May the Salesforce be with you

Last week San Francisco was transformed into an episode of “Empire” meets “Silicon Valley” thanks to a sea of Salesforce blue conference badges that ushered in the glitz and glamour of music superstardom, with all the tech drama of a multi-billion dollar company.

Every year the Salesforce Dreamforce conference is a force to be reckoned with, 2015 was no exception. From Tuesday to Thursday Mission Street was packed with tour bus after tour bus, traffic was a nightmare and you couldn’t walk within one mile of Moscone Center without seeing blue lanyards hanging from the necks at least one 20 – 30 something year old techie. Today technology conferences have become as much about news, product launches and company vision statements as they have about appealing to hip-modern-Millennial techies who stand to advance said vision as much as they stand to disrupt it.

Companies looking to make a name for themselves at the conference don’t simply sponsor a booth, they throw red-velvet-roped, line around the corner, open-bar “networking” events complete with scantily clad women rocking tech logo tops as party hosts. I suppose Salesforce’s partners are simply trying keep up with the cloud company’s lavish star-studded agenda that included a closing party on the water headlined by The Foo Fighters and The Killers.

Don’t get me wrong – the night life of San Francisco certainly gets an injection of life when a major tech brand hosts their annual conference in the city. I myself got the chance to attend a few after-dark events, and I must say an open bar and The Killers live are not to be sneered at. But I can’t help but wonder if these conferences have any value for attendees beyond generating a few sales connections and a bad hangover. Most tech companies host learning workshops and panels but what’s the actual turn out like and is the content actually helping partners to succeed?

Salesforce estimates attendees stand to pay roughly $3,029 for attending all three days of the conference – this includes show attendance, SF hotel cost, airfare/travel and three dinners. It’s a hefty figure if you’re a smaller player – but the conference site includes has ROI calculator for attendance that claims companies that attend stand to benefit from an average of 33% increase in employee productivity and 41% increase in employee engagement.

I’d be interested to hear from attendees of Dreamforce last week: What type of value did you feel you received from attending and do you think Salesforce’s claimed average benefits  are in line with your conference experience? Answer in the comments, add me on LinkedIn or tweet me @phaloula.

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