How was Dreamforce? I’m glad you asked

May 08, 2019 by Jessica Munday


Dreamforce first kicked off in 2003 with only 1,500 attendees. And in 15 years, it’s become one of the largest sales conferences globally with more than 2,500 breakout sessions, 170,000 registered attendees (as of last year) and big-name performances and keynotes from the likes of U2, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stevie Wonder, Colin Powell, Bill Clinton and Melinda Gates (to name just a few).

Dreamforce is basically the Disneyland of conferences. Except instead of singing mice and princesses, we got Metallica and Janet Jackson (which is way cooler if you ask me).

As you’re walking through the various sessions you almost forget that you’re in the middle of San Francisco. Every aspect of Dreamforce is completely immersive and engaging. From the campground-themed Customer Success Expo to the natural forest noises in walkways, to the dozens of waterfalls found in and outside the Moscone Centers.

But beyond the decorations, professionals of all kinds were dedicated to improving themselves, their processes, and driving growth for their teams.

As a rookie attendee, I’ll share my biggest takeaways about what I learned, what I liked and what resonated with me.

What I learned

AI is on track to make sales more human, not take away jobs.

I attended a number of sessions around artificial intelligence (obviously, I work for an AI company) and many speakers shared their research and solutions about how AI is transforming sales and other functions across several industries and predictions for the future.

Finance, for example, is using AI to help personalize their cross- and upsell recommendations for customers based on behavioral analytics. AI is also helping banks streamline their lending applications to speed up their sales cycles.

We also learned that data quality is a bigger nightmare than many companies realize, during a session called “Automate your data quality process” by Validity. They say about 50% of an information worker’s time is spent fighting their data, and for sales reps, this often comes in the form of duplicates. On average it costs $1 to prevent a duplicate, $10 to correct a duplicate and $100 to store a duplicate if left untreated. By automating the data collection process, companies give sales reps back their time and drastically improve their bottom line.

Hands down, I thought the best session was this one: “How to survive and thrive in the age of AI,” hosted by management consulting firm McKinsey. The speakers reviewed current uses for sales AI, its impact on organizations and its potential to change sales processes for the better.

A surprising statistic from McKinsey: currently about 40% of sales tasks can be automated, but by 2020, 85% of sales tasks could be automated.

While many sales reps might be shocked and fear for their jobs, McKinsey actually says AI will be a huge help to both individual sales reps and companies without costing anyone their job.

They explained that sales AI tools are great at a certain set of tasks, and may even do these better than humans. These are predictable, repetitive tasks like data collection and processing. But humans will remain superior in sales tasks that require human emotion and the ability to connect.

AI can take on tasks like data entry, billing, appointment booking, analytics and even cold calls (aka all tasks that sales reps hate performing), but human reps excel in creativity, leading and coaching others, and being social and emotional (the tasks that they love doing). Basically, sales AI will make sales more human.

So rather than replacing sales reps, sales AI tools will actually help reps get more done. They’ll spend less time on busy work and more time making connections and selling. This productivity benefits the sales reps as they are more likely to meet quota and enjoy their work and it benefits the company by increasing the output with minimal cost.

Enterprise companies can see drastic gains in revenue, so even just increasing productivity by five percent could boost business growth by thousands of dollars, if not millions.

Of course, these are not new learnings for Automation Hero, as automating mundane work inside companies is the whole purpose of our end-to-end automation platform. Still, it was great to hear those statements validated by such an established firm like McKinsey.

What I liked

There was a specific area designated for attendees to unwind and escape the chaos of the conference.

As I mentioned earlier, Dreamforce is like the Disneyland of sales conferences, all the decor was elaborate and matched Salesforce’s trailblazer (camping/outdoorsy) theme.

One of my favorite areas was the Dreamforest. It offered an escape from the city bustle and a nice break from the back-to-back sessions and booth chaos sales conferences are known for.

The Dreamforest was an outdoor area set up much like a picnic area between the two Moscone Centers. The entrance looked like the base of a hollowed out tree stump, and as you passed through you heard what appeared to be the sounds of a peaceful forest: bird chirps, frog ribbits and other animal noises, which all helped set the scene.

It was adorned with fake turf grass, a huge artificial waterfall, a music stage with picnic chairs and benches surrounding it. It was extremely relaxing to sit and listen to the “Sounds of Ohana” band as I ate my lunch and just for a moment forgot that I was in one of the biggest cities in the country. I love that they set up this area specifically for attendees to unwind from their hectic conference schedules.

What I took away

Personal empowerment and well-being shouldn’t fall by the wayside.

There was a theme for each day of Dreamforce: trust, innovation, equality and personal empowerment. I appreciated that Salesforce designated the last day specifically for personal growth. It’s common for startup employees, business leaders, entrepreneurs and virtually anyone else in a stressful work role to often overwork themselves and experience burnout, which can be unhealthy.

Salesforce encourages attendees to spend this day not worrying about their company or customers but instead to focus on themselves. It was a day filled with mindfulness practices and centered on reflection and self-improvement.

One of the keynotes was given by Arianna Huffington (you know, the CEO of The Huffington Post) and she shared her story of passing out due to exhaustion. She debunked the myth many people believe that in order to be successful you need to sacrifice your own well being. She said that by giving herself time to refuel she can jump back into a project refreshed without feeling burnout.

It showed that Salesforce truly values more than just the bottom line. It was a warm, meaningful message to end a tiring week and a much-needed reminder not to put your well being on the back burner.

Tips for Dreamforce 2019

As a rookie Dreamforce attendee, I know I could have used a few more tips ahead of the conference. So whether you’re a seasoned vet or you’re looking into attending next year, here are some tips I that could have helped me.

1. Wear comfortable shoes

Dress for comfort, especially when it comes to your shoes. They estimate that people walk five miles each day of Dreamforce. And after making my way to all the sessions across downtown San Francisco, I believe it. Take care of yourself and your feet!

2. Take a look at the map and grab an info flyer

Even as an SF local, I found it hard to make my way around. Sure, the Moscone Centers are easy to find but there are several other locations for sessions across the city and multiple floors of each building. Be sure to get an information flyer and take a look at the map before departing for your sessions. And don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are dozens of workers there to help guide you in the right direction.

3. Plan out and register for your sessions ahead of time

I made the mistake of going to many sessions that I hadn’t previously registered for and the result was maximum capacity rooms that I couldn’t get into. However, people who registered for the sessions and showed up on time skipped the line and their seat was reserved. Don’t miss out on your important sessions by registering before the conference.

4. Schedule break time for yourself

The sessions at Dreamforce start around 8 a.m. and can end as late as 6 p.m. Make sure you schedule some resting time in between those sessions. Dreamforce has lots of lounge areas for people to take their lunch and get off their feet. Set aside some time to recharge

5. Bring a bag for all your goodies

As with any sales conference, there are always tons of sponsors giving away freebies. Bring a backpack or a purse to carry all your goodies in or else you could end up carrying three water bottles, fifteen pens and seven different stress balls in your pockets.