Thoughts on Dreamforce 2019

The Virtual Life : Article

Our Dreamforce 

Virtual sent four representatives to Salesforce’s massive annual Dreamforce in San Francisco last week. We’re close to launching the second phase of our customized Salesforce membership management platform, V-Force, and the conference was an opportunity for some of Virtual’s client services and technical solutions staff to immerse ourselves in all things Salesforce. We expected to come away with some new contacts, a list of resources to investigate, and insights into best practices for development and implementation. And yes, we got that, and some swell swag. What we didn’t expect to encounter was how Salesforce’s pervasive corporate culture so closely aligned with Virtual’s, starting with the core belief that customer success drives company success. Here are some of the messages that resonated with us. 

Revolutions are hard

In the opening keynote, Salesforce founder Mark Benioff welcomed us to the ohana (Hawaiian for family). Within the first few minutes of his presentation, he was interrupted by a protester. He allowed the activist to speak (actually, yell from the back of the room) for 30 seconds – there was even a countdown projected onto the big screens. Because, Mark said, “We value free speech. All the voices have to be included. He went on to say, “Trust revolution.” A second disrupter interruptedTrust revolution. Revolutions aren’t easy,” Benioff continued. A third disrupter emergedBenioff pushed on: “Put your customer at the center of your business. 

Salesforce is intent on using data integration to provide customers with the SSOT: Single Source of Truth. We know exactly who in our company is looking for the SSOT, and our vision of a fully built-out V-Force will deliver just that to the entire Virtual team and our clients. 

Provide unexpected delight 

Efficiency, professionalism, going the extra mile, providing the unexpected delight – the event was world-class. Every view, experience, and interaction was a source of inspiration. After Mark finished his keynote sales pitch, highlighting Salesforce power customers State Farm and Louis Vuitton, he introduced Alicia Keys, who sat down at a piano (where did the piano come from?) and sang two songs. She wasn’t selling anything. She was dessert.  

The event production was extraordinary – with a complete physical transformation of a huge three-building convention site and a four-lane city block, UN-based Green policy initiatives, a robust mobile app, ubiquitous help with proper training – and some sort of magic in the air – we didn’t encounter a grumpy person all week. 

During conference sessions and informal conversations in the exhibit hall, our vision of our V-Force implementation grew more ambitious: voice transcription for working group calls? Replacing Tenrox with a phone app for time and expense tracking?  


Share your values 

The idea of Servant Leadership  a concept that we treasure at Virtual – ran throughout Dreamforce. In addition to the helpers everywhere (in ranger uniforms, or wearing “Ask Me” t-shirts), all of the keynotes and many of the technical sessions emphasized soft skills, corporate responsibility, innovation, team building, customer-centric service, making work fun – essentially, Virtual’s values. 

We woke up early, stayed up late, walked miles every day, and stood in Disneyland-esque lines. Was it worth it?  



“A jolt of energy.  

At this time last year, we were beginning our V-Force proof of concept exercise. We can only imagine where we’ll be next November. We are confident that we’re working with a world-class company whose mission and goals are closely aligned with our own. 

Be kind and be useful” 

We all agreed that the highlight of the week was the “fireside chat” with President Barack Obama. He summarized his life advice to his daughters: “Be kind and be useful.” His simple message proved to be the biggest takeaway from Dreamforce. Easy to remember, easy to measure, critical for our success. 


Julia Allenby is a Director of Client Services in Virtual’s Wakefield office. She works primarily with Virtual’s standards-setting and technology groups. She has nearly 20 years of experience supporting associations, an MBA in organizational development, and a degree in culinary arts from the California Culinary Academy.

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