What to Bring to Dreamforce, 2018 Edition

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Dreamforce (Salesforce’s annual conference) is rapidly approaching! I’ve been asked by a few people about what should they bring and what they should be aware about. Since I’ve been to Dreamforce 4 times so far (not this year though), I do have a pretty good idea of what to expect 🙂

I’m quite a gearhead (I’m a Eagle Scout) so I like being prepared for basically anything on the ground. I’ve seen a lot on the ground over the years and this list reflects that. Anything missing off this list? Let me know in the comments!

Travel Related

  • One of the top things to bring, even if it ends up in your hotel room, is a multiport USB charging brick. You will be very popular with anyone huddling around a power outlet (which aren’t easy to find). I have a few Anker ones, I currently use this for travel. If you don’t need USB-C, try this one.
  • The other critical thing to bring is a multi outlet power adapter/surge protector. Not only can you stroll up to basically any power outlet that is full and get access to power, it also protects your devices just in case of a surge. This is a must for anyone bringing a laptop to sessions! I use both a Belkin and an Anker extension one. (Please research around if you need something that supports 220V plus – the Belkin does not*, the Anker apparently does. This really applies if you plan to use this overseas after.)
  • If you haven’t noticed, one of the most important things to plan for at Dreamforce is power. It is a tech conference after all! I wouldn’t expect for you to always find a power outlet so I normally carry two (one for me, one to share with something that didn’t plan ahead). There are a WIDE variety of battery packs that are various sizes/capacities. Here are some I recommend to start with:
    • Anker 10K mAh – if you get only one, start here.
    • Mi 10K mAh – if you are solely concerned with size and don’t mind one USB port.
    • Ravpower 20100 mAh USB PD – if you have a Nintendo Switch/ Macbook (not Air/Pro) and want to charge on the go, this works wonders!
    • Anker 22K mAh 85W – If you DO need to charge a Macbook Air/Pro on the go, here is your answer (that should comply with carry on requirements with airlines but YMMV).
    • I would also recommend looking into various wall warts that have multiple USB plugs – you can start here.
  • Now you can have all the plugs in the world but without power cords, you are doomed. I recommend buying a few cords for travel, especially because you can get various lengths**. I am a big fan of Anker cables and Nomad. Why bring more than a couple? You never know who might need help with charging and you can leave ones in your room. It’s a great way to start up a conversation if you want. I HIGHLY recommend labeling them with markers/electrical tape/ etc so they don’t walk away easily.
    • Apple doesn’t make MFI certified Lightning to USB-C cables yet so make sure to only get the Apple version if you want that.
    • Not all USB-C cables are the same – here are the best ones.
  • You might be thinking “Jeez Joe! Where do I put all of this stuff?!” I am glad you asked – I recommend what I humbly call a “cord bag”. This is a central place for all your power needs – I usually use a dope kit bag or something similar. My current main cord bag is from Topo Designs, with a backup from Milwaukee.
  • When traveling, most people enjoy listening to music. I fall squarely in that camp and have “weird ears” so I’m constantly on the hunt for great headphones. I’ve found a variety of headphones (yes, seriously) makes the most sense for Dreamforce:
    • On the plane – I highly recommend investing in Active Noise Cancelling headphones. ANC drowns out cabin noise and background noise so you don’t have to turn up your headphones. Here is a great Wirecutter article explaining that concept in more detail. I currently use the Bose QC 35s and couldn’t be happier with them.
    • Because I get cartilage cramps with literally every pair of over ear headphones I’ve ever used, I also normally bring a set of earbuds. You can use what came with your phone or a bluetooth option. I enjoy Apple Airpods and Beats X (especially if you don’t like the fit of Airpods). Wirecutter has a ton of recommentations here. Another good reason to bring a pair of earbuds is it gives you better situational awareness when you are walking around San Francisco. San Francisco is like any other city – it’s not 100% safe.
    • If your device can support it, I would recommend downloading whatever music you can to your device. Internet access isn’t guaranteed so if you are streaming, you might be in trouble otherwise. Same goes for movies.
  • With 160K+ people in for the week, San Francisco can get packed (take it from a former resident). If you aren’t in a hotel around the Financial District (aka FiDi) and need to take public transit/Uber/Lyft/etc, please account for 1.5-2x the amount of time to get to your destination. This also means people traveling from Oakland and/or the Peninsula (SFO). Be prepared for traffic, both on foot and on the road.
    • Uber and Lyft have a huge presence there so download and setup your app(s) ahead of time so you are ready to go when you land. SFO has strict pickup rules so make sure to pay attention to where your driver needs to meet you.
  • Since you will be walking a lot, I recommend bringing a nice water bottle with you. I got a Kleen Kanteen at a conference a few years ago and I love it. It’s insulated, so you can put ice in it before you leave the hotel and it will last a while. There are water stations around where you can refill too. Make sure to stay hydrated.
  • For killing downtime, here are some ideas:
    • Nintendo Switch is an awesome travel companion. I’ve literally had Mario Kart races with total strangers while in line.
    • I really love to read. I splurged on a Kindle Oasis a couple of years back but you can find cheaper Kindles on Woot.com all the time.
    • If you want to have some fun with virtual reality, try out the Oculus Go.
    • If you like the games Pokemon Go and/or Ingress, downtown San Francisco is a utopia of PokeStops/Portals.

Onsite

  • Plan on bringing a note taking device to sessions. A lot of people bring their work laptops (which is fine) but makes planning for recharging a little more difficult. If you can, bring a tablet (ideally with a keyboard attachment) that will give you more mileage for your wattage. I know that isn’t a trivial purchase for many (and some companies don’t support BYOD) but something to consider.
    • For a note taking tool, use whatever works best for you. I got hooked on Evernote thanks to a former coworker and use that religiously. You can use a free trial that week if you want.
  • One of the things that I constantly warn people about is the dangers of public wifi. Dreamforce has public wifi (with varying degrees of speed) and there is plenty of coffee shops nearby as well. You should seriously consider a VPN (virtual private network)*** when you are connecting to those. I am on the Apple side of the house so I love Encrypt.Me – one 7 day pass will support your Mac, iPad, iPhone, etc with unlimited data. They also support Windows, Android, and Amazon so you should be covered no matter what device you use. To me, it’s worth the nominal cost of protecting your data.
  • While you might not be spending a ton of time in your hotel room, one of the ways I make it like home is bringing a Amazon Fire Stick with me. Most hotels have TVs with HDMI ports you can access and the Fire Stick supports captive portal wifi (so you can connect it to the wifi). If you want to have your favorite show on in the background as you get ready, this is the easiest way to do it in my humble opinion.
  • If you are a Full Conference Pass holder, you will most likely get a backpack when you check in. They are nice bags but I never found them big enough for me (also I need a bag to travel there). I recommend bringing a bag with you (backpack/messenger/tote – whatever you prefer) that you like. I’ve used everything from a Timbuk2 backpack to my new daily driver (North Face Overhaul 40). Remember, this will carry your laptop/tablet/cord bag/swag/ etc so make sure you plan for comfort and capacity.
  • Moscone Center is roughly in the center of the city which makes getting certain things you need very easy. There is a City Target basically onsite and various stores close by on Market Street. I recommend buying toiletries and anything you forget when you arrive so you can save space/weight in your bag for swag◆.
    • I normally get snacks for the week here as well.
  • If you are traveling with your team and need larger amounts of stuff, I’ve used services like Google Shopping Express/Amazon Prime Now to get stuff delivered to your hotel room. I’ve even had stuff waiting at the front desk when we arrive (like a case of Red Bull in this example). Heck, you can even use something like Uber Eats to get a late dinner delivered to your room if you need to.

Attire

  • You will do a LOT of walking at Dreamforce. Seriously, it’s not uncommon to be hitting 5+ miles a day walking around. That means one of the #1 things to plan for is comfort. If you can get away with wearing comfy sneakers – do it (even if it’s in your bag for part of the day). If you can’t, invest in some gel inserts – they will do wonders. I’ve even bought dress shoes that have discreet foam soles. Your feet will take a pounding – plan ahead.
    • Also, if you have a fitness tracker, now is the time to challenge people to goal days/weeks.
  • The weather in San Francisco (and by extension the Peninsula/Oakland) can vary widely. It’s not uncommon to see temps in the 50s in SF while Sunnyvale is in the 90s. Temps can swing 10+ degrees between a couple of city blocks too. Bring a light sweatshirt or jacket.
  • While rain can be rare in San Francisco, it can happen. I usually pack a small travel umbrella with me just in case.
  • If you like to run, bring your running shoes and join the annual 5K run! It’s on Wednesday morning (September 26th) and normally sells out. More details on the Trailblazer Community.

Food/Drink

There are plenty of great places to eat – here are some of my favorites:

Miscellaneous

  • Stickers! If you have some, bring them to share/trade.
  • Peter Shankman travels a ton and has some great travel tips to make your life better. I use his M&M trick on flights all the time.
  • Remember to have fun! It’s easy to get FOMO at Dreamforce.
  • If you want to visit the Google/Apple company stores on the Peninsula, remember they are usually only open 9-5 M-F.
  • If you are planning to stay the weekend, I also have recommendations of places to visit nearby. Let me know in the comments.

 

 

 

 


Note: some of these links are affiliate links, which I use to feed my son’s toy habit.

*I may have learned this the hard way when I took out a power to an entire hotel floor in France when I was traveling in 2011. Oops!

**If you are using a cable that is frayed, PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE replace it. It’s not safe for you or the device.

***What the heck is a VPN? Read more here. Also be aware of people around you if you are working on sensitive documents.

◆ If you haven’t heard about the stories about swag, Dreamforce has a LOT. It’s practically a challenge for some people. Save space for stuff.

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