Monday, August 29, 2011

 

How to turn your user conference into a must-attend industry event

This week, tens of thousands of B2B sales & marketing people will descend upon Moscone Center for Salesforce.com's Dreamforce conference. What began in 2003 as a small user conference in a nearby hotel this year will likely exceed 25,000 attendees and almost 300 exhibitors.

Dreamforce has become a case study in transforming a customer-only conference into a must-attend industry event. How did they do it? And how could you do it for your customer events as well? Here are a few ingredients to Salesforce.com's success.

Content
Although much of the content and many of the breakout sessions focus on features and functionality, there's plenty of content that's also focused on helping B2B sales & marketing professionals better at their jobs overall. This year's Dreamforce features a host of sessions on sales strategy, word of mouth tactics, search marketing innovations and more. If you're not a Salesforce.com developer or administrator, there's still a ton of things to learn.

Speakers
From the keynote speakers to the panelists, it's clear that Dreamforce puts effort into ensuring attendees walk away with high-quality information from the field's most innovative and successful thinkers and doers. Recent keynotes have featured General Colin Powell, President Bill Clinton and this year Google Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Networking
You can tell when a conference has crossed the chasm from user conference to must-attend event when many people go just for the networking. I'd be willing to bet that Salesforce.com's own attendee figures are low, as there will be plenty who fly into town simply to meet and do business with those who are also there. This includes the plethora of parties hosted each night by several vendors and sponsors.

Location
Salesforce.com is based in San Francisco, so Moscone Center is almost a given. But many companies prefer to host user conferences in their home town. If it's hard to get to, expensive to get to, or generally out of the way, your attendance will suffer. At minimum, get a great price on a hotel conference center in Vegas to give attendees an extra reason (or three) to come down.

Attention to Detail
It's very clear that Dreamforce is meticulously planned, down to the small details. Despite the huge and growing crowds each year, it continues to get easier to find where you're going, ask someone for directions, plan your entire visit weeks in advance via online scheduling and calendar tools, etc.

If you're attending Dreamforce this week, I'd love to hear why you think it's a must-attend event as well.

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