Community Conferences: The best thing in the Salesforce ecosystem right now (and why!)

Written by Paul Ginsberg

11th July 2022

As we (sort of) come out from Covid, people are prioritising which events they go to. This post is all about Community Conferences. If you’ve never been before I’m going to explain what they are, and why – for many – they are now a better destination than World Tour or even Dreamforce!

And, if you’re familiar with Community Conferences, you can skip the first section and jump into some reflections on current trends.

The Right Tool for the Right Job: Comparing the Big Events

Community conferences such as Dreamin in Color, London’s Calling or MidWest Dreamin are organised by volunteers in the community. They are big one or two day events, attracting hundreds of people currently engaged in the Salesforce ecosystem. People who go have to pay for tickets (no freebies here), and this means they want to get something from it.

For the organisers there is no personal financial gain, the reward is all about creating a space for people to come together. Many organisers are doing it because they are paying it forward. They have benefited from similar events and know exactly how empowering it can be.

The word on the street, from speaking to seasoned attendees, is that for people configuring and developing Salesforce on a day-to-day basis, community conferences are now a better investment of time and money than TrailblazerDX or Dreamforce!

You won’t get roadmaps or much access to Product Managers, which you do at Dreamforce or TrailblazerDX, but you will come away learning:

  • The difference between marketing over-enthusiasm and the actual product
  • Best practice from other real world users, familiar with the challenges in your region
  • Your personal development gaps
  • A chance to step back and reflect on your own operations, away from the daily distractions of the office (virtual or otherwise)

All this without Salesforce’s cautionary vetting, which tones down certain statements, or ignores entire feature sets if they don’t happen to be on Salesforce’s marketing roadmap for the year.

One of the innovations finally hitting the big time this year has been the conference app, which seems to have finally come out of beta: a tool which has an easy to use agenda selector, session-based online polls, discussion channels, photo sharing and the ability to message one another The Whova app (in use at least three conferences this year) has proved very successful at helping connect people and create unexpected ad hoc meetup opportunities.

It depends on what you want to get out of the event. Solo/self-guided training, although necessary and no matter how good the materials, doesn’t do it in the same way for me. If you want to speak to an account executive or know what Salesforce itself is currently focused on, these conferences may not be for you. These events also different from community groups which often take place in the evening and only focus on one or two topics at a time, or Salesforce Saturdays which are fun but not always conveniently timed. If you can go to your local groups, definitely do that, but for single, impactful, emotionally uplifting days, the community conference is hard to beat.

Post(ish) Covid reflections: the changing landscape

Covid has really impacted our community, with many working and socialising patterns changed. How has this altered events?

I’m pleased and hugely thankful to report that the quality of sessions has really held up and is, in fact, higher than ever. Thanks to initiatives such as SpeakerAcademy and the peer-mentoring that happens throughout the ecosystem, the quality of the sessions is good. Presenters have clocked that sessions need to – typically – have something for the newbie, something for the professional and something for the highly experienced to get out of it.

Community organisers have learned how to vet the content, support and educate, so that by the time speakers get to the present at a community conference, the vast majority of what’s on offer is really good. Speakers are learning from each other about what makes engaging content.

The benefit of live, in person events? You get to ask questions, so you don’t sit there wondering about a crucial piece which then leaves you confused for the rest of the session. The energy of the room, the questions, and the reactions are often the best parts. And you get to hear the backstory, the items that aren’t published in “how to” blogs. On a personal note, eventually you even notice the people attending the same sessions and get to share experiences with them too 🙂

Confessions

I’ve raved about community conferences, and I hope you’ve picked up on the fact that I think that community conferences are where the ecosystem is “at”, especially as this is the way to meet many international folk*.  with different experiences and perspectives as they hit the conference “trail”.

*Sidenote: there are a bunch of awesome speakers and other people deeply involved within the community, who travel the world, plotting their holidays based on where Dreamin conferences take place.

However, there are one or two elephants in the room:

FOMO (fear of missing out)

An apple pie overladen with a traditional pie chart, showing the following four items in equal proportion: Work, Hobbies & Friendships, Sleep, Events & Self Study & Personal Development
It’s a pie chart! What’s the right nutritional balance in your life?

You can’t do everything. Our “pie” (representing time) is finite, so pick and choose, and remember that you need all sorts of nutrients – not just events, but self study, time for personal hobbies and friendships and, heck, even some work to fit in there somewhere too.

What you see online is what people want to showcase, they don’t always show you all the other more mundane stuff they are getting up to too, and what they have decided to forego based on their personal circumstances and needs.

Social skills

This one happens to be personal as I have certain austic tendencies. I suspect my social skills (and perhaps some others) are a bit rusty. We are all a bit out of practice, and at one conference, I caused one friend to walk off when I was pushing my argument, but failed to listen and accept their viewpoint and experience about a particular topic. They came so I got the opportunity to apologise. The point being that, for some, we need to learn through doing, and you’ll find the Trailblazer Community continues to be a warm, helpful, supportive, beautiful community to help with just that.

In my diary

My next personal stop is French Touch Dreamin in December, but if you’re in the US there’s Florida Dreamin in October, and India has its virtual Women In Tech Dreamin in late August. The full global list of 20+ community conferences can be found here, so you can bookmark those you want to keep an eye on for next year, and even – as many do – factor them into your holiday plans, as you will find a welcoming community to help you experience the best out of wherever you are visiting.

In the meantime, for ways to get the temperature of the Trailblazer Community between community conferences, Twitter is the place to go. You don’t have to post, but it’s a useful tool to check in with, once in a while, if you want to get deeper into Salesforce and the vibrant community.

p.s. Still need more reasons to reprioritise your diary? This time next week, I’ve got the companion half of this blog coming out, giving examples of inspiration from this year’s YeurDreamin’.

My thanks goes to all the event organisers, as these things take over their lives for months at time, every time!

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