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Dreamforce 2021 and the Future of Events

Have you heard the news? Dreamforce 2021 is going to be a (partially) in-person event this year! But before you pack up your Astro plushie, book your hotel room, and take the next flight to San Francisco, let’s take a look at what the Dreamforce experience is going to look like post-pandemic.

Here is What We Know About Dreamforce 2021

The highly-anticipated event, held completely virtually in 2020, is set to take place September 21 – 23 and will consist of small in-person gatherings and a more widely accessible virtual experience. Salesforce will be hosting attendees in San Francisco, New York, London, and Paris, marking the first-ever global Dreamforce. Due to public health restrictions on major gatherings, the San Francisco event is capping attendance at 5,000 (although this could change as restrictions either loosen or tighten), which is much smaller than the over 170,000 conference-goers we saw in 2019, and all United States participants will now be required to show proof of their vaccination against COVID-19. There has yet to be an announcement on what the digital component will entail, but the goal of this hybrid event is to celebrate, learn, and network in the most accessible way possible.

For the in-person events, health and safety are at the top of my mind. Salesforce has stated, “[We] will follow all local COVID-19 public health guidelines. In the U.S., anyone attending in-person will be required to be fully vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus. Leaders in the medical community, including world-renowned epidemiologist Dr. Larry Brilliant, will work with Salesforce to help ensure the safety of all attendees.”

However, with the excitement of the in-person announcement comes a bit of reservation. By capping attendance at 5,000, it is unclear who will actually be able to attend the event from both a client and partner perspective. At such small numbers, I would wager we’d see the physical event sites being invite-only. There is also no word yet on if we’ll have a call for speakers, or whether the former verticals will be included in the in-person activities – regardless I know the team at will find a way to make the experience special for our friends in the nonprofit and higher education spaces.

Economic Recovery from COVID-19

This is a pretty big moment for me as a marketer. This announcement comes over a year after the CDC made a recommendation to wear face masks in addition to social distancing to help combat the spread of COVID-19. With over 45% of Americans currently fully vaccinated, we’re seeing increased travel and folks feeling more confident in group settings. Still, this announcement is one of the first events (at this scale) that I have seen set for in-person. It is a big moment as America moves into the recovery stage of the pandemic. Many offices (including those at Salesforce) have begun to reopen offices safely at a reduced scale.

What Does This Mean for the Future of Events?

While I’m excited at the opportunity to travel, work a booth, network with our customers, partners, and friends, and see inspirational speakers in person, I also don’t think digital events are going to be wholly replaced as in-person events become more comfortable. During the pandemic, Cloud for Good was able to host virtual roundtables, gathering like-minded customers and prospects in one zoom room to facilitate a conversation around specific topics like taking your marketing automation to new heights or accounting reconciliation options on Salesforce. These events were fantastic for bringing together a group of folks who shared similar experiences, regardless of location. It provides an opportunity to break down communication barriers and distance to solve challenges, learn from each other’s experiences, and share more globally.

Our clients hosted virtual galas and were able to continue fundraising despite not hosting some of their largest events and fundraisers. Riley’s Children Foundation, for example, hosted Riley’s Rally, where some of their children shared their stories, creating incredibly touching moments despite it all happening over a computer.

I anticipate that as events begin to migrate back to in-person, there will still be a virtual element for those who are unable to travel, whether that be through a live stream of the in-person event or separate engagement opportunities, such as live chat and virtual watch parties.

While we are still unsure what the world will look like in September, I’m encouraged to see some of the first stages of reopening happening in the United States, and even more so to see Salesforce working to keep safety at the forefront of their Dreamforce activities. I anticipate we will begin to see more companies following suit in the next few months, reopening offices and reintroducing in-person conference activities. As this recovery continues to unfold, please remember to follow the CDC’s guidance for travel during the COVID-19 pandemic, and put the health of yourself and others above all else.

Let us know what you think on Twitter – has attending virtual events allowed you to learn and network more than ever before, or are you excited to see more in-person events on the horizon?

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