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Day one of Connections was overflowing with useful information for Trailblazers looking to build better customer experiences and grow their customer relationships.

One day down, two more to go. Day one of Connections was already filled with useful information for Trailblazers looking to build better customer experiences and grow customer relationships. But that’s not to say there wasn’t a lot of fun being had at McCormick Place. Read on for your on-the-ground coverage.

Female leaders in the spotlight

“As we’re getting a larger seat at the table, we need to speak out more and make our voices heard,” Deloitte Consulting Managing Director Francisca Wahjudi remarked. Trailblazing women kicked off Connections at an inspiring luncheon full of energetic conversations, networking, and laughter. Shortly after lunch was served, a panel moderated by Salesforce’s Senior Director of Global Equality Programs Molly Ford got underway.

The panel was a frank discussion on topics spanning career advice, allyship, the value of mentorships, career sponsorships, and more. “Involving male leaders in discussions is essential. We need to have them actively push for equality and diversity. It needs to be an organizational priority,” Survey Monkey CMO Leela Srinivasan said, recognizing the role that men play in allyship. “Just as we (as women) need to be self-reflective, we need to embrace how our male counterparts can be allies. They, too, need to be self-reflective and work on amplifying a woman’s voice,” Wahjudi adds.

On the topic of “imposter syndrome” and doubting your accomplishments, Visible CMO Minjae Ormes shared some valuable advice, “I used to think that you had to fit in to feel like you belong somewhere, but you don’t. Sometimes you belong there because you’re different. I have to remind myself every day [when I don’t know something] that while I’m here to learn, I’m also here because of my expertise and the difference that I bring to the table.”

Trailmojis land in the Windy City

Sometimes you want to be a superhero, a bee with a mermaid tail, or a unicorn butterfly to express yourself. Whatever your pleasure, the Trailmoji app is ready for your creativity. Trailblazers started showing off their creativity to the Connections audience and people are loving it. Create your own and share it with everyone using #CNX19.

Wait, wait — Peter Sagal, how do you build an authentic brand?

Even though it’s not his job, host of NPR’s “Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!” Peter Sagal sure knows something about how to build a strong brand. Since humble beginnings in 1998, the popular radio program now reaches more than 3.7 million weekly listeners aired on 701 stations across the U.S. In this interview hosted by Salesforce’s Molly Ford, Sagal shared how he and the team at Wait Wait have challenged audiences, told stories, made countless jokes, and intend to continue “screwing around until they stop us.”

So what’s the secret to the show’s success? “We do stuff that we find funny. You’re really getting our authentic selves. We are genuinely having a lot of fun, and invite the audience to join us.” And it turns out that a large part of being funny naturally stems from having diverse panelists. “We believe that it makes us a better radio show. Our show lives off our panel. So the more interesting and diverse the perspectives are, the funnier it is. Our panel can talk about things from their own experience and all the things I don’t know about. What makes something funny is hearing something or looking at something you’ve never heard before.”

Sagal also relayed this astute advice about reaching an audience, which originally was shared with him by colleague Ira Glass: “Talk as if you’re talking to one person. You generally are since people are reading, listening, or watching things alone. It’s a one-on-one conversation.

Trailblazers get acquainted with the Customer Success Expo and Campground

Photo of the Customer Success Expo and Campground

As they walked into the expo, Trailblazers were greeted by the sounds of birds chirping and a waterfall. A giant treehouse marked the official welcome center that guided attendees into the Customer Success Expo and Campground. Some Trailblazers had a specific plan and place to visit: One of the theaters to watch a session, or to a demo station on the campground to ask questions. Others took to meandering, taking a moment to pose for a summertime photo on Trailhead’s photogenic dock, hit up a Quest tower to start their adventure, or take the Conagra challenge — a game in the Campground similar to “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.” Trailblazers also got a hands-on look at the new Page Designer at the Campground and saw how they could design beautiful, engaging ecommerce experiences with clicks — not code. “People have been interested in and asking questions about Datorama and Mulesoft. Maybe it’s because they’re newer and more unknown,” said Salesforce Product Designer Amanda Brinkman, who was volunteering at the welcome center.

Yo-Yo Ma asks us, “What connects you?”

Photo of Yo-Yo Ma and Soledad O'Brien

As one of the foremost musicians of our time, Ma has played the cello in every major concert venue across the world, has recorded over 100 albums, and has performed for royalty, eight U.S. presidents, and millions of fans. And yet, he still draws inspiration from the first piece of music he ever learned at the age of four; a piece written by a man 300 years ago who probably never traveled more than a hundred miles from his home — Bach’s Cello Suite No. 1.

The Connections audience were captivated by today’s fireside chat between Ma and award-winning journalist and entrepreneur Soledad O’Brien. Ma shared his belief that culture is essential to our survival. He believes that it’s moments of shared understanding that are essential to imagining and building a better future. In his recent project — called “The Bach Project” – Ma sets out to perform Bach in 36 places around the world on six continents.

While Ma does feel that the Bach Project is beneficial to his own personal wellbeing, he decided to undertake it because he wanted to learn from and meet others. “Culture is what we share and build together because we all have a drive to learn. We want a common purpose, a social purpose and to come together,” he explains. “I think music actually brings people together. It’s a conveyor. It brings people together.”

Many of the places that Ma has visited have experienced hardship or conflict. Recently he played at the US-Mexico border. He’s also visited Flint, Michigan, to highlight not their recent water problems, but their history, culture, and town pride. What continues to motivate him? “We don’t hear about all the things that happen on the edge, but we need to hear about what happens at the edge so that the center can make better decisions.”

And so he plays Bach while he visits. So after all this time, what does he try to convey when he plays the most famous and difficult of cello pieces? "I think of it as someone who is looking for a bit of hope, that light at the end of the tunnel. You can be down and out, but in the end, you can make it.”

When Ma began playing this instantly recognizable piece, the audience’s reaction was immediate — eyes closed, some sat smiling, others wiped away tears, or moved their heads in time with the music. The entire room fell silent as people sat still, enjoying and listening, and sharing in the moment — together.

See you tomorrow!

Get a good night’s rest — we’ve got lots of things in store for tomorrow. You won’t want to miss the opening keynote to learn how Trailblazers can build a 360° view of customers. We’ve also got the marketing keynote and commerce keynote ready to go, along with volunteering opportunities, more hands-on workshops, trainings, networking, and even a party. So grab your beauty sleep — we’re definitely in the swing of things now! And remember, if you aren’t on the ground in Chicago, follow along with Salesforce Live.


Kim Mercado was a writer for the Salesforce blog. She's written many of your favorite blog posts here, as well as multiple e-books including the Content Marketing Institute award-winner, We Are All Trailblazers. When she isn't writing, she's probably binge-watching tv shows, learning Japanese, and looking at videos of cute animals.

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