10 am, November 17th, San Francisco International Airport.
A serious looking US border control officer asked me “What are you coming to the U.S. for Mam?” “Attending a conference.” I said. “Oh…” he paused for a second and looked at me with a grin on his face “Dreamforce?”
Salesforce.com said there were 130,000 people registered to the event. I was trying to comprehend the idea that how a city of 800,000 population could cope with 130,000 visitors for a single event. I went to Canton Fair last year and this was a trade fair with 190,000 visitors, however it is spread over 3 phases and 4 weeks and Guangzhou has 13 million population.
Taxi to downtown San Francisco on a Sunday morning was smooth. “Tomorrow the traffic will be terrible,” the driver said, “there is this Dreamforce going on.” Well… of course, the taxi driver also knew about it.
He was right the next morning and the rest of the 4 days the area near the show ground has been completely taken over by people wearing blue badges, on every street, in every hotel lobby, in every taxi queue, and at every Starbucks of every street corner. If you didn’t want to join one of the hundreds of vendor funded evening functions, better order your meal in your hotel room and forget about going out to look for a table in any of the restaurants within walking distance.
Of course Salesforce.com and its partners put together thousands of sessions on their technologies and products plus hundreds of shows and speeches done by hi-tech celebrities, rock stars, charities, politicians, and inspirational speakers. As a first time visitor to Dreamforce, what I liked the most however, is the exhibition area. If you have been to the Victoria market in Melbourne on a Sunday morning, and heard all the fishermen and butchers yelling, this Dreamforce exhibition floor was just about that. stepping in the exhibition hall I thought this was a computer game show, a fish market, a shopping center on boxing day with every price tag showing 90% off. Everybody was talking, or yelling. All the exhibitioners, big or small, had a queue of potential customers waiting to talk to them. How could a show ground for a business application have so much passion? People don’t have anything better to do in their life or what? We are supposed to be looking serious and bored and skeptical.
This is when I decided I would come back to Dreamforce next year, and possibly every year. I wonder if one day Dreamforce exhibition floor will be more like a business application show filled with serious looking people, or it is always going to look like a fish market without a smell. I do like the fish market style, when there is passion and excitement, there is fresh catch, in technology field it is called innovation. I may never be able to turn my Dreamforce as a fish market findings into a Gartner research, but I’d love to report it on my blog next year how it looks like.
As to that one evening my desperate attempt of looking for a quiet restaurant, finally I found a half empty Chinese restaurant in a basement of an office building, 3 blocks away from my hotel. The friendly waiter handed over the menu. The first line I read – “Receive a 20% discount with your Dreamforce pass…” – oh of course.
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