Dreamforce 2013 Wrap-up

Dreamforce 2013 logoAs fast as it arrived, amazingly Dreamforce 2013 is now in the record books.  San Francisco was taken over by more than 120,000 attendees at the Salesforce.com event, including more than 6,000 non-profit organizations, making Dreamforce one of the largest technology conferences for our sector in the world.

Before the last day of Dreamforce comes to a close, I thought I’d share some of my experience from the event to help those newbies in 2014 prepare for the event.  Also, I’m interested in hearing your feedback too, so please contribute your thoughts in the comments.

First, props to the Salesforce Foundation for an amazing event. Great to see so many folks from the Foundation collaborating with folks in the community, sharing their ideas, giving feedback, and providing leadership for us in the Salesforce nonprofit community.

Foundation Zone. Really enjoyed having a place for all of us in the community to come together in one place. Also, having all the sessions together in the same hotel definitely was a huge improvement from what we’ve seen in years past.  It was great to have the Salesforce user community (“Success Community”) embedded within the same room as the Foundation Zone, since it really helped our nonprofit community see all the great folks that make the Salesforce community a great place to grow your organization’s database.  Having collaboration tables and whiteboards made it really easy to have meetings with organizations, hop to our booth, stop in for a coffee (see below), and rub shoulders with great people.

Some challenges I saw in the Foundation Zone were that the booths were really close together, making it difficult for collaboration and discussions. Additionally, it was a bit difficult to hear folks with multiple sessions going on at the same time over PA systems nearby.  Realistically, though, both of these are bound to happen at any event, so I wouldn’t say these significantly diminished the value of the event.

The location was always going to be tough to compete with the 2012 Dreamforce with Moscone West’s 3rd floor dedicated to the Foundation Zone. Without session traffic flowing through the Foundation Zone, I was concerned that there wouldn’t be as much interest in seeing our Soapbox Engage booth. What we found instead was that the people that made it to the booths did so with purpose, and we found the quality of the conversation were great. Additionally, we didn’t need to worry about folks that weren’t from our sector milling through. In short, the conference-in-a-conference setup was great.

Our Soapbox Engage Booth.  I was really excited to share with the world our newly launched Soapbox Petitions app, the first advocacy tool specifically built for mobile visitors and Salesforce.com.  We found that this year’s conversations about our focus on advocacy and Salesforce aligned nicely with the needs of the community were well received.  It was humbling and exciting to see so many organizations coming to our booth with an interest in seeing our newest offerings and with a clearer understanding of what Soapbox Engage provides our sector.  We’ve got a bit more work to do in making our booth a bit easier to setup and breakdown, but things generally went smoothly.

Food. Top tip: get lunch early. While the sandwiches, salads, and deserts were great, I noticed that the food tended to run out or was low in choice after about 12:45pm each day. For dinner, stay away from the zone between 2nd St, Market St, Folsom, and 5th Sts. We enjoyed Chinese food at Harry’s Hunan Kitchen off 2nd street in an alley, as everything else was a total cluster of chaos. Breakfasts at the conference were much lighter than in past years it seemed. I went to the outdoor area on Howard between 3rd and 4th Streets and found coffee, bananas and croissants, as well as assorted juices. While lighter in choice, it was fine for me; however, I could imagine some folks that needed gluten-free or other types of choices would find this a bit limiting.

Coffee. Yes, this deserves its own section. The nonprofit area was in the Hilton, which had a great Starbucks inside it in the lobby. The problem was that the Starbucks line was always a mile long. Better solution: grab a free cup of coffee, latte, mocha, whatever at the espresso bar that was located in the Foundation Zone! Props to the Salesforce MVP community for earning that great amenity for all of us.

Hotels. Preparing for your Dreamforce experience requires ensuring you have a place to stay months in advance. This is not to be misread: book your hotel rooms way in advance. One thing that was good to know was the location of the Foundation Zone. Since it was about 7 blocks away from the main campus at the Moscone Center, paying extra to stay near Moscone wasn’t worth it. Luckily, we had our team stay at the Hotel Diva which was right around the corner from the Hilton where the Foundation Zone was located. Since you’ll spend most of your time in the Foundation Zone area, it’s best to book your hotel nearby as well, and not necessarily near Moscone.

Sleep, Food, Water. This is more of a mental reminder to myself for next year. Do everything you can to get adequate sleep, eat well, and constantly drink water. I’ve never been to a conference so intense that went by so quickly…after four days. I caught myself eating my first meal at 3pm twice, and noticed that I was dehydrated by midday.

Sessions. I was too busy in hallway discussions, but looking forward to hearing from others on this topic. From what I heard, it sounded like many people thought the quality of the sessions was quite high. I had a chance to be part of the speaking team for the Welcome to Dreamforce session on the first day, which was a great opportunity for Dreamforce newbies to learn about what laid ahead of them. I also sat in on the Nonprofit Answers Live session on Thursday morning, which unfortunately I wasn’t able to do moderating for as I was nursing a hoarse voice. The upside: most all of the Dreamforce sessions will be online for your viewing pleasure, so I prioritized face-to-face meetings.

Lessons Learned. I learned a ton this year, and was proud of the work that ISVs and consultants in our community did to really cater to the nonprofit community. Some of the top of mind items (which I’ll dive into more details later) include…

Project Cumulus = Next Generation NPSP. This is huge. It will likely take a full blog post to digest it in its entirety, but Kevin Bromer from the Salesforce Foundation showed off the roadmap and the creation of a new path forward for the Nonprofit Starter Pack. That future is in Project Cumulus, a new incarnation of nonprofit fundraising tools on the Salesforce platform. Open source, community focused, and built in an agile methodology, this will pretty much change the way organizations use Salesforce…for the better.

ISVs and Consultants Continue To Mature. We’ve seen some fantastic growth in the world of partners that support our community, with firms picking up talent and speed as they continue to serve the community. It’s great to see sharp folks with a focus on mission-aligned services continue to succeed, and is a far distance from where we all were just a few years ago.

Foundation Continues to Invest in Small Orgs. With the massive growth in non-profits that have started using Salesforce (more than 12,000), there’s been a huge growth in the small organizations. After meeting with some account executives from the Foundation I was happy to learn about their continued investment in services that support our small org community, including providing additional account executives, technology investment in the Nonprofit Starter Pack, and more.

What did you think about Dreamforce 2013, from a non-profit view?

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This entry was posted on Thursday, November 21st, 2013 at 8:27 pm and is filed under Dreamforce, Salesforce.com. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

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