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Dreamforce networking: Expressions of awesomeness for the Salesforce Aficionado

Dreamforce networking: Expressions of awesomeness for the Salesforce Aficionado

5 ways to survive networking at #DF13

“I’m not shy, I’m just holding back my awesomeness…”

This year there’s going to be over 100,000 people attending Dreamforce and, if like me, you’re very good at holding back your awesomeness (and the word “networking” sends shivers down your spine), here’s a few tips to get you well on your way to making beneficial and lasting connections at Dreamforce 2013.

The first thing to remember is that humans are inherently social creatures.  Rarely is one born shy or introverted with a desire to hold back their awesomeness.  That is usually a learned behavior and now is the time to unlearn it and let the awesome being that you are shine through!

Firstly, the word “networking” gives me vivid images of people running around desperately trying to get something out of each other.  It’s not a pleasant image and fills me with fear.  Therefore, let’s change it to “meeting new people” or even “making new friends.”  It takes some of the pressure off and makes it sound more enjoyable.  Now that we’ve got over that hurdle and the knot in your belly is loosening a little…

What do you want to accomplish from Dreamforce?

  • Write down a list of:
    • Who you want to meet;
    • Which vendors you want to chat with and get demos from;
    • What are your goals?  For example, each day have one goal such as “Today, I want to meet 3 Certified Salesforce Consultants who I can learn from and exchange best practices with.”  Or, if you’re feeling super gung-ho, have more goals for each day, but be gentle on yourself and don’t beat yourself up if you don’t fully achieve them;
    • What are your pressing questions and for which speakers / attendees?
    • What questions do your colleagues have who are unable to attend?  They’re jealous you’re going and the least you can do is be on a mission to get their questions answered.

Start your research and “meeting new people” before you get there

  • Get onto Dreamforce Chatter and start making connections;
  • If you don’t have a Twitter, Google+ or a Facebook account, set them up right this minute and join all relevant social media pages, groups and forums that spark some interest in you;
  • Let everyone know you’re going to Dreamforce.  Post it on all your social media sites and tag #DF13;
  • Start following industry leaders you know will be there and others you want to talk to.  If you don’t know who they are, research and find out what makes them tick.  Make suggestions on their blog or Twitter feed regarding topics you would like to see covered at Dreamforce and ask questions;
  • Reach out asking for suggestions and tips.  If you resonate with people, then suggest meeting for a coffee, or ask what parties they recommend and meet them there.  They might not be who you need to meet, but they could know someone you should meet.  And hey, it’s another person you didn’t know 5 minutes ago, and connections, no matter with whom, are always good;
  • Get Appirio’s Dreamforce Social App to help you keep track of all the social events during Dreamforce;
  • Join online groups of people that graduated from your college or other courses you’ve done – a super easy way to connect with people you haven’t seen for years who might just be social gurus.

I’m here and surrounded by thousands of people and don’t know what to do next…  cue sweating forehead and the need for a panic switch

  • Put your phone away!  No-one is going to talk to anyone who is closed off with their face in their phone!  Put it away!  Right now!
  • Make sure you dress in a way that makes you feel confident.  If you have last night’s cheese sandwich stains down your t-shirt, your pants are itchy and your shirt is too tight around your newly toned biceps, you’re going to be self-conscious and not particularly open or approachable.  In fact, you’ll probably be pretty scary looking if you’re scratching and shifting around in the corner!
  • Stop freaking out and breath.  There are no zombies in the room.  Only other humans just like you.  Statistics show that in any one room you have a chance of getting on with one in four people.  So, if you’re in a room with 2,000 people, there’s going to be 500 people that you’ll probably get along with.  Score!
  • Okay, you can very quickly get your phone out now, but for a single purpose only.  Check-in to your location and see who else is there that you might know.  Maybe some of the people you connected with on your college alumni page are in the same room as you and you can go and renew your sorority chant or your old bro shake.  Don’t forget to put your phone away after this mission is accomplished;
  • Hold your head high, take your hands out of your pockets, don’t cross your arms and smile.  You’re happy to be here.  Let everyone know that;
  • Still feeling anxious?  Who’s your favorite celebrity / new thought author / internet mogul etc?  How would they act in this situation?  (If your idol is Miley Cyrus, stop reading here).   Now, imagine you’re them.  You’ve got everything to offer and can and will help so many people in ways you can’t even comprehend right now;
  • Start thinking positive thoughts.  Can’t think of any?  What do you like in the room?  Maybe there’s a nice flower arrangement.  How about that guys jacket?  That woman’s shoes?  Why not pay them a compliment?  Maybe the coffee is really good.  Why not say to the woman next to you “This is the best coffee I’ve ever had at a conference this size – do you know what brand it is?”  Focusing on things you really like, changes your energy instantly and makes you more open.

Okay, I’m feeling more confident, how do I start talking to people?

  • If you’re with friends / colleagues, you need to leave your comfort zone and go out on your own.  Maybe make a competition – in 60 minutes, who can collect the most business cards?  This can be positive and negative – don’t rush around bombarding people for their cards and run off to the next person, but use it as a time to force yourself to meet people, listen to what they have to say, engage with them and then, because you’re on a time limit, make your excuses and move on;
  • Ask for introductions.  If the people you’re with know others in the room, then don’t hesitate to ask for introductions.  They should have the common courtesy to do this anyway, but if they don’t, don’t be afraid to ask.  The same goes for new connections you’ve made – don’t be afraid to ask them if they know someone and if they could make an introduction;
  • You’ve just asked the woman in the coffee line if she knows what brand it is.  What do you say next?  Why not ask if she’s been to Dreamforce before?  If she says yes, then ask her for tips and suggestions.  If she says no, then you’ve got common ground and can ask her what advice she’s been given.  Now, I know I’m talking as though this is your first time here and, it might not be, but sometimes, you have to pretend it is to make it easier for you to initially engage with people.  But, if you’re not new to Dreamforce and meet someone who is, you probably have a whole wealth of knowledge you can impart on them that you weren’t even aware of;
  • When joining a group conversation, come in with a question instead of an opinion.  Everyone loves to answer questions and impart advice, but an opinion from someone they don’t know on what might be a serious topic, might not be the best foot forward;
  • Be open to everything and receptive.  Remember to listen.  Don’t be looking around for who you can talk to next.  That’s just plain rude;
  • When you first meet someone, don’t start pitching at them or asking for help right off the bat.  Networking should help both parties and it’s better to get to know them a little first and come across as a human being with communication skills instead of a networking shark;
  • When you do get to the point of asking for help and pitching your ideas (which might be in your follow-up), don’t apologize.  You’re putting a great idea out there that you wholeheartedly believe in and one day you might be the one they’re asking for help;
  • People love to talk about themselves.  Instead of asking “What do you do?” ask “What do you like to do?”  I think it’s fascinating to hear about where people are from:  Maybe they traveled two days to get there via a jazz festival in New Orleans.  Maybe they’re a bodybuilder on the weekends and do flare bartending once a month.  People are fascinating and love to talk about what they’re passionate about – make it your mission to find out what they love;
  • On the same vein, talk about what you’re passionate about.  It doesn’t have to be about work.  It can be about the cross-stitch lion you made last week.  But if you’re passionate about it, you’ll be engaging.

The palpitations have stopped and it’s starting to feel easier, but I’m still shifting my weight, jiggling my foot and backing myself into the corner

  • Remind yourself of your goal for that day.  Have you achieved it yet?  No?  You know what to do;
  • Be on a mission to learn something new each day;
  • If you’re going to an event, restrain yourself with every cell of your being, from sitting in the corner by yourself.  Go and plop yourself right between two people (presuming there’s enough room for you to actually sit there!) and engage in conversation.  “Have you heard Joe Blogg speak before?  I heard he’s got a profound view on….”  This is where that research you did in part 2 comes in handy;
  • Participate in activities that you enjoy.  It makes it so much easier to break the ice and asking someone’s name becomes a natural progression when you’re actively engaged in something;
  • You’re deep in conversation with someone truly enthralling and you’ve signed up for a session that’s in 5 minutes.  It’s a 10 minute walk to get there.  What do you do?  Miss the session.  They’re all recorded and put online, so you can watch it later;
  • When you get a business card, write on it information that will help you remember that person.  What event you met them at, an important piece of information about them.  And don’t forget your business cards too!  Take boxes of them as you’ll most likely get through them all;
  • Go to the parties and many social events.  If alcohol loosens you up a bit, then great, have one drink, but don’t get so wasted that you don’t remember anyone you spoke to and start doing the funky chicken dance.  Also, having a hangover doesn’t put you in a very good place for socializing the next day.  So, party, but look after your well-being in the process.

If you have set goals and missions, if you’ve done your research into the keynote speakers, if you’ve got questions and are putting yourself out there making connections online, nothing bad can happen.  Even if you don’t have these things, nothing bad can happen.  You’ll just leave beating yourself up that you didn’t talk to Mr Blogg about this idea that you’re 100% sure he’d be interested in and the only person suffering will be you.

Yes, you’ll probably talk to people who have no interest in talking to you.  Maybe they’re shy, or they had some bad news that morning or unfortunately they’re just sour and unfriendly.  It’s nothing to do with you – it’s just the way they are.  Let it go and move on.

Above all, remember to be yourself and not someone you think you should be.  Stop worrying about what others think.  Their opinions of you are completely unimportant.  If you’re shy or quiet, it can be intriguing and often attractive, so embrace it fully.  How many people gravitate toward the loud mouth in the corner boasting about how successful he is?  Exactly.  People who are truly doing well usually don’t feel the need to tell everyone about it and that could secretly be you.

-Henrietta and the team at CloudMyBiz