dreamforce-partyThese tips apply to almost any conference you attend, but are especially important for Dreamforce in my experience.

Each year Dreamforce gets a little bigger, a little more spread out. You’ll walk forever, be on your feet a lot, and the last thing I want is something over my shoulder (like a laptop bag) or even a folio or tablet to carry (which is too easy to leave somewhere, and is more awkward than you would think).

Going from sessions to meetings to meals to evening parties (sometimes without time to go back to the hotel to drop stuff off) is the clincher for me. I need to work this conference hands-free, carrying nothing more than what I can fit in my pockets. And that means the most important tool in my pocket is my smartphone.

If you want to give it a try, below are several recommendations for how to manage Dreamforce week with just your smartphone.

Wear something with lots of pockets
Probably goes without saying, but you’ll need pockets for your phone at minimum but ideally also a small notebook, pen, business cards, etc. It helps that I typically wear a sport jacket or suit to conferences like this.

Download the Dreamforce app
You’ll have everything at your fingertips with the well-done Dreamforce app – the full session schedule, your personal registration agenda, etc. No need to lug around a thick paper event guide. Better yet, save all of the applications you’ll need during the show (the Dreamforce app, Hootsuite, Tripit, etc.) into a single, temporary “Dreamforce 13” folder for easy access.  Consider downloading the Chatter apps as well if you want to follow conversations within the Salesforce community.

Capture everything with Evernote
Take pictures, take notes, even type the outline for a new blog post. I will still carry a small Moleskine notebook with me this week, but will mostly take notes electronically for easy sorting and retrieval/usage later (click here to see my note-taking strategy for events like Dreamforce).

Leave voice texts for yourself when in a hurry
If you don’t have time to type something into Evernote, have a back-up plan to capture a bunch of voice texts for retrieval later. I do this frequently when running, and it works great when walking through the Cloud Expo too.

Find and use the charging stations (and buy a battery pack booster)
There will be several around the show, places to check your email while boosting the battery life remaining on your device. Several sponsors also have on and off-site lounges planned where the line for chargers may be smaller. I’d also recommend buying a smartphone case that doubles as a secondary battery (this is the one I’ll use this week).

Hootsuite
Set it up in advance so you’re not fumbling with it later. Create a column to watch Dreamforce’s 50 most influential, as well as a hashtag filter that narrows information to what you care about most (for example, save a search for “#df13 marketing” and you’ll see only the event posts with the word marketing in them).

Meetings, locations & contact info up to date
Make sure your calendar (synced on your smartphone) has all of your meetings saved, along with all of the detail you need – location, attendees, their phone numbers, etc. Save the parties you plan on attending as well, with locations, bar codes that may need to be scanned for entry, etc. This may take a few minutes on the plane in today, but it’ll be worth it.

Make a second trip to cloud expo with a bag
There will likely be materials from the Cloud Expo you want to take home. Don’t load up on a bunch of collateral that’ll just weight down your luggage home and that can be found online later anyway. But for the books and best practices guides and cool SWAG, make a first run through the show and identify what you really want or need. Then come back later with a bag specifically to get what you want. This can be the exception to the “carry nothing but a smartphone” rule for the week, but it’s a better way to more efficiently get what you want, get it back to your hotel, and get back to hands (and shoulder) free time.

Carry a thin Moleskin or notepad in your pocket
There are times when I still just want to write something down. I carry one of these thinner versions of the Moleskine notebook with me all the time, but you can fold up a couple pieces of copy paper and it’ll work just the same.

Curious if anybody else is planning (or hoping) to work Dreamforce hands-free. What are your strategies & best practices? What have I missed?