Dreamforce: What Not To Bring

San Francisco

By this point, you’ve no doubt read plenty of articles about what to bring to Dreamforce and how to prepare.  If you’ve not had the chance yet, do yourself a favor and checkout the Dreamforce Trailhead module.  But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.  I want to talk about things you shouldn’t bring to Dreamforce, specifically things that I have brought in the past.  So, let’s learn from my mistakes!

Dreamforce Ready

If this upcoming Dreamforce is your first, buckle up! it’s a wild ride.  2016 will be my 5th Dreamforce and I’ve brought a bunch of things over the years thinking I would need them and ended up not using them at all (or barely).

What Not to Bring

  • Entertainment devices – This is a pretty big category so lemme break it down.  Over the years I’ve brought things like card / board games, gameboy, PSP, extra movies, etc.  All with the intention of using them in my “downtime,” and let me tell you, there is no downtime.  Now if you have a long flight, by all means bring stuff with you to keep you entertained. But don’t bring it thinking you’ll find time to use it.  There is so much to do at Dreamforce that you’ll barely have time to sleep.  You’d be better off spending that time catching up on your sleep or meeting new people (or catching up with old friends).
  • Work – Now hear me out.  I know there are lots of solo admins, senior team members, CEO, CTO, etc coming to Dreamforce and it’s tough to leave work at work.  Try.  You’ll be better off if you focus on the talks being given, the hands on training or the networking than half paying attention while trying to do work.  If you have to do work, try to set expectations that you’ll do it in the morning or the evening before the conference kicks off.
  • Computers – Well, this one is a bit of a “clickbaity” bullet point.  When you’re in attending a talk, shut the computer.  Bring some paper if you want to take notes but for the most part, just pay attention.  The slides will be provided after the talk so there’s no need to copy down every word that’s been said.  You’ll absorb more of the talk if you’re giving it your full attention.  Now there are plenty of places you’ll want to have your computer, such as the mini-hacks, so bring it.  Just don’t use it all the time.
  • All your camera gear – This one pains me to say more than any.  I’m a photographer and love to use my camera.  But unless I’m have planning to go somewhere like a tour or on a photo walk I found that I just carrying around a bunch of heavy lenses.  If you want to bring your real camera, go minimal.  This year I’ll just be bringing my D90 and my 50mm lens.  Not only will it lighten up my bag, but it will force me to be creative with my work since I can’t just changes lenses.
  • Your conference badge – Yes, you do need to bring it with you when you’re trying to enter any of the conference buildings.  But you don’t need to be wearing it when you’re out to dinner with your team.  And you don’t need to be wearing it when you’re walking around at Union Square.  San Francisco is a pretty safe city, but it’s a big city.  And like any big city your ultimate goal should be to not make yourself an obvious target.  For some interesting reading look at things on the gray man theory*
  • Preconceptions – Every Dreamforce is different and every person experiences it differently.  So, take everything in the article (and every other article you’ve read) with a grain of salt.  Do your Dreamforce your way and don’t succumb to peer pressure.  Oh, and check your biases at the door too.

What to Bring

Yeah, I know, this is suppose to be what not to bring.  But there are a couple of things that I have to list that I have found get left off of most lists.

  • A jacket – I live in a state that is in a constant state of being so humid it should rain but not actually raining.  A state where simply the act of walking from your front door to your car can end up with you being drenched in sweat.  San Francisco is not in my state.  It can get pretty chilly during Dreamforce at night, especially down near the water.  Do like your mother told you and bring a light jacket.  If you forget, there are typically lots of ways to win a hoodie at Dreamforce.
  • An envelope – One of the first things I do when I check into my hotel room is to ask the front desk for a couple of envelopes.  I use these throughout the conference to store receipts in and to store business cards.  This keeps all of my paperwork organized so when I get home I don’t have to check through 30 different pockets to find a receipt for my expense report.
  • An extra bag – Most likely, you’re going to end up with a bunch of extra swag (which is not an acronym for Stuff We All Get).  In previous years, I’ve relied on the conference bag to be big enough to hold anything extra.  Last year all of my bags were bursting at the seams so I decided to pick up a collapsible duffel bag.  I’ll fly out with just carry-on bags, fill up the duffel bag and then check a bag on my way back.  Check out David’s great article on how to get swag at Dreamforce.

* Just a quick note.  Most of the stuff on gray man theory comes from “survivalist” or “tactical” sites.  The concepts behind these are useful but some of it can be a little too tin-foil hat for me.  I’d also recommend the first chapter of the Handbook of Practical Spying.

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