This week I’m attending my first Dreamforce conference, the annual Salesforce.com “user conference.”
I put user conference in quotes because, although that’s where Dreamforce started, over the years it has evolved into something much, much larger. There are nearly 100,000 attendees and over 1,000 sessions covering topics ranging from starting up a new company to collaboration to meditation. Keynote speakers include Marissa Meyer from Yahoo and Sheryl Sandberg from Facebook. Green Day and Blondie are playing a concert for attendees. The breadth and depth of the topics is simply mind-boggling.
The vibe and energy at the conference is amazing. This is a gathering of people that don’t necessarily have to be Salesforce.com customers — in fact, many aren’t — and are here because they want to be part of a community, part of a learning experience.
Part of the reason I’m attending Dreamforce 2013 is for an entirely selfish reason: I want to know what I can do to take Clio’s “user conference,” the Clio Cloud Conference, in the same direction — to make it a broader conference, focusing on the innovation happening at the intersection of law and technology. At this conference, Clio itself, as is the case with Salesforce.com at Dreamforce, is simply the common thread, the friend who invited a bunch of interesting people together to have a party and share ideas. The focus is on delivering an amazing experience to attendees, to focus on fun, learning and self improvement. (Disclosure: I am one of the founders of Clio).
I agree with Carolyn Elefant and Mitch Kowalski, and many others, that “user conferences” will play an important role in the legal conference landscape of the future. However, I feel “user conference” is too limited a term to talk about these kinds of conferences; Dreamforce refers to its conference as a “vendor-led” conference: is this the right term? The term is an appropriate foil to, say, the ABA TECHSHOW (a conference I love, by the way), but is staunchly anti-vendor in some ways: under no circumstances will ABA TECHSHOW invite a vendor to speak at its conference.
ABA TECHSHOW and other “non-vendor-led,” CLE-focused conferences face an interesting issue, however: what happens when some of the most interesting and innovative voices in legal technology are those that belong to vendors? This is a gap that Dreamforce, Clio Cloud Conference, and others are sure to fill.