Midwest Appreciatin'
Midwest Appreciatin'

Midwest Appreciatin'

08/30/2017 by Samantha Safin
I was thrilled to be a part of the Midwest Dreamin’ (MWD17) planning team this year, and experiencing the other end of one of these community dreamin’ events has given me an even greater appreciation of them.

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a fan of Midwest Dreamin’. The first year I attended because my company was not going to send me to Dreamforce; I was still too new to the platform at that time. It was easy to make a business case to go to this regional event - a pass and a set of train tickets to and from Chicago was right around $100, and I could go for just one day and not even stay in a hotel. Approved.

I didn’t know what to expect. I knew that this would be a fraction of the crowd of Dreamforce, a fraction of the insanity, and I assumed a fraction of the available content. I was wrong.

The sessions that people bring to these regional events are the same sessions they’re taking to Dreamforce. They’re often dry runs for “the big show,” and the presenters are taking these topics and sessions seriously. I saw a session on motivating and engaging users, another one on change management, and everywhere I looked were people that I recognized from the community. I was texting my boss things like “I just walked past Mike Gerholdt!” He responded with things like “That’s great?”

I met some of the wonderful Women in Tech leaders, and they encouraged me to come back to Michigan and start the WIT group here. I owe a lot of my success within the community, a lot of my connections with amazing people, to that very first dreamin’ event.

My second year attending, I got to present, and I volunteered. I didn’t go to a lot of other sessions because I spent the whole time checking people in, chatting with new and old friends alike, and continuously offering to help again the following year. Persistence pays off.

In January, I was officially asked to join the planning team to help put together content specifically for nonprofits. I was over the moon. I danced around my house, shouted excitedly to my husband, and then calmly responded via email that yes, of course I’d be happy to help.

And thus I was introduced to the sheer amount of work that goes into these events. Planning starts at least a year in advance - there are contracts, vendor relationship maintenance, speaker relationship maintenance, marketing, collateral creation, and all of that on top of the things that I had actually thought about like “where are we gonna get food?”

I was lucky because I was being brought into a group that has done this a few times. Their process is tried and tested, and I was able to just slip in and add on. It’s the difference between building an entire house and repurposing a room.

For the months leading up to the event, I was part of phone calls, email updates, and planning sessions, many of which went right over my head. My part was easy. I just had to reach out to people in the community that I already know, ask them if they’d like to present, and help them find a topic if necessary. Child’s play compared to some of the other items on the master to-do list. I had the most fun job on the entire team.

In the final weeks before the event, we did dry runs with our presenters, finalized details (all of the details. So many details.), handled last-minute surprises, talked timing of arrivals, and essentially lived and breathed MWD17 nonstop, during all waking hours, even when we were doing other things.

And then came the event itself. Midwest Dreamin’ was held August 10th and 11th this year at the seriously beautiful Palmer House in Chicago. I was excited and a little bit nervous, since I knew relatively little of what needed to be done on the back-end. On the evening of the 9th, when we had our first round of registrants coming in and our Expo Hall vendors were setting up, there were more than a few questions that had me responding with “let me just ask Eric.”

It’s a different feeling, being on the other side of one of these things. I was, of course, excited to see all of my friends in this Ohana, though it was tempered with the knowledge that I couldn’t just run off to have fun. I had things to do. Responsibilities. Not that I resented that - not at all. I had just spent months having weekly phone calls with the team, and it was just as satisfying to get to see them in person and spend time with them. Not to mention seeing the work that we had all put in pay off.

I was also filled with a whole new appreciation of Midwest Dreamin’, as well as the other community events that have started to pop up all over the world. These events are planned and coordinated by people with day jobs, some of them pulling double duty as community leaders in other aspects, and they still manage to find venues, sponsors, and speakers to provide people like me the opportunity to engage with the community and learn. Kind of like superheroes. Or just really organized people.

Moral of the story: support your local dreamin’ event. Find yours here: https://allthedreamin.wordpress.com/

And join us next year at Midwest Dreamin’ July 12th and 13th at the Palmer House, Chicago.

Have you attended one of these regional events? Want to learn more about what goes into planning one? Tell us all about it on Twitter, on the Salesforce Community, Facebook, or chat with me @thesafinhold.