Two hours before my Advanced Admin certification exam, I received an email alert on my phone. I had just made a command to myself that I would not reply because I was in focus mode with exam preparation, but I could take a look and make sure my family was fine.
I see the preview of the message says, “Marc Benioff, Chairman: Personal Invitation to Dinner” and I turn my phone off immediately because I think my phone is compromised. My thoughts were along the lines of, “Of all the things that could happen before this exam, I get hacked.” Why would I receive an invite to a special dinner?
I restart my phone and open my gmail app. I was not hacked because the other email addresses in the message were familiar to me. I had one hour left to prepare for my exam and I decide to put my phone down after showing my colleagues.
I passed my exam and immediately replied to the RSVP. I began to research this event via my Salesforce Twitter friends feeds, Success Community, personal text message inquiries to some of my local Salesforce insiders and my LinkedIn network. Again, I wonder why Salesforce would invite me. I am not an MVP. I am a local user group leader, but we are not one of the big major ones. I am very active in the community, but nothing more than the next user group leader.
I discovered through my various networks that Mr. Marc Benioff was making a concentrated effort on his Dreamforce Keynote this year. He was on a hidden tour of sorts, one where he would send out these special invites to a group of twenty to have dinner. My invitation stated “small group of customers and partners” that would “feature Marc Benioff previewing his Dreamforce keynote” and would “solicit” my feedback.
All sorts of emotions began to hit me in the various days approaching the dinner in the following order: excitement, anxiety, excitement, nervousness, exhaustion, excitement and optimism. My last emotion was spurred on by a deep speculation about the company itself.
Salesforce actually listens to its customers. Sure I’ve worked at companies that put out surveys, have focus groups and take in recommendations from their customers. However, my experience with this company as a customer has peaked my interests when it comes to ‘how’ this company goes about listening to its customers and what they do with the information they have gathered.
I have peers who have cautioned me about my habit of ‘sharing’ my ideas freely with those who already have money, while I have none. Yet, these ‘ideas’ that I share are truly a moment in the time spectrum of my life. Similar to those soothsayers found in Greek plays or fortune tellers who are driven with an unavoidable need to foretell the future, I spout ideas as they come to mind.
I fill out surveys, I attend research sessions at Dreamforce, I socialize via the various social channels and I generally voice my opinion or observations when requested. The synapses in my mind actively seek out reasons to exercise my brain muscles.
The half hour commute into the city is a mental workout, so I take a cool selfie of myself with my aviators to give me an esteem boost. It works and I jam out to some tunes as I prepare to fight other crazy drivers in the downtown traffic.
Once I walk into the event, I run into some of my fellow user group ladies and I feel less anxious about attending this focus group.
How quickly my emotions do fluctuate with the flow of time…
We network for a half hour before the staff open the doors for us to enter the ballroom. Let me take you on a journey of what I saw and my first thoughts.
We walk into a large ballroom with three long rectangular dining tables. The table in the middle is formal white cloth set with assigned seats indicated by name tags printed in bold black on white. A green journal with an Einstein sticker and a black pen is situated before each seat further expressing the import of this event.
Nine seats on each side with two seats at the head of the table nearest to the door in which we entered. The tables on the left and right are seated facing the long table in the middle. At the very end of the middle table is a large screen with an introductory image from the upcoming keynote.
Normally, you would assume the person running the event would sit at the head of the table. Not in this situation. Mr. Benioff positions himself in the middle of the table on the right. Right in the mix of the attendees and apart of the group at large.
As soon as we walk-in, I see my seat is one of the two seats at the head of the table. I am hoping my other user group friends are seated at the end with me. Not the case.
If you have read my previous post on my 2015 experience at Dreamforce, you will know that I always start counting people in my local environments as well as placing people in categories by varying degrees.
There were 20 customers and partners excluding Mr. Benioff. The table on the right-hand side of the room was seated with Salesforce C-Suite members (i.e. general counsel, CMO, CTO, New Chief Equality Officer, etc). The table on the left-hand side of the room facing the main table seated the keynote entourage who ran the demos and powerpoint.
Of the 20 customers there were 6 women. Of the 20 customers there were 4 Salesforce user group representatives. Of the 20 customers there were 3 MVPs. Of the 20 customers there were 4 people of color, myself included. 14 guys & 6 women.
Mr. Benioff welcomes us to the focus group and asks each of us to round the table introduce ourselves. A lot of suits, a lot of men and a microcosm of the keynote audience the team at Salesforce is expecting at Dreamforce 2016.
I introduce myself pretty quickly in a short and sweet manner. My name is Rebe de la Paz and I’m a Salesforce Administrator, you get the gist. The agenda for the night includes a limited full preview of the upcoming Dreamforce 2016 keynote with live delivery from Marc Benioff and guests, while we eat a lovely meal served by the Fairmont Millenium Park Chicago staff.
As soon as the introduction video is run, I immediately open my journal and begin to jot down my thoughts and observations on what I see before me. After the keynote is complete, Mr. Benioff turns to the guy on his right and asks him for his thoughts as well as his observations regarding the keynote we just watched.
I was number 17 of the 20 to deliver and it was killing me to keep my mouth shut. I wait patiently for my turn hoping no one delivers an opinion or observation that replicates my own. I’m not sure why I even had a concerning thought like that flitter through my mind because I just don’t think like other people.
When it finally gets to me…well…for those of you who know me, I will leave it to your imagination. Just know when someone gives me a good meal and asks me for my opinion, I will make sure my observation value is equal to the meal you provide.
If you want to know what went down, just find me and ask.
To give you a sense of how things turned out. I did find Mr. Benioff and I did not ask for just one picture. I asked for two and of course I asked for two specific types of pictures. One cool and one standard.
Here is my cool pic and you can find the standard on my Twitter. I hope you enjoyed my long post!