Dreamforce is Huge!
In fact it was huge in 2011, I really need a new word for 2012. Over 90,000 registrants and I've heard numbers between 50 and 80,000 actually turned up. As well as the Moscone Center (that's North, South and West), Dreamforce now includes 34 hotels. It feels like there's a tipping point approaching - just how much bigger can it and stay in its current location. We all know Marc Benioff loves San Francisco so I imagine it would be hard for him to move it to somewhere like Las Vegas. Another idea I heard was to split it by functionality into multiple weeks - personally I think that would lose some of the sense of occasion - a drip feed of small conferences rather than one mega-event. I'd also imagine that would put quite a lot more stress on the SFDC employees - having to organise and staff multiple events, trying to get prospects, customers and partners to attend each of these in equal measure - that sounds like it would bring as many problems as it would solve. All I know so far is that the Moscone Center is booked for November 18th-22nd 2013, so it looks like its staying put for a while.
Salesforce Values Its MVPs
If you are an MVP you get treated rather well at Dreamforce - thanks mainly to the the amazing Erica Kuhl. This year included a tour of One Market, a bowling event, a shoutout at the Community Keynote, Force.com MVP lunch (thanks Dana Le and Nick Tran), VIP seating for the keynotes and much more.
Get To The Community Lounge
The Community Lounge is a great innovation. Its the place to find an MVP outside of their sessions and there were daily presentations on hot community topics. Aside from that, the wifi was solid and there were comfortable seats and beanbags. When I needed to work during the event, or relax and eat lunch, this was my preferred location.
Keynotes Are Popular And Run Long
If you want to hear the keynotes in person, you need to be up with the lark. The rooms aren't big enough to hold everyone that wants to attend, so you need to get in line early, especially if you want a good view. I always enjoy Dan Darcy's involvement in these - there's a real frisson of excitement when the screens switch over to him and his team.
Keynotes always overrun, but this year it was pretty much a full hour over. Something to bear in mind when reserving your spots at sessions immediately after - I had nothing scheduled until 12 but still didn't make it. Being in the VIP seats a few rows from the front does make up for it though.
Don't Stress About Your Agenda
There are so many sessions on at any one time, you are never going to be able to fit in all of those that you want to attend. Add to that keynotes running long, unexpected networking opportunities, meetings with or entertaining customers, distances between venues being larger than expected and simply being tired, and you'll find you can't even keep up with those that you added to your agenda. Don't sweat it, most sessions aside from roadmap are recorded and made available on the Dreamforce Youtube Channel so you can always catch up afterwards. Once you realise that you are missing most of the sessions anyway, due to their being only one of you, its easier to relax about it. Get to as many sessions as you can, but don't get so hung up that you miss out on the rest of the conference.
Dev Zone Is Awesome
Bigger and better than ever this year. Unconference, mini-hacks, community common, developer theatre, touch stadium and more sessions than you could hope to get to. The Workbooks and Salesforce Touch Platform books were very popular - by the second day these were being rationed and handed out from a counter rather than the free-for-all of the first day, which presumably depleted stocks to a worrying level. Throw in video games, code consults, t-shirt printing and a mini-expo and what more could you want.
Developer Keynote Is Unmissable
Okay so as a developer I'm biased, but this was the first year with a Developer Keynote, which included exciting announcements, entertaining demos (even, dare I say especially, those that didn't work) and a free copy of Advanced Apex Programming for everyone that attended (including those that were in line but couldn't get in). Next year this needs to be in the big room and last 3 hours like Marc Benioff's keynote!
You Don't Have to Stay in a Hotel
The hotels fill up quickly around Dreamforce time - the amount of people staying at the airport or over in Oakland was surprising. If there are a group of you going, consider hiring a house or an apartment. This is our our team from BrightGen did it this year and it works really well, you get the common areas of the kitchen and lounge plus your own space (as long as there are enough bedrooms!).
You May Be Going "Out Out"
When you leave your hotel/apartment/house in the morning, you may think you are just spending the day at the conference and will be returning prior to heading out to one of the parties in the evening. Be prepared that this may not be the case - there are so many events, drinks, meetups and tweetups going on that you can easily find yourself out for the whole day and evening.
You're Going To Need A Bigger Suitcase
Pretty much every everything on the baggage carousel at Heathrow was spherical or had a 'heavy' tag on it. Make sure you leave plenty of room for schwag - even if you don't plan on getting any, you are bound to end up with some books and t-shirts at the very least. Failing that, buy an empty suitcase out there and fill it up for your return.
Nothing On Announcements?
You may be surprised that none of my thoughts on Dreamforce cover the Force.com/developer announcements - that's because the next London Meetup will be a panel guided discussion on these topics, so if you want to hear more about those then join us for that. If you need another reason to attend, Adam Seligman, VP of Developer Platform Marketing for Salesforce.com, is the special guest.