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Dreamforce

Safe and In-Person? How Salesforce Planned Dreamforce

Learn how Salesforce used its own technology to bring Trailblazers back to the Dreamforce campus.

Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff speaks at Dreamforce on Tuesday. [Salesforce/Daisy Te]

Before the pandemic, in-person events were a huge part of how Salesforce engaged its customers, especially Dreamforce. If you’re new to Salesforce, Dreamforce is more than a conference. It’s our annual global family reunion and the world’s largest software conference. We bring together the Salesforce community – including customers, partners, employees, and students – to learn, connect, have fun, and give back.

In 2019, there were more than 171,000 registered attendees. In 2020, it was an all-digital event. In 2021, we faced a question you’ve probably asked about your own company: How do we bring people together again, safely and in-person?

Dreamforce 2021 is wrapping up right now in San Francisco. While most attendees joined us through Salesforce+, our new streaming service, we were able to invite some to attend in person. In-person attendees were required to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccination and completion of multiple COVID-19 tests.

As conditions continued to shift, the key was using our own technology, particularly Vaccine Cloud’s Dreampass, which has helped us more safely plan in-person experiences. But the innovations that made this Dreamforce possible can be traced back even before COVID-19 vaccines became widely available.

Using technology to manage complexity

From the onset of the pandemic, one of our goals was to define a vision for safer in-person experiences, centered around our No. 1 core value: trust. It’s not just about keeping people safe – it’s also about making people feel safe.

It’s not just about keeping people safe – it’s also about making people feel safe.

Between constantly changing COVID-19 vaccine guidelines, test requirements, and mask policies – plus regional differences in everything from governance to cultural expectations – it became clear that we needed a simple way to manage all the complexity.

We were already leveraging our technology throughout our own business, from customer service to marketing. To bring people together again, we started by using that technology to plan for the safe reopening of our offices

Here’s a step-by-step breakdown of how we made it happen:

Transparency and training

Once we make the data-driven decision to reopen an office, we use Marketing Cloud to email our plans to employees with full transparency – a key element of maintaining trust. Employees then use Trailhead, our free online-learning platform, to get trained on the new expectations for their office, in everything from social-distancing to new cleaning procedures.

Verifying vaccinations

After employees complete the training, Marketing Cloud automatically emails them with an invitation to download our Work.com mobile app, which they can use to upload a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination card. We automate most of the verification process, but there is still a human check at the end, because of the sensitive nature of this information. We also use Work.com to manage office scheduling for capacity, and test status where required.

In other words: By the time we started planning Dreamforce 2021, we had already learned a thing or two about using technology to help bring people together safely and in-person. What we could not know is how conditions would change.

Adapting on the fly

In partnership with top health and safety advisors we modeled 30 different event-safety experiences based on different possible scenarios. This way, we could revise our event protocols on the fly as environmental conditions shifted.

Guests invited to attend Dreamforce in person were asked to show proof of full vaccination and agree to multiple pre- and post-arrival COVID-19 tests. They were able to  upload a copy of their COVID-19 vaccination proof, which was then automatically routed to a reviewer’s queue. Once in the queue, the guest’s proof of vaccination was manually approved by a human.

This verification process then triggered test kits to be shipped to each guest, who received an email communicating next steps. Guests were asked to test 96 and 72 hours before the event, and because of our integration with our testing vendors, lab results automatically triggered record updates in Vaccine Cloud with timestamps.

When an attendee’s proof of vaccination was verified and test results from both tests were negative, Vaccine Cloud automatically generated a Dreampass containing the guest’s health verification status. Guests needed to show the QR code in their Dreampass and take a daily onsite rapid test before being allowed entry to Dreamforce events. The result: safety everyone could trust.

Realizing the full potential of Vaccine Cloud

As Salesforce sprang into action to create our pandemic-response solutions, including Vaccine Cloud, internal teams turned to us for guidance on how to address concerns of fairness, equity, privacy, and trust, and how we could embed ethics into our products by design. Throughout Vaccine Cloud’s development, we applied ethical principles around issues like privacy, security, and the use of artificial intelligence. Vaccine Cloud has since powered the delivery and administration of over 100 million doses of vaccines.

As we saw with Dreamforce, it can do more than help administer vaccines. The end result is the feeling people have when they see each other in person again – with confidence and trust in their own safety.


Arvind is the Senior Vice President of Software Engineering at Salesforce, where he leads a diverse team of engineers responsible for the Sales Cloud, Essentials, and Vaccine Cloud product lines.

More by Arvind

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