Dreamforce, San Francisco
For those who haven’t been to Dreamforce in person, the event is difficult to explain. To say that it’s an unimaginable sensory overload of technology and sounds barely scratches the surface.
And for those who’ve attended before, it’s a post-COVID celebration of human interaction, centered around the common thread of Salesforce’s vision for the planet.
That may seem grandiose to an outsider, but within the Salesforce Ohana*, it represents the force behind the expertise and technology developed and sold within the Salesforce ecosystem.
Of course, as a company, Salesforce is a software giant; with over 20% of the global CRM market share, Salesforce could be more accurately described as a force of nature. Co-CEO Marc Benioff is on a mission to use that heft to change the world for the better.
The humanitarian force behind
I found that this year Salesforce’s humanitarianism was bolder than ever with an unequivocal focus on Sustainability and Carbon Neutrality. Besides announcing new products like Net Zero Cloud and Net Zero Marketplace, the keynote speakers highlighted numerous programs and investments such as Pledge 1%, Benioff Ocean Science Lab, and “The Great Reforestation” with it.org.
There were nearly 30 sessions dedicated to explaining the importance and the impact of these initiatives and how to engage with them. There were booths to plant seedlings and pledges to plant trees when attendees participated in surveys. Exhibitors were encouraged to skip the typical plastic swag and attendees were surprised when there was no Dreamforce backpack or water bottle handed out at registration.
While this year’s conference offered well over a thousand sessions and breakouts, including 20 Customer Reference Roundtables, it was considerably smaller than corresponding pre-pandemic events. There were just over 30,000 passes offered this year, compared to more than 171,000 sold in 2019. Saleforce+ enabled hundreds of thousands to view a subset of the content online, again encouraging companies to lower their carbon footprints and maximize technology’s ability to deliver a meaningful experience.
This is not to imply that the spirit of Dreamforce was at all watered-down or lacking excitement. When attendees’ feet were sore or their brains were full, they could step outside and meditate with the Sisters of Magnolia Grove, crouch down to pet some wiggly puppies or a giant pig wearing a crown of flowers, take in some live music from one of the many bands on the plaza, meet one of several Olympians, or flop in a hanging chair by the (temporary) rushing waterfall.
One of the biggest social events within Dreamforce was the evening Dreamfest event, featuring a popular band performing at the outdoor baseball stadium, with ample food and beverages for everyone to enjoy. In line with the daytime’s strong humanitarian emphasis, this year there were multiple levels of charitable VIP sponsorship available, and before the The Red Hot Chili Peppers came to the stage, celebrity Matthew McConaughey introduced a young cancer survivor who’s journey found hope in the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals Foundation.
Salesforce ecosystem and synergies
Of course, there were innumerable introductions, demonstrations, and even opportunities captured and deals signed during the event, which is fundamentally why the ecosystem was created. But all of this fosters collaboration and momentum that can amply transcend the original connections. Salesforce is clearly committed to capturing that synergy and driving a global impact, well beyond the dollars and cents of the individual vendor transactions.
Now as the fake forest is disassembled and the giant woodland characters are rolled back into storage, attendees are left to head home and make sense of it all. I have learned about new trends and technology and enjoyed the new novelty of being among other humans in person. Ideally, we all walk away with a few thoughts on how to improve our businesses, a broader perspective on caring for our planet and our neighbors, and deeper respect for what Salesforce is doing to try to make a difference.
*According to www.salesforce.com, “Salesforce Ohana is a support system we nurture inside our company. It extends from our employees to our customers, partners, developers and members of our communities. We work collaboratively, take care of one another, and have fun together!”