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Observations On Dreamforce 2013

by David Brock on December 2nd, 2013

It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sort some of my thoughts on this year’s Dreamforce.

In the weeks leading up to Dreamforce, I kept trying to find excuses not to go, normally I avoid going to these types of events.  Finally, I decided I’d attend, I steeled myself for crowds, hours of boredom interspersed with a few interesting meetings or sessions.

Instead, it became, perhaps the single best professional development experience I’ve been through this year.  Let me explain myself with some thoughts in no particular order.

1.  First, my compliments to the people at Salesforce.com who are responsible for this event.  Imaging orchestrating 130K registrants, 1200 + sessions, spread out through much of San Francisco.  At least my experience of the event was that it was flawless.  Having said that, the attendance is starting to outstrip San Francisco’s ability to support it.  One wonders how long it can remain there.

2.  From a professional development point of view, there are awesome sessions!  I really like to use these types of events to learn new things.  I arranged my schedule to attend a wide range of sessions.  I was able to brush up on technology–personally, I spend a lot of time getting updates on marketing automation.  There was also an “executive” track where I could hear a number of researchers, analysts, and other talk about new buying trends, behaviors, shifts in sales and marketing, new skills and capabilities we need to develop to more effectively engage our customers.  This year there was a great assembly of talent, it would be impossible to get the diversity of views and topics at any other conference.

3.  From a technology point of view, it’s almost “geek heaven.”  CES still beats Dreamforce for pure “Gee Whiz” technology.  But from the point of view of new, interesting, and emerging technologies focused on sales, marketing, and customer service professionals, it’s awesome.  Salesforce.com’s main tent presentations are awesome–technologies, seamlessly integrated providing more capability then most of us ever dreamed of.  Sure wished it worked that way in the real world–but at least we can aspire to it.  Then there are the technology displays from 100’s of vendors who provide capabilities to complement Salesforce.com.  For someone like me, it’s interesting to see the technology, but I tend to be a little cynical.  Far too many attendees seem to believe technology is the solution to solving our revenue generation problems.  They forget, the billions that have been invested already–producing no results, because no clear strategies, goals, or objectives have been established.

4.  If you haven’t realized it before, Dreamforce made it really clear:  Mobile is where all the action is.  If you aren’t trying to figure out how to leverage mobile technologies to help put the right information at the finger tips of your people, you are missing a huge opportunity to improve their impact and effectiveness.  So mobile is a critical technology–we still have to focus on helping sales people understand how to leverage these capabilities, but this will be bigger than any previous technology change we’ve experienced.  ( I still remember the days when we were given our first laptops.)

5.  Everyone is there.  For me, one of the most important parts of this event is many people I want to see and meet with are there.  What would have taken me at least 20 trips and lots of time, was compressed into 3 days.  I was able to meet many clients, prospective clients, and colleagues that would have been difficult otherwise.  So I got a huge amount accomplished–though by the time I had finished my 5th breakfast meeting of each morning–I needed to walk around the event just to wear off the calories.

6.  It’s a terrific opportunity to meet new, really interesting people!  In each session, at meals and other events, I was able to meet some really interesting and intriguing people.  Grabbing a quick cup of coffee or beer is a great way to begin to establish relationships and begin some new things.  Since all of us have, at least at some level, common interests, the “hit rate” on meeting interesting people is very high.

7.  The aftermath is part of the price of admission.  It’s been 1.5 weeks since the event was completed.  Everyday, I have to clear my Inbox and Voicemail from dozens of follow up messages.  It is somewhat ironic that all the presentations, sessions, and demos focus on best practices in sales, marketing, and customer engagement.  But as you go from booth to booth, event to event, everyone clamors to scan your badge.  They feel they have “permission” to inundate attendees with endless prospecting emails and calls.  They abandon all the best practices espoused at the event and just start pitching products.  Thank goodness for Spam filters and the Delete key.  When will people learn?

So from a professional development and exposure point of view, it’s a fantastic event.  But here’s what made it remarkable–and it’s driven by Marc Benioff.  The first 45 minutes of the formal session had little to do with Salesforce.com product or sales/marketing technologies.  It focused on the fact that we all have a broader purpose and impact in the world.  The first 45 minutes focused on Salesforce.com’s philanthropic efforts.

None of this was presented in a “bragging” manner, but in a matter of fact, “This is what we as a community should be doing.  We need to leverage our talents, resources, and money to help others.”  Whether it’s building hospitals for children, helping rebuild Haiti, supporting education, or something else–Salesforce.com has a remarkable commitment to doing good.

Salesforce.com’s 1/1/1 Model is remarkable!  1% of the equity, 1% of people’s time, 1% of the products given to have an impact in communities around the world is something every organization should emulate.

At Dreamforce 2013, the first 45 minutes was spent on “Making A Difference,” helping everyone focus on the broader, higher purpose each of us has.  Throughout the event, there are small opportunities to contribute–whether it’s putting together a gift bag for a child or something else, opportunities are always there.

Kudo’s to Marc, and the  Saleforce.com community for making this the lead in the event and for reinforcing it throughout.

Even if you aren’t a Salesforce.com customer–consider attending the next event.  From a pure professional and personal development point of view, there are few events that match it.

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2 Comments
  1. Brian MacIver permalink

    Thanks, Dave!
    A very perceptive, and interesting view of what has become a really important event on the Sales Community’s calendar. DF is the central event for the whole Sales community.

    I was a digital voyeur at DF13, not a physical attendee
    and, like you, I also learned a great deal.

    However your “Press the Flesh” [and share the food!] experience was obviously superior.

    In this new world of Digital Selling, driven in part by SF.com, it’s good to hear that people, and personal interaction,
    still have a big part to play!

    I look forward, over the next 12 months, to reading your blog where, no doubt, you will continue to update our Sales Community of specific ‘takeaways’ and applications of your new found knowledge.

    A BIG thanks for Sharing, Dave.

    PS I love the 1-1-1 SF.com approach to the broader community. Bravo!

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