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Why In-Person Reconnection Matters: A Trailblazer Community Round-Up

World Tour Sydney 2022 kick starts the return of in-person events. I share my experience and tips for returning to face-to-face events.

As co-leader of the Sydney Salesforce Trailblazer Community Admin Group, I’ve been to a lot of events, conferences and meet-ups over the years. I’ve always enjoyed meeting my Salesforce family face to face — there is nothing like the experience of bumping into someone you haven’t seen in a while and talking the day away. But the last two years have been different — as video calls took over from in-person events, the chances to see my friends dwindled.

Of course, digital technology has kept us connected even when we’ve been physically apart. But, in 2022, I’ve been lucky enough to take part in a series of events that have reiterated the power of connecting in person, while also keeping the best of the virtual platforms we’ve grown used to.

A Whirlwind of Hybrid Events

Both local and international meet-ups look a little different these days. Salesforce World Tour Sydney was a fully hybrid event, mixing the raw buzz of an in-person conference with the flexibility of an online showcase. TrailblazerDX was the same, with many of the sessions available on Salesforce+ to watch on demand.

World Tour Sydney 2022 | 7 April 2022

There was a buzz of anticipation when World Tour Sydney was announced, and it became clear that I would be seeing my old friends in person again. 

Before it went online in the last couple of years, the Sydney Salesforce Trailblazer Community Admin Group would always hold a breakfast on the morning of World Tour. This year, we weren’t sure if we would be able to. But as the day got nearer, we were excited to hear that Salesforce had already reserved the space for us, and considered it important that we continue the tradition. 

We wanted to do something special, so we partnered with the Women in Tech group, co-led by Mia Pacey and Healy Saabharwal. We worked with the Salesforce marketing team and the Trailhead Academy team, and they were able to secure the help of Neeracha Taychakhoonavudh, who came and spoke to our group.  Our panel’s trending topic this year was ‘Growing Our Digital Skills’, moderated by William Sim with input and insights shared by Jessica Dharmasiri, Generation Australia; Matthew Bushby, Tafe NSW; and Anne Fitisemanu, TupuToa.

There was one change to previous years that we made; we purposely left plenty of space in the session. We knew that what people really wanted was time to sit and talk to their old friends, people they hadn’t seen in years, and really enjoy each others’ company again. It was heartwarming to see people reconnecting with colleagues they hadn’t seen in nearly three years. It was just as exciting to see people meeting who had never actually met in real life — we’ve had lots of new additions to our user group community over the last few years who have only ever been able to join online events, so they’d made the connections but had never seen each other in real life. It had an incredible feeling of a reunion.

Because it was a hybrid event, you can watch the highlights from World Tour Sydney on Salesforce+.

Community Lunch With Marc Benioff | 13 April 2022

World Tour Sydney was on Thursday 7 April. By the following Monday morning, a group of us had received an email inviting us to lunch with Marc Benioff that coming Wednesday. This was incredibly exciting, not just to meet Marc, but to meet everyone from World Tour again so soon!

I’ve met Marc only once before, very briefly after a presentation he gave at Dreamforce. That time I only had a moment to grab a selfie, but this lunch was an opportunity for our group to have a full hour with him, and talk about all things Salesforce. Marc was very receptive in our meeting — he insisted that we give him unvarnished feedback, both positive and negative, about Salesforce and its products. It was great to be able to give our honest thoughts in person — being in a setting like that made it easier to give Marc the feedback that I knew he wanted. And for us in the community, being listened to like that was also very motivating. 

Marc, along with Pip Marlow, made a great commitment to establish a forum to enable better communication with the product management teams at Salesforce, and to give everyone access to better feedback loops. That is very exciting. 

And of course, I took the chance for a selfie!

TrailblazerDX | 27-28 April 2022

The excitement didn’t end there. At the end of April, the Salesforce Platform team invited me to visit San Francisco for TrailblazerDX. A lot of my Salesforce family is based in Australia and New Zealand, but I have an even bigger family in the US and Europe. It was great to meet everyone again, after such a long time.

TrailblazerDX is two days of inspirational sessions for the Salesforce community. It has sessions tailored for any Salesforce role you can think of; Administrators, Architects, Developers, and more. 

While I was in San Francisco for TrailblazerDX, of course I took the opportunity to visit Salesforce Tower, and enjoy meeting colleagues from around the world. Technologies and practices are embraced differently in different parts of the world. It’s invigorating to meet people who are at the cutting edge of our industry, and take their energy and bring it back to Australia. We all have a lot to learn from each other.

You can catch up on TrailblazerDX on Salesforce+.

Reconnecting With Old Friends

Let’s be honest, virtual is wonderful, but a hug is a hug. The reality is that most of our online interactions are very planned. We decide to meet, and we usually have an end time in mind. But in person, you have the ability to have a spontaneous conversation that goes in lots of different directions, perhaps you get introduced to someone new. It’s quite hard to bump into someone at random in the comments of a streamed webinar! 

We should remember, though, that digital events have brought incredible benefits. Technology like Slack lets us stay connected, and it’s so much easier to maintain new connections that you make in person. In the past, you might have to wait until the next event to speak to someone again, but with the tech available to us now, you can make a better commitment to those new relationships and keep them going — whether your new contact is in a different city, country or even continent. 

Over the last couple of years, our user groups have been running virtually, and will continue to run virtually in hybrid forms. That format won’t go away. The ability to attend a user group in San Francisco or Singapore is fantastic. That said, we’re hoping to relaunch in-person events this year. Keep your eye out for news of Down Under Dreaming Sydney 2022!

Tips for Returning to In-Person Events

It’s been a long time since any of us attended a traditional in-person conference. It’s going to take a little while to get back into the swing of things. Everyone is finding their feet again. Presenters, organisers, attendees, everyone! If we all recognise that we have to re-learn a lot of the skills involved in live and hybrid events, we’ll all feel much more relaxed. These are just some of the insights I’ve gained after my whirlwind month: 

  • If you’re attending a live conference, especially as we all start returning to in-person events and meet people we haven’t seen in years, I would recommend not planning your itinerary too closely. You’re sure to bump into people and start conversations that move in different directions, so if you get into the mindset that things will change, you’ll have a much more relaxing time. 
  • If you’re organising an event where people will be meeting in person, I’d encourage you to build in lots of time in between sessions, to allow attendees to talk to their friends, old and new. After all, one of the main benefits of these events is developing interpersonal relationships, and that happens when people have the time to chat. 
  • I heard this a lot at both World Tour Sydney and TDX — I think we’ve all forgotten what it’s like to stand on our feet all day! So definitely put in some practice standing up for long periods, and pack comfortable shoes.

And of course Salesforce is ahead of the game here, and has prepared a Trail too. There’s a really useful Trail called Develop a Virtual Strategy for Your Business — one of the modules is on virtual events. It’s definitely worth taking a look at that.

What Does the Future Hold?

On an international scale, there’s Salesforce Connections and MuleSoft Connect in June, not to mention World Tour London and World Tour NYC. Even if timezones mean you can’t watch on the day, you can keep your eyes on Salesforce+ for the recorded sessions. Closer to home, you can keep your eyes on the Salesforce ANZ events page to see what’s coming up. There are also regular Trailblazer Community Group meet-ups — all are welcome! Have a look at our calendar to find a group near you.

And of course, the next big event is Dreamforce which is in the calendar for September. See you there!

Get the best of World Tour Sydney 2022 and other Salesforce experiences on Salesforce+.
Simon Gascoigne

Simon is co-leader of the Sydney Salesforce Trailblazer Community User Group and was a Salesforce MVP (2020,2021) He is Alliances Director for Salesforce AppExchange Partner OwnBackup in Asia Pacific. He is an experienced technology professional, spending the past 25 years creating inspiring solutions and communities across multiple industries and has worked with Salesforce for 15 years.   In 2017, Simon helped found Down Under Dreaming: Sydney Edition, the largest Salesforce Community event in Australia. He tweets at @simongascoigne.

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