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Dreamforce is a lot. A whole lot.
Hot air balloons in the sky with a cloud that has text reading Dreamforce 2022.

When I arrived at this hallowed Salesforce event in 2018, attendance was rumored to be 170k. It took me a day to figure out that I couldn’t just go from one session to the next because it might be a 20-minute walk away. In addition to the Moscone Center’s five-plus locations, sessions were held at 20 neighboring hotels.

In 2022, attendance was capped at 40k, and all sessions took place at and around the Moscone Center. Hotel rooms were available within walking distance (getting a close hotel room is a game unto itself – email me if you want the inside scoop on this). Three thousand sessions over three-and-a-half days shrunk to an easily manageable one thousand over three days.

Thank goodness Dreamforce has a mostly excellent app/website that allows you to figure out what you want to see and where it is. The ability to bookmark sessions makes it easy to compile and keep up with your wish list. But it took the better part of two days for me to commit to memory West, North, South, the Trail Lodge vs. Campground vs. Forest, etc., and how to get back and forth between them. For first-time attendees, know that you won’t see everything you want to see… and you’ll likely hit 20k steps each day. Pro tip: wear sneakers or comfortable dress shoes.

Here are some key takeaways from Dreamforce 2022:

  1. The dream of integrated, real-time data is closer today than ever before. Salesforce Genie was the big product launch and it’s so new that everyone has their own opinion of what it actually is. Technically, it’s a native integration between the Salesforce suite and Snowflake’s data lake, enabling real-time data in your platform. More to come on what this means if your data lake is something other than Snowflake.
  2. Getting your implementation to Salesforce nirvana is doable, but hard. It’s a massive job that requires multiple phases. It’s as much about change management as technology. Positioning it in the sales process requires highlighting the ROI, qualitative benefits, necessary tradeoffs, time to value and the roadmap.
  3. The Well Architected sessions in the Architect Vista were insanely valuable and popular. I hope they figure out how to scale these sessions, as the demand was more than double the crowd they could accommodate. Watching experienced architects address a sophisticated set of requirements in 20 minutes was worth ten hours in Trailhead. If only Dreamforce had a way of recording all of these (four breakouts per hour) and saving them for posterity.
  4. The Industry Areas within the Campground are definitely worthwhile. Two things will happen in these areas:
  5. You’ll get the real story on what the products (e.g., Education Cloud) can and can’t do, in person, working with the platforms in real time.
  6. You’ll run into someone else in your vertical with similar questions, hit it off with them, share some laughs and experiences and make a friend. You might even run into a legend like I did (she blushed when she was called that so I won’t disclose her identity).
  7. Pick and choose your celebrity sessions carefully. You’ll need to wait in line for a couple hours, but Yerba Buena Theater is very intimate and every seat’s a good one. If you think you’re too far back in the line to get in, you probably are. Fun fact: this is where Steve Jobs introduced the iPhone.
  8. Every Dreamforce concert situation is different but if you like live music, do not miss them. Having seen Metallica (2018) from pretty far away and the Red Hot Chili Peppers from ten people behind the railing, I can attest that the experience is amazing. You might not even be a huge fan of the band that’s playing but you’ll have a good time and I guarantee, this will be the politest concert of your life.

What then do we carry forward from Dreamforce? Is Salesforce a product, a platform or a movement? Is it all three? If you go to the keynotes or chats with his friends like Matthew McConaughey and Bono, CEO Mark Benioff reinforces the company values time and time again– Trust, Customer Success, Equality, Sustainability, and Innovation. It is truly a values-driven company with a core belief that if we focus on our customers and make them successful, we’ll all be successful, and we’ll do it in a way that we can be proud of. In doing so, we’ll be able to make the world a better place through things like fighting climate change, volunteerism and philanthropy.

You don’t have to join the movement to use the products, but fair warning: you’ll hear a lot of evangelism while you’re at Dreamforce. They’re looking for converts and they’re not shy.

In the end, if Salesforce is central to what you do, Dreamforce is completely worth it. It requires a lot of up-front planning and likely a bunch of travel. It’s a week long and it’s expensive. But if you commit to it, you’ll come away with a deeper understanding of how to make the most of the platform and how it can help make your company and your clients more successful.

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