Dreamforce 2015: Get Your Ducks in a Row

As a Salesforce admin with years of experience, I still find Dreamforce educational as well as inspiring for both my job and my blog. But every year, I feel the same sort of “am I ready for this?” panic as the date grows closer. If I feel that way – and this year will be my 8th Dreamforce – then the newbies out there must be freaking out!

Well, there’s no need to panic. But there is a need to prepare. Have you got your ducks in a row? (Or as my mother would say, “Have you got your poop in a group?” Seriously, mom – eww.) Whether you are a Dreamforce newbie or a veteran like me who just needs a few reminders, I hope you find my own Dreamforce checklist helpful.

1. Hotel Reservations: Oh, you have not booked your hotel yet? OUCH. Seriously, this is going to be tricky for you. But it is still possible. Here are a few tactics for getting a hotel somewhere other than Oakland:

  • Search for hotels several times a day. As people change hotels or cancel their registrations, the rooms that they had reserved will become available again. Have your credit card ready though, because they will disappear just as quickly! August 15th is the cutoff date to cancel Dreamforce registration with a full refund, so the week prior is a great time to be searching. Seriously, do a search every half hour if you can.
  • Reach out to the All Dreamforce group in the community, and ask if anyone would be willing to share their room – many people have booked hotel rooms with two beds and are fine with roommates.
  • Look for a room outside of the Dreamforce site. It can be done! Vacation rentalsAirbnb, and many other travel sites will have random available rooms pop up between now and the conference. Look what I just found on Booking.com!

2. Join groups and participate in the Community! There are some great groups to join that will keep you updated on all things Dreamforce. The All Dreamforce group is a must. If this is your first Dreamforce, make sure to join the New to Dreamforce group too. There are also groups based on your role and company size. There are fun groups too – whether you will be spending your spare time at the gym or at the parties, there’s a group for that!

3. Get on the Road to Dreamforce! Every Tuesday at 11:00am PST, the Road to Dreamforce is a live webcast, running approximately 30 minutes, and full of news and tips that will help you get the most out of your trip to Dreamforce. If you’ve missed them, don’t worry – they are all recorded and ready to watch at your convenience.

4. Add training or certification! On your Dreamforce registration confirmation page, there is a link to add training or add a certification exam. If you’ve been considering either of these, Dreamforce is the perfect opportunity. The certification exams are half price when taken at Dreamforce as well, so there is no better time. DO IT. (And check out my previous blog post to find out how I passed my cert exams without taking the classes!)

5. Bookmark your sessions NOW!  The Agenda Builder goes live on Monday, August 3rd. But you can do a lot to prepare ahead of time. Many sessions have already been posted, so you can go through those, and save them as favorites so that they are easy to find later. You can view personalized, expert picks, or all sessions.

In the navigation menu on the left, you can update your personalized settings, or search for sessions’ titles.

Some tips for session registration once the Agenda Builder is live:

  • Register for as many hands-on trainings (a.k.a. “HOTs”) as possible. You can find these by searching “hands-on.” These sessions are my favorites because you actually sit at a computer and are walked through the steps of creating/configuring something specific. They are also a great way to try something that you think is over your head or completely foreign to you, because the step-by-step instruction makes it so much easier to grasp. And you have access to the org that used in each hands-on session for 30 days afterward!
  • As it gets closer to session registration day, pay attention! You will receive an email notification from Dreamforce when session registration is available, but sometimes it’s a good idea to log in and check – the sessions go live incrementally, and they fill up quickly. Sometimes they go live at midnight, sometimes at 5:00am.
  • If too many of the sessions you want have filled up, don’t panic! Keep checking for added sessions between the initial go-live and the conference. The Dreamforce team is constantly working to add more to the schedule, and popular sessions will most likely be repeated during the conference.
  • If you still can’t register for a particular session that you absolutely must attend, you can still get in! A number of seats in every session are reserved for walk-ins. Just plan to get there early and wait in line.

6. Get the DF15 Ready Trailhead badge!

Have you checked out Trailhead yet? If not, let me tell you: it is the easiest, funnest way to learn more about all things Salesforce. Go to Trailhead now, log in with your developer edition (or create a new one), and start earning badges! It’s a wonderful resource for admins and developers of all skill levels. And make sure to get the DF15 Ready badge so that you’ll be prepared.

7. Be smart about booking your flight. Who doesn’t love hanging out at the airport? Oh, you don’t? Then LISTEN UP.

Keep in mind that the majority of attendees will be scrambling to get to the airport in the early afternoon on the final day of Dreamforce. There is usually a half-day of sessions that day as well, so I always try to leave late in the evening, or stay an extra day and have fun in the city before I go. If you decide to fly out on Friday afternoon, be prepared for major delays. There were, what, 130,000 people at Dreamforce last year? So… just keep in mind what that could do to airport traffic.

There is a very thorough Dreamforce FAQ which includes contact information, and should answer most of the usual questions and/or concerns. Another great place to get fast answers is the All Dreamforce group in the Community. I will be posting additional preparation tips as the big week draws closer, so stay tuned. Happy planning!

When Leap Year Attacks…

Another leap year is coming! Normally, I am a fan of anything that puts another day between now and my birthday. But recently, I discovered the chaos that a leap year – really, leap day – can cause in date calculations.

If you’ve ever cloned records where you have to move the date fields out one year, then you’ve done things like this:

Not an issue if you are manually cloning, right? Because you can simply adjust as needed for those pesky little February 29th dates.

I’ve created a flow that runs when someone clicks a button (on an opportunity page layout) named “Create Renewal Opp.” The flow creates a renewal opportunity, and also clones the products from the original opportunity. (I would also like to add that I could not have done it without this blog post – thanks Rakesh!) In this flow, there are some nifty date formulas that were working just fine… until we got closer to February 29th, 2016.

There were two ways that I attempted to calculate my dates + 1 year. The easiest was DateField + 365. It simply adds 365 days to the date it’s looking at. The problem with this is, if 2/29/2016 is within that 365 days, and what you really wanted was for the month and day to be the same (and just move the year out by one), then it won’t work. If you add 365 days to 7/15/2015, you will get 7/14/2016.

The other formula I tried was DATE (YEAR (DateField) +1, MONTH (DateField), DAY (DateField)). This keeps your month and day the same, and adds +1 to the year. This is perfect. Except… when it tries to add a year to 2/29/2016, it will fail – because 2/29/2017 is not a valid date.

So when I used my fancy “Create Renewal Opp” button on an opportunity that had 2/29/2016 as one of the dates, I got a flow error message, as well as an email alert that told me I had an invalid date value.

No renewal opportunity was created.

There are some really complicated formulas out there in the Help & Trainingdocumentation that are supposed to get around this leap year issue. But really, if you are just adding one year (or two years, or whatever), it is much simpler than that. After extensive testing and trial & error, I finally settled on a formula that worked for me:

To break it down: if the date is February 29th, then add 365 days (which will take you to February 28th of the next year) – otherwise, add 1 to the year and leave the month and day the same. The beauty of this calculation is that it never looks for a specific year. It just keeps things in line during any year, leap or not.

So keep this handy for when you need an “add-a-year” calculation, enjoy the fact that you’ll never again need to re-calculate things because of leap years, and relax!