5 Practical Tips to Help Partners Network More Effectively at Dreamforce

September 19, 2017 Ian Gotts @iangotts

Plus 5 ways to wind down after #DF17 with San Francisco activities that are off the beaten path

There are flurry of blogs helping newbies and returning offenders survive and thrive at Dreamforce, and every blog says you should network and make connections. And you should. But how? It’s scary.

Striking up a conversation with a total stranger can be difficult and awkward. You summon up the courage to start a conversation and it doesn’t flow.

Lots. Of. Pregnant. Pauses.

Or you walk into a room and everyone is having a conversation, and it seems like it is just you on your own. How do you break in? Below are five practical networking tips to make it easier and help conversations flow better.

Tip #1: Have low expectations.

You are not looking for a life partner, just a few connections that will lead to more connections. Treat every interaction as a “conversation of possibilities.” Go with an open mind, not a targeted sales pitch.

Tip #2: Follow the 3-feet rule.

If you are three feet from someone, get started. Practice. Think of networking as a muscle that gets better with renewed use. There is no shortage of opportunities: standing in lines (you’ll be in plenty of these at Dreamforce), sitting in sessions, at meal times, on the bus to the hotel, at the coffee stations or bar. Be open, make eye contact, smile.

Tip #3: Ask open questions.

Open questions start conversations and can’t be answered with a simple ‘Yes’ or ‘No.’ They begin with who, why, what, where, how, or when. Prepare a few ahead of time. A few examples:

  • “What is your favorite session so far?”
  • “How did you decide which sessions to go to?”
  • “Which parties have you registered for?”
  • “What is your role?”
  • “Which city are you from?”
  • “How did you find a hotel with space?”

Choose your words carefully, as it is easy to ask closed questions: “Is this your first Dreamforce?” — “Yes” <end>. A better question is, “How many Dreamforces have you been to?”

Tip #4: Pick groups with an odd number of people talking.

At networking events with everyone standing around, it is easier to break into a group where there are an odd number of people. If there is an even number then everyone is talking to someone else. An odd number means that there is someone who could break off and talk to you. Join the edge of the group but don’t stop the conversation, introduce yourself in a few short words — make an impression.

Tip #5: Find something that you can offer to send them.

Find a reason to start the connection. Email an interesting blog link, a restaurant recommendation, a book summary — but not your sales deck. And do what you said you would because so few people do. This one simple act will make you stand out. Take a pen so you can write down on their business card what you said you will do.

And finally, stop looking at your phone. It is tempting, but it is hiding, and closes down the opportunities for people to engage you. If you are looking at your phone, you might as well be back in your hotel room.

And now for the fun part: winding down from all the networking and excitement of Dreamforce...

5 really cool outdoor activities around San Francisco to explore after Dreamforce

The city of San Francisco has so much to offer: bike the Bridge, visit Golden Gate park, watch the baseball, etc. But within 30 mins of the center of the city there is also some stunning scenery which you would probably never discover on your own.

#1: Drive the steepest road in the city.

Everybody drives down the wiggly road in San Francisco, Lombard. But far cooler is driving down the steepest road— Filbert Street between Hyde and Leavenworth — with the car full of screaming adults. It feels steeper than Lombard as it straight down — 30.1% gradient. [Timing: 2 mins down the hill, 30 mins for your heart to calm down].

#2: Walk to the Kirby Cove Beach.

This is a lovely beach at the base of the Golden Gate Bridge on north side. Everybody does the classic lookout on the north of the bridge, but from that same parking lot, take the fire road that goes downhill and away from the bridge. It winds its way through woods down until you are rewarded with amazing views of the city from underneath the Golden Gate Bridge. It is fantastic and mystical in the early morning as the mist clears. [Timing: 2 hours, including time messing around on the beach]

#3: Take the ferry to Angel Island.

This is the huge island you can see from the city beyond Alcatraz. Take the ferry from the city or drive to Tiburon, which is a pretty little town with nice restaurants and shops. There are ferries from the city to the island. The undulating road hugs the coast, or slightly higher up is the fire road, and both treat you to a 360-degree view of the bay, the cities and the bridges. You can even hike to the very top of the island rather than walk around the island. Bikes can be rented on the island. There is also a little open-air bus for those feeling less energetic, or those who want to learn about the fascinating military and immigrant history. You can stop for lunch or coffee at the café where the ferry docks, and often there is live music. [Timing: Allow a morning or afternoon including ferries. Longer if you are walking rather than biking.]

#4: Drive or bike up to the Point Bonito lighthouse.

Drive over the Golden Gate Bridge and turn left up to the lookouts. But keep going. Get the top and turn left at the traffic circle. Keep going. Then drive down the other side on the single track road. You will have stunning views of the Pacific and even may spot whales. Eventually you will get to a parking lot. Walk back down towards the lighthouse and you can see the sea lions basking in the sunshine in the secluded coves. Then go through the tunnel to the lighthouse, if the tunnel is open (check the times the tunnel is open). It is worth it, even if the tunnel isn’t open. Walk slightly north along the cliffs for amazing views up the Pacific coastline. [Timing: 1 hour drive after you get across the bridge. By the way, this is a serious bike ride and will take several hours.]

#5: Hike down into Muir Woods.

You can drive to Muir Woods which has huge redwoods and is calm and quiet. There is a short path around the woods. But I prefer the hike down from Mountain Home Inn and then back up, finishing off with dinner or lunch at the Inn. It is better on older knees to do the loop clockwise down Ocean View Trail, so you are on the less-steep trail going down. Here’s the trail map. [Timing: 3 hours round-trip, including time down in Muir Woods soaking up the peace.]

And there’s more….

These are excerpts from our free “Insiders Guide to DF17” which covers surviving Dreamforce, restaurants the locals keep a secret, touristy stuff, getting around and much much more. Download here.

Elements.cloud is a free (yes free forever, for everyone) business requirements and business process mapping app integrated into Salesforce that is designed to work at “workshop-speed” and architected for SIs working with clients.

5 Practical Tips to Help Partners Network More Effectively at Dreamforce was originally published in Inside the Salesforce Ecosystem on Medium, where people are continuing the conversation by highlighting and responding to this story.

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