With Dreamforce looming just beyond the weekend, you have a lot to prepare. You’ve got panels to consider, events to peruse, apps to pack, and that says nothing about what plans you have to help your business cut through the noise.

That said, Dreamforce isn’t just for Salesforce sensory overload. It’s also a great place to connect with people you virtually chat with all year long, meet new prospects, and lay the groundwork for exciting partnerships.

But networking at this kind of event can be a challenge the way giving career advice during an earthquake is. While your advances and conversation are welcome, the very foundation of your meeting is… a little distracting.

But it doesn’t have to be. With this quick guide, you’ll be a Dreamforce networking pro.

  • The Exhibition Floor Isn’t a Place to Stop and Chat
    Whether you’re a vendor hoping to pick up a few prospects or just someone checking out the circus, it’s not likely that you’re going to have a meaningful conversation on the exhibition floor. If you’re giving away great swag, you might get a few words in with someone you want to talk to, but generally, everyone there is caught in the current and will, at the very least, be uncomfortable if you corner them. Instead, use the opportunity to make later plans: coffee, a drink at a nearby bar/restaurant, or a meetup. This will minimize annoyances and ultimately get you to the same place.
  • The Third Session’s a Charm
    Meeting someone during sessions can be difficult because, at that point in the day, people have an agenda: to check out great products, learn new ways to be better at their jobs, and to see really famous people give keynotes. Even within a particular “track,” it can be hard to get someone to budge. Until the third session. If you see someone in multiple, back-to-back sessions, you have something to talk about and, frankly, they’re ready for a distraction. It doesn’t always work this way, but usually it gives you the opportunity to chat with someone with very similar interests and make a connection based on shared experiences.
  • Don’t Mistake a “Partier” for a “Networker”
    Some people come to Dreamforce to play hard: people leading sessions during the day, people at the top of their game, and people at the bottom. These people (2/3rds of whom are among the most desirable at Dreamforce) can be slippery, forgetful, and can cost you a whole night of networking if you aren’t careful. When interacting with one, get contact information as quickly as possible. That way, the next day, you can reach out, reiterate what was discussed, and save that connection.
  • Don’t Skip the Parties
    The parties thrown by different businesses at Dreamforce shouldn’t be missed. Sure, you’ll be sold to about something you may or may not care about, and sure, your feet will be tired and your heart will cry for your hotel room / ship cabin, but do not miss them. Important people will be there, relaxed people will be there, people ready to talk will be there. Instead, take a human approach. People come to these events to meet up, sure, but they’re really there to unwind. Be conversational, interested, and helpful, and you’re likely to come away from the experience with more than a few free drinks.
  • Shake Now, Elaborate Later
    Dreamforce week will be a whirlwind. You’ll make contact with a lot of people but won’t really have time to dig deep with any of them. Don’t worry about that. Make your introductions, have some quick chats, and be prepared to send dozens of emails on the flight home. Remember that the goal here is the introduction. Relationships take time, and that’s really not something you’ll have a lot of in San Francisco.
  • Have the Tools You Need
    So much of high-speed networking success comes from being prepared. If possible, know who you want to talk to, what you want to say, where you hope to leave the conversation. And, of course, have ample business cards and CircleBack for business card scanning and address book organization.

However you slice it, strategy and preparation are the keys to successfully networking at Dreamforce. So do your homework, make your plans, and get the tools you need to succeed.

Can’t wait to see you there!