Dreamforce Conference: Mobile and Social at a Whole New Level

It’s been a month since I was at Dreamforce, the annual conference put on by our partner at the Moscone Center and all across downtown San Francisco. Before I get into details, I want to paint a picture to give you a sense of the magnitude of this event, and the incredible, even overwhelming, nature of it.

According to, 85,000 people were registered for the conference. The main product keynote events were held at the Moscone Center, where at least 10,000 people watched the event live and on more than a dozen enormous screens hanging from the ceiling. The conference started with a short performance by MC Hammer, and founder and CEO Marc Benioff delivered the main keynote speech.

The conference seemed to take over the entire city. With that many people attending one conference, nearly everyone within a 10-block radius was wearing the bright-colored bar-coded badges that gained you entrance to the conference and events. Supplementing the keynotes were more than 800 workshops over four days, led by staff and clients, each of which drew 50 to 300 people.

A sprawling trade-show floor featured hundreds of vendors, from Google to HP to dozens of Silicon Valley start-ups eager to show their wares. And topping it all off were keynote sessions about leadership and business, with speakers including Colin Powell, Jeff Immelt, Richard Branson, and even Tony Robbins, who had 10,000 people (including me) on their feet screaming for three hours. By any measure this was an amazing conference, and an outdoor performance by the Red Hot Chili Peppers topped off the event.

Beyond all the hoopla, a heaping amount of technology was on display and in discussion. The conference had many themes but perhaps not a single overarching message. That said, here are two key points that I think bear discussion.

First, going mobile is set to change the way that people relate to the Internet. I blogged about this last week. The implications are striking because the net result is that people will be increasingly connected to one another — increasingly able to motivate each other to do things (like buy tickets), increasingly able to talk up something that’s great (like a show) and talk down things that aren’t (like bad customer service). The more our society becomes connected, the more power will be in the hands of the customer. So organizations and companies must be ready to react — to leverage the good and minimize the damage from the bad. And they must participate in the conversations in the way that social media enables.

Second, not only will people be more connected with one another, but humans and machines alike will become more connected. Jeff Immelt described how jet engines in mid-flight will send status updates to GE so that engineers on the ground can benchmark their performance and spot trends to get out ahead of problems. Mark Benioff talked about’s partnership with Toyota where you can “friend” your car — and your car will post online status updates for you and/or your mechanic. So when the oil needs changing, your car will tell you, and statistics about how your car is performing (gas mileage, etc.) will be posted and sent to you automatically. And a VP from Virgin America described how when you sit down at your seat on a plane, the welcome screen on the video monitor in front of you will be “smart” and will welcome you personally and give you the opportunity to have a customized experience on board. The “human/machine” connection will become even more important. I think this is pretty interesting.

How does this relate to the world of ticketing? Well, I believe that as the rest of the world moves in this direction and people adapt to these changes, ticket buyers will expect a similar experience from the arts organizations (or any live entertainment organization) they buy tickets from.

Imagine a ticket as the “machine” in a human/machine interface. After all, a ticket is nothing more than a promise of an experience — and who says when that experience starts? Before, it was when the curtain went up. Now your ticket can start that experience well beforehand, by “sending” ticket buyers a tweet, a Facebook message, or a pre-show e-mail shortly after the purchase. Then that ticket, once scanned at the venue, will “know” its holder has arrived at the theater. With that data, how can you deliver additional value or information as soon as someone steps into the lobby? (After all, they’ll be checking their e-mail right up until showtime and during intermission.) And a digital ticket might offer additional benefits you can’t offer on paper: Let patrons go online and exchange a ticket for a performance they can’t attend by storing that credit on the system for later use, or forwarding that ticket to a friend, for example. These are relatively simple ideas — some of which already exist on a small scale today — but I’ll bet these will be commonplace within a few years.

The Dreamforce conference was a welcome reality check, allowing attendees to see where Silicon Valley and the greater technology world is headed. At Patron Technology, we’re working hard to leverage all of this new technology and put it directly in the hands of managers of ticket-selling organizations.

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