Salesforce’s Dreamforce Convention, which attracted some 170,000 participants to San Francisco at the beginning of November, was full of great lessons for planners on everything from creating agendas to branding strategies. Here are some takeaways.

Incorporate Divine Decor

Consider using the season as inspiration. For Dreamforce, which had a National Park theme this year, holding the event in the fall meant utilizing warm colors with a focus on getting outside and into nature. Dreamforce attendees entered the heart of Moscone Center in San Francisco by passing through a big, tawny faux-stone arch. Event mascot Einstein watched from the top of the rock.

Keep it Hands-on

Another element prominently featured at Dreamforce was simulation. For example, Alaska Airlines offered airplane simulations. Lightning, Salesforce’s next-generation user interface, had swings and a massive display that mimicked the thrill of creating custom user interfaces (imagine Disney’s Soarin’ Over California, but for techies). Hands-on opportunities help participants learn by doing.

Make Metaphor Your Friend

The National Park theme was visible in details large and small, including an indoor waterfall. Unexpected extras can add a wow factor and meaning. Dreamforce’s trailhead visitor center provided different learning “paths” members could take, much like paths they would take on a hike. It is also helpful to have two to three big-picture themes. For Dreamforce, the focus was on partnership, women in leadership and social consciousness.

Maximize Technology

Because Dreamforce is a tech convention, it seems natural to include lots of tech elements. Audiences enjoy using their phones to feel more involved. Digital programs save paper and make takeaways more portable—more likely to be saved. Be warned, however, that it can be easy to want to place everything on a “go big or go home” scale; but including a mix of big and small displays limits the tendency for attendees to feel overwhelmed when deciding where to focus attention.

Lockdown Your Layout

With an event as large as Dreamforce, it is critical that there is a breakdown of the agenda into speakers, breakaways and tutorials so that nothing feels monotonous. Including an array of activities throughout the event makes it easier to digest.

Know Your Numbers

Dreamforce drew 170,000 attendees and offered more than 2,700 breakout sessions, training and certification opportunities, hands-on demos, and hundreds of partners and solutions. With massive audiences, it’s important to plan so you can budget appropriately for food, space and transportation.

Plan an Unveiling

We all want our events to have a wow factor, and one surefire way to do that is to make a big announcement. Dreamforce provided several companies with opportunities to unveil their newest products to eager crowds. An element of freshness keeps the crowd on the edge of their seats.

Mix Work and Play

Dreamforce had a music stage with different performers all day, which in the past included U2, Foo Fighters, John Legend, Stevie Wonder, Bruno Mars and Green Day. Featuring strong leaders as speakers makes the podium more powerful. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff led the chats with Michelle Obama, IBM CEO Ginni Rometty, and Google’s Diane Greene at this year’s Dreamforce panels. This year’s Dreamforce speakers also included Ashton Kutcher and Natalie Portman.

Stay Woke

Audiences are looking for companies with clear messages and a goal to make change. putting social consciousness front and center demonstrates that you are a force for good. Dreamforce made an active effort to educate the audience about specific organizations, such as the Girl Scouts of America and Code for Change.


Promoting on SM before, during and after the event maximizes buzz. Photos weren’t allowed inside the event, but before the entrance, fun photo ops, including a chance to take a selfie with Lilou the Pig, ensured lots of retweets. Before your event even begins, make an effort to name drop in order to increase anticipation and FOMO. The Dreamforce website states, “The world’s brightest, most innovative minds come to Dreamforce every year to share their expertise and wow attendees. Past speakers include Hillary Clinton, Melinda Gates, Al Gore, and Arianna Huffington.”

At the end of the day, your event should focus on the attendees, and the experience should reflect what they want to gain from the experience. We hope you find this helpful in planning your next event. Let us know what strategy you look forward to using most!