometimes, you’re having a great discussion, or you haven’t quite adjusted to local time zones, or for whatever reason you’re hungry and there is no meal forthcoming. Or, your airline traps you on the runway for two hours. Keeping a couple of granola bars in your bag is a good way to assuage your hunger when you need to. Granola bars are particularly good because they don’t crush easily, and the packaging doesn’t (generally) break in your bag – no muss, no fuss, and no hunger pangs.
- Comfortable shoes. Loose-fitting and dark-colored pants (for sitting on floor). Layers. You will be walking a lot, as already mentioned. You’ll sit wherever you can find an outlet, and there aren’t always convenient chairs. And it is in San Francisco, where the weather can vary by 20°F (11C) just by walking two blocks or waiting an hour. Or changing to a different conference room.
- Don’t try to follow #Dreamforce or #DF12 on Twitter. Your head might explode from the volume. Follow @mkrigsman and @rwang0 instead. The conference hashtags go by at a dizzying pace during keynotes. Pick a few savvy commentators who are attending, and follow them to hear the big news, as well as the good analysis.
That’s all the tips for today. If you have some more of your own, please share them below in the comments section. Thanks, and have a great Dreamforce 2012!