Dreamforce Preview: Learning to Dream big

Steve Garnett Profile picture for user sgarnett November 8, 2013
"It’s a staggering realisation that it is eleven years since I attended my first Dreamforce conference." Dr Steve Garnett shares memories of the annual salesforce.com jamboree.

Dr Steve Garnett

It’s a staggering realisation that it is eleven years since I attended my first Dreamforce conference.

Time flies when you’re having an amazing ride.

My first Dreamforce was in fact the very first Dreamforce - a one-day event in the St. Francis Hotel in Union Square.

It was attended by a largely US audience, a few hundred people from SMB companies, eager to embrace a new paradigm shift in computing as Marc Benioff evangelised the concept of Software-as-a-Service, or On-Demand, or what we now know as cloud computing.

Little did those few hundred people realise what was to become of this conference, let alone the industry.

It was a very different beast to the event that I - and over a hundred and twenty thousand others - will be attending in San Francisco next week.

At that point the partner eco-system was still thin on the ground so the exhibition area only amounted to fifteen or so companies.

There wasn’t a band or a DJ in sight!

Fast forward to this year and Dreamforce takes over the centre of San Francisco, occupying all three wings of the mighty Moscone Center and spreading out into the surrounding hotels and convention venues needed to host the 1,250+ break-out sessions and 350+ partners in the cloud expo.

Not to mention the 5,000 gallons of coffee to be served and over 25 miles of network cables.

It’s now the world’s largest vendor-led technology conference running over the best part of a week, pulling in technology leaders from all around the globe and from some of the biggest enterprises across every business sector.

What do they come for? What makes Dreamforce different? It is more than just an IT trade show. That much should be obvious.

You come to Dreamforce and you’re not just coming for a sales pitch from salesforce.com. Obviously you are going to hear about what we’re doing, where we’re going, what we can offer to you.

But you’ll also learn how the entire industry is transforming and what’s coming next – from mobile and social, to personalisation and the next generation of business applications. This is where you’ll discover everything you need to know, from industry leaders who are paving the way and becoming customer companies.

Who comes to Dreamforce has changed too. My advice to our customers is to send multiple representatives to make the most of all the content that’s on offer – from c-suite, to developers, marketers and small business owners.

We’ve seen already that over five hundred companies are sending ten or more representatives, some are even sending over fifty! Marketers are really flocking to Dreamforce this year, we’re expecting 40% more than last year.

One thing that always stands out for me is that Dreamforce is a powerful vehicle for peer-to-peer sharing of experiences.

Whoever you find yourself sitting next to will have a story to tell. They may have more experience than you or they may just be starting out on their cloud journeys, but everyone will have something to add to the collective pool of knowledge.

Heady combo

Networking aside, there’s no other conference where you’re going to get the heady combo of tech, philanthropy, philosophy and downright showbiz. Where else would you find a tech industry CEO on stage chewing the fat with Stevie Wonder while they wait for a former US President to escape from the traffic jam in which he’s stuck?

And this year, you’ll hear from world class inspiring speakers including industry visionaries Marissa Mayer, President and CEO, Yahoo! and Sheryl Sandberg, COO, Facebook.

This year’s showbiz is coming in the form of Green Day and Blondie performing at AT&T Park, in fact there will be 27 bands and DJs performing over the week at Dreamforce this year.

Who can forget last year’s peer-to-peer chat between Marc Benioff and Richard Branson, a discussion that I don’t think even mentioned salesforce.com or our products, but discussed leadership, pop groups, airlines and the global drugs problem?

My personal favourite memory was the second time that General Colin Powell addressed Dreamforce. Ten thousand people in a room listening to one man talking for an hour without notes or videos or slides and you could have heard a pin drop.

Colin Powell, through his work on the America’s Promise initiative, was of course one of the most powerful influences on the importance of philanthropy to salesforce.com and to Dreamforce.

Philanthropy is hardwired into the salesforce.com corporate DNA, with more than 18,000 not-for-profit customers using salesforce.com, and we ensure that our 1:1:1 model is kept alive at Dreamforce.

This year, volunteers will build 2,700 kits for homeless children including books, blankets and stuffed animals.

I’ve been among the salesforce.com execs and customers out and about in San Francisco engaged in philanthropic works.

Whether you’re painting walls or helping feed the homeless and other communities at risk, it’s amazing to see the Dreamforce community having such a positive impact on the city.

If you’ve been before, you’ll have an idea what to expect; if you’re a Dreamforce first-timer, the best is yet to come. Enjoy!

 Dr Steve Garnett is chairman of salesforce.com Europe.


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