Getting free swag is an art.
Sure, any scrub can grab a few shirts at Dreamforce. If that’s your goal, this guide isn’t for you. This guide is for the overachievers out there looking to bring home a horde of swag.
These are the swag secrets I’ve accumulated through years and years of hard work. I hold nothing back here. Using these secrets, I’ve been able to easily get over 60 t-shirts and multiple big ticket electronics such as iPads and Beats headphones in a single Dreamforce.
Some of these secrets came at great sacrifice. One year I literally broke my back and could not walk for a month because my bags were too full of free stuff. I kid you not. It was worth it.
Without further ado, here are my swag secrets:
1. Realize that random drawings are not random
The highest quality swag often comes from these “random drawings”.
But you need to realize that companies pay big bucks to have a booth at Dreamforce for a reason: to make big $$$ back on leads. They’re not going to “randomly” pick “Non-Decision Maker Nelly” and give him an iPad if there’s no chance he can help close a deal.
If you’re chasing a big ticket item, maximize your chances by talking the sales rep up at the booth and giving them a chance to potentially close a big deal. More time at the booth and more questions shows them you’re a serious lead.
Don’t be a bad person and lie about it though. Trust me, the swag gods remember.
2. Get lots of sleep and arrive early
Getting swag is not easy. While others are still recovering from late night Dreamforce parties, you must be up early and ready to go. Your best swag runs will come right when the booths open.
No lines, full swag stock, and hungry, hungry, booth people. Memorize exactly when the expo halls open and be there 30 minutes early.
3. Prioritize official Salesforce gear
I’ve been doing this long enough to know that Salesforce passes out the best swag. It often has the cleanest designs, softest material, and overall is a step above the rest.
I also know that Salesforce swag always runs out.
So if you have an opportunity to get Salesforce swag, drop whatever you’re doing and get it. You can always come back later for the tier 2 stuff.
4. Be nice and don’t beg
Some companies make it really difficult for you to get their swag. Oftentimes, you’ll be in a position of weakness because you can’t convince the rep you’re a potential lead.
Don’t give up. Find creative ways to help them. Your team might have zero interest in mobile, however down the line this might change. Or perhaps maybe you know a colleague or friend who would be interested.
Getting swag is a game of give and take. Don’t always take. Find ways to give and you’ll find yourself with bigger swag bags.
5. Find the hidden swag
Don’t skip over a booth because you don’t see free t-shirts near them. Oftentimes companies hide their swag inside storage units and only bring them out to worthy visitors.
Take your time to chat up the sales rep and afterwards politely ask if they have swag. They’re usually more than happy to give you some!
6. The Expo Hall is not enough
Yes, you’ll get a ton of swag at the main Expo Hall and even the Admin/Dev Zone in Moscone West. But don’t underestimate the other Dreamforce areas too such as Dreampark and the Marriott Marquis. You’ll even get swag at nearby restaurants from companies sponsoring mini-events there.
These shirts are often among the best and rarest. Plan accordingly.
7. Don’t be afraid to double dip
Come back to the same booths a second or even third time to maximize your swag. Sometimes, booths run of out swag only to refill later. Also, some booths have multiple shirt designs.
I estimate you’ll receive 25% more swag by making multiple runs.
8. Follow Twitter like a hawk
Many of the best swag giveaways happen online in Twitter. Photo contests, scavenger hunts, etc.
Carve out some time to check your Twitter feed for the latest contests. I recommend following all the official Salesforce accounts as well as the major sponsors.
Most people are too busy finding swag in person to realize how much treasure there is online – take advantage of the reduced competition while you can!
9. Skip sessions
They’re all recorded and posted online anyway =)
Just don’t skip mine!
10. Bring a big empty backpack
You’ll easily pull 20+ shirts a day using these secrets and you’ll somehow need to carry all of them.
Minimize your non-swag backpack inventory. Planning to bring your favorite water bottle? You can hit the water fountain instead. That’s precious space and weight you’ll be using.
Very important: do not forget to empty your backpack at the end of each day!
And with that, I now retire from the swag industry. It’s too dangerous for me to continue after revealing a tell-all of this magnitude. T-shirt donations greatly appreciated (size L)!!
P.S. I’m giving out 500 free t-shirts this Dreamforce!
David love your insightful Dreamforce tips from 2016 and scavenger hunt/current crossword puzzle matrix for 2019!
Thx Sybil =P
Good Read, thanks David, you’ve always shared knowledge that’s worth having.
This is brilliant and reminds me of my last trip to Dreamforce in 2013… I came back to the UK with so much, I had to leave some of my ‘normal’ attire in San Francisco! My daughter was very pleased though :-)
Thanks David, this is super helpful and made me laugh too. Can’t wait! Looking forward to your sessions as well!
Hmm, it reminds me of the time when I was doing the Minihacks for the Nexus 7 and some people didn’t move until they got it. ;) I was able to get it but I still went to a couple of the sessions in between. Minihacks do have some of the best swag though. No more Nexus 7s, Rokus, or Jamboxes though. That time has gone since there are so many people doing them now. Now you minihack for a hoodie or a chance to win in a lottery of hardware. Still good because you have a chance.