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My first Dreamforce

Ask anyone I work with and they will tell you I am a walking testimonial for Salesforce! I am a huge advocate for not just their apps and products (of which we use PLENTY) but also the company. They are inspiring, innovative, philanthropic, progressive (the list goes on) and they move at the speed of light. So when I got the ‘YES’ from my CEO saying I could attend Dreamforce, sure….I was pretty excited!

The Largest Tech Conference in the world…

Yeah, I knew it was big. It took me about four weeks to actually get through all the 2500+ sessions on my agenda builder and decide which ones I wanted to attend. As I was the only one attending from Lumi, I wanted to make sure I was spreading myself across sales, marketing, customer success and admin sessions but also leaving time for networking – and digesting the information!

But Oh. My. Goodness! Nothing can prepare you for the organised chaos that hits you when you naively arrive at the Moscone Center just 10 minutes before the first session you want to attend. You join the back of a very long registration queue (180,000 people registered to attend this year) realising you probably won’t be making that session after all. In fairness, the line moved fast (they run a tight operation there) and I was far too busy trying to play it cool amongst the seasoned Dreamforce goers when all I wanted to do was run around, with my mouth open, screaming with excitement. It was overwhelming and unbelievable, in the best way possible.

Maintaining my uber-cool composure, fresh with my Dreamforce lanyard and name badge on, I started to wander around to get my bearings and settle in.

Day one, I stuck tightly to my planned agenda – sometimes only giving myself ten minutes to get to my next session that turned out to be in a hotel a 15-minute walk (ten-minute fast march) away. By 6pm, I had consumed two bottles of water, a bite of a sandwich, and six sessions worth of information – and I was exhausted! So tired that I couldn’t face the 20 minute walk up the rather steep hill back to my hotel and jumped in an Uber. I had an hour to shower, reflect and head back out to a networking party at the Waterbar.

Side note – take the time to network when you are there. Don’t be shy about it – everyone there has one obvious thing in common and even if the “Hi, I’m Tor from Lumi” turns out to be a two-minute awkward conversation with someone you clearly won’t mesh with, don’t worry about it. There are another 179,999 people there to talk to and I bet you find someone in that crowd that was worth getting past the awkwardness for. I did. I met a lot of interesting people (some I spoke to for five minutes, some for 50 minutes) and I made a couple of great friends.

So back to it….The day one reflection was good – and I actually decided to completely re-strategize my approach to the conference for the remaining days. Only super-humans can attend six or more sessions a day at Dreamforce without turning into a frantic, note-writing (who knows if those notes make sense) zombie.

The next day, I would attend only four sessions (one being the main keynote) and I would give myself time to breathe and maybe even soak up some vitamin D from the California sunshine.I also went back through my planned agenda and removed the bookmark from each of my sessions! I wasn’t going to attend any of those anymore. Day one made me realise a couple of things…

  1. The majority of the Salesforce products we have at Lumi, we use well. I would even go so far as to say, really well! It could have easily been us sat up there being showcased as customer user story. Queue the trumpets being blown!
  2. ‘Strategies for Success’ sessions and ‘Tips & Tricks’ sessions identified to me that we have implemented some pretty good processes at Lumi already. And where we might not have it quite right yet, we know what we have got to do and we are already making steps to get there.

So the rest of my time at the conference WOULD NOT be spent thinking about ‘what can we tweak/implement/improve in the next month to make us better?’ (Well, there was a little of that still – the quick wins are highly rewarding) but instead, looking further into the future: what can we be doing and using in 12-36 months to make us better? What trends are we seeing in the commercial world? What technologies are going to transform the way we do business in the next few years? How can we leverage all of this at Lumi?

And so my agenda started to take a very different shape and that started with Einstein! (Salesforce Introduces Salesforce Einstein

Following the announcement, a couple of weeks ago of Einstein in the Salesforce platform, there was a rather loud and unavoidable AI buzz throughout the place.

So I jumped on the train and let myself get swallowed up in it. I found myself sat in between people that were clearly way smarter than me, trying to nerd out and grab information that I could understand and relate it to my world, both personally and professionally.

And so it continued…. Day two and three were filled with more acronyms, ML, DL, NLP*, more panel sessions, more data scientists and more frantic scribbles in my notepad (how 2010 of me – a notepad?!) about how we can utilise all of it at Lumi. I want it all! She says as she retreats to her desk to attempt to build the best business case possible to submit to her CEO and CFO, because of course…this stuff costs money – and it’s Salesforce, so it’s the best stuff… which comes at a premium!

It wasn’t all just white-haired German physicists stuff….I managed to fit in other sessions too, and one of my favourites was the smallest one I attended in the B2B Marketers Café. There was probably 15 – 20 people huddled round a screen in the corner of the café and Mathew Sweezey spent 40 minutes educating us on the 2016 State of Marketing. Mathew is the Principal of Marketing Insights at Salesforce and a true Marketing Evangelist. His deck on what research shows about the current and future state of marketing is shared below and well worth a look through: State of B2B Marketing

I could go on and on about the different sessions I attended – there were so many good ones; Dreampitch, Marc Benioff’s Keynote and Women & Equality Summit: Leadership Lessons from the Top hosted by Salesforce’s own powerhouse Leyla Seka (my new hero), to name a few. And let me ask… Do Salesforce have some magic machine back at HQ that churns out good speakers? Because seriously, every single speaker I saw was exceptional. So comfortable up there just nailing it! Well done, Salesforce, well done.

I did have one gripe that grew as the days went on. Yeah, sorry Salesforce, it hurts me to type it. Most sessions left 5–10 minutes at the end for Q&A – great! But as we all know too well, standing up and asking a question is scary! Especially scary if you are in a packed room full of business leaders, executives and generally some very intelligent people staring at a panel of data scientists! Yeah, I had questions but there was not a chance in hell I was standing up and verbalising it into that scary microphone!

One thing I can guarantee is that those intellects and executives in that room all had a smartphone in their hand (most of them immersed in a dual screen experience throughout the session anyway). Why were we not all using a messaging app where we could anonymously text in our questions throughout the session? Those questions could have been moderated and sent to the speakers in preparation for the Q&A. And any that weren’t addressed in those five minutes could have been responded to after the session closed and published so everyone could see them.

I know what you’re thinking…..sure Tor, you work for Lumi (yeah – we are the global leader in real-time audience engagement technology) and honestly Salesforce, this isn’t a sales pitch (I don’t do that sales stuff) – this is a fact! You need to get that sorted for next year. I’ll just put the link to our perfect solution to this problem right here for you…

And so, to wrap up as I sit on my friend’s couch in Berkeley, CA winding down after an exhausting week, I just want to say… my brain hurts, my body is fatigued and I am bubbling over with inspired ideas. Dreamforce, you have chewed me up and spat me out – and I absolutely loved every second of it. See you next year!

*ML – Machine Learning// DL – Deep Learning // NLP – Natural Language Processing….for the non-nerds out there).