I don’t know if you’ve ever been to Dreamforce but let me be clear: it can get messy.
I mean, it’s the world’s largest tech conference, with more than 170,000 attendees, including people like Al-Gore, Will.i.am, or Metallica. Yet, for most people working in technology and customer service, it’s the single best event of the year — and nothing else matters.
Now, we’ve been at Dreamforce for many editions (glad to hear that this year they’re going beefless and saving 10 million gallons of water). But every time we have to prepare for it I feel like we’re about to climb Mount Everest. Getting the whole team aligned, knowing exactly where to go, who to meet, making sure we stand out from the crowd and getting the best out of it, is no easy task.
In my role as Events Manager here at Unbabel, I’ve been organising our presence across all sorts of events, from Web Summit to Dreamforce. And if my experience stands for anything you have to plan ahead and be strategic about how you approach it.
I know, that’s easier said than done. Speaking from our own experience, if you don’t take Dreamforce seriously it might not be worth going after all.
In our case, we have had all sorts of experiences at this conference in the past. From not preparing like we should to attending too little side-events, from discovering a few secret spots and closing some of our most important customers, to missing key opportunities, we now have learned how to tackle it.
And that’s why I decided to write down all of our tips and learnings from going to Dreamforce three years in a row. So here’s what you should keep in mind in the upcoming weeks.
1. Set your goals before hitting the trail
People go to Dreamforce for all sorts of reasons. To learn from industry experts, to meet with potential customers, to search for new products, to see Metallica at Dreamfest, you name it.
However, it is crucial that you lay down your key objectives before hitting the trail. Setting your goals will help you define the strategy for the event and establish your priorities.
For instance, if you’re looking for potential customers you need to get your sales and marketing teams onboard and focus all your efforts on getting new leads. So just keep that in mind.
And, of course, having a booth at Dreamforce can be a huge benefit because you get access to more than 200 other companies that sponsor the event. Sure, it’s quite expensive ($25k just for a booth), but if you meet future customers at Dreamforce it will definitely pay off.
Bottom line is, consider all your options, define your goals and then define the whole strategy around that.
2. Get all geared up and plan your meetings
I really can’t stress this enough. You have to prepare for the event, plan your meetings and reach out to those you want to meet there.
The problem is, though, how to access the contacts of those you want to meet. Because Dreamforce won’t give you the list of attendees you’ll have to pull off a few tricks.
You can look at their huge list of sponsors to identify the companies that would be interesting for you to talk to, for example. Dreamforce has the full list on their website for everyone to access (this year, we’re talking about more than 200 companies). So just go through it. Analyse their profiles, understand what kind of business they are and the technology they’re building, and based on this information, decide on who you want to contact.
Another quick tip is to use Linkedin to see who else is going to Dreamforce 2018. Search by the event’s hashtag (#Dreamforce) and you’ll have a better understanding of who is attending and what their intentions are.
And remember to look at the agenda to have an idea of who are the speakers but also which topics are interesting for you and your business.
3. Get your demos up and running
Now, let’s get down to business. I guess most of us will be there to connect with potential customers. Therefore, it’s absolutely crucial for you to prepare your product demos and make sure they resonate with Dreamforce’s audience.
Coordinate with your team so that all goes well when you’re showcasing your product and remember that the venue is noisy so you don’t want that to be a problem.
You should also be aware of the fact that you’re going to be walking around a lot. So it makes no sense to do your demos at your booth on a computer. And that’s why you should definitely consider going mobile and be able to showcase your product on your phone.
4. Calculate your route
Regarding the agenda, you have a lot of things going on and I wouldn’t personally spend a lot of time in talks. Nevertheless, there are a few interesting sessions that have caught my eye on the future of customer service that you should consider:
- 5 Steps to World-Class Self-Service
Here’s a fun fact for you: 81% of all customers try to find their own solution before reaching out to a customer support agent. So you better get it right.
- Scale Customer Service with Chatbots across Digital Channels
Chatbots are a critical component of supporting the shift towards mobile messaging and social sites to deliver a great customer experience.
- Hiring and Training Customer Service Super-Agents
No matter how artificial intelligence impacts customer service, your agents will always be at the centre of it and you better train them right.
Either way, get ready for an incredibly huge venue. So check the event’s map before going there and try not to get lost. Take notes of all the booths, meeting points, stages and interesting spots that you want to pass by.
Just to give you an idea, it took us 2 years to realise there is this slightly secret spot for companies offering integrations, particularly for Service Cloud — only 8 vendors are allowed to have a booth in this area every year, Digital Genius being one of them again in 2018. So if you’re looking for Service Cloud specific vendors and innovative technologies, make your way towards the Service Cloud Lodge, at the Marriot Marquis venue. And that’s just a quick tip.
5. Make a few detours and attend the side-events
After attending a few editions, we have realised that there was this huge misconception that everything happens at Dreamforce itself. Nothing could be further from the truth.
There is just so much going on outside of the actual event that it would be insane to go back to your hotel once the lights are out at the Dreamforce campus.
So take your time and quickly research the side-events. What else is happening that is interesting for your industry? Where are most of your potential customers going to? Which companies are running these events?
Take advantage of these casual environments to talk to the people you want to meet. And if you’re working in customer service we recommend that you attend at least these three:
- Oktoberfest Celebration by New Voice Media
- VIP Happy Hour at Talkdesk
- Twilio Dreamforce Welcome Reception
6. It’s a team effort
Pretty much like rock climbing, attending events involves a lot of team effort. Get all of your teams aligned towards the same goal and let them know what to expect.
In our case, we’ll have seven people attending so they really need to be on top of their game. And that’s why we usually do pitch practice before events so that everyone knows exactly how to showcase the product and answer the most common questions.
However, you should also consider the fact that this whole operation involves more people than just those attending. Therefore, you should schedule regular meetings with all those working on the event to ensure you’re doing what needs to be done. Obviously, this includes people from sales, business development, marketing, and so on.
To give you a better idea of what it looks like, here are all the teams involved in Dreamforce at Unbabel and what their role is:
- Events: coordinate all the logistics, bridge between your company and Dreamforce, and get all the teams synchronised
- Marketing: plan paid campaigns across multiple channels to promote your attendance, write blog posts (I guess we can check that off the list 😉), and take care of social media
- Business Development: has a critical role as the contacts of the registered attendees aren’t accessible prior to the event – so we need a team prospecting what companies will be there
- Product & Implementation: rock those demos through innovation and customization
- Sales & Partnerships: to form partnerships with companies with a similar target to ours to co-sponsor a booth, networking events, and others.
And if you want to become a Dreamforce pro, there’s a quiz you can take to boost your knowledge about the event and how to set your game there. It’s divided between Dreamforce Ready, Dreamforce & Next Steps, and Public Speaking Skills.
7. Stand out from the crowd and reach the peak
Standing out from a crowd of 170,000 may seem an insurmountable obstacle but it’s definitely worth it.
At Unbabel, we really want to go big this year so we decided to do something different. Instead of taking just the regular t-shirt, stickers and business cards, we’re taking something else. Because the Unbabel platform, and its seamless integrations, gives your team multilingual superpowers to customer service teams, we’re going to play along and have your team dress like superheroes.
So if you see someone wearing a mask and a cape, you know whom to blame.
Now, shall we meet at Dreamforce 2018?
If you’re interested in learning more about multilingual customer service that seamlessly integrates within your Salesforce workflow, let’s schedule a meeting at Dreamforce 2018.