Hailed as a “master class on how to run a modern business”, the Dreamforce 2014 conference (Oct. 13-16) is a whirlwind of seminars, networking events, and just, generally, a good time for those in the industry. But, of course, it’s important to make the most of an event like this. You could, on the one hand, go with the flow, see a couple talks, meet a few people, and be on your way, but you could also do the opposite: prepare and plan and make sure you have everything you need to get the most out of the most important industry conference of the year. It all depends on the kind of person you are, the kind of plan you have for your business. If you don’t really need any help and are looking to unwind, rub elbows with old friends, and enjoy San Francisco, more power to you. However, if ROI is an important consideration for your team’s trip, following these steps will be key to ensuring the most productive trip.

Get your business cards ready:

Without a nice business card, you’re already operating at a disadvantage. Dreamforce 2014 brings together thousands of the industry’s best and brightest, and, in some cases, you’ll have little time to make an impression. Let your cards to the work they were intended to do, to speak for you, and easily convey your value-proposition.

Have good contact-management technology in place:

It’s one thing to collect a bunch of business cards, but it’s another entirely to have the technology to organize those business cards, connect via social media, and send/schedule follow ups all from the convenience of an app. Technology like ScanBizCards allow you to solidify new network connections on the go (and very simply, to boot).

Make a plan and stick to it:

There’s a reason Dreamforce publishes panel-lists before the event; it gives you time to prioritize and strategize toward what you, as a business, need to know. Sit down with your team and make a list of areas where your business could grow. Then, divide up the panels so that each of you still gets to have a great time. You’re in California after all.

Don’t let parties be just parties:

One of the best parts of any conference is that all sorts of businesses throw parties (or other off-site events) to drum up interest in what they do. Go to these (the relevant ones anyway), but don’t just go for the free drinks. These are some of your only opportunities to really connect with people in a casual way. Many advantageous business relationships were forged in informal situations like this, and there’s no reason you shouldn’t try to capitalize.

Have fun at DreamForce 2014!:

Yes, you’re there for business, to learn and grow and all that good stuff, but you should also remember that you’re likely in the largest group of people passionate about the same things you are that you’ll encounter all year. Don’t be afraid to be passionate, cut loose, and have a great time. After all, you know what they say about all work and no play…

Watch out for a full week of DreamForce 2014 content coming your way starting Monday.