As I arrived at yesterday's opening of Dreamforce — Salesforce’s force-of-nature software conference at San Francisco’s Moscone Center — for my first visit ever, it was hard to tell if I had entered a tech event, a children’s carnival or a wild Las Vegas party.

And that was after I had run the gauntlet of Uncle Sam impersonators ― on stilts ―and heckling street people milling outside.

Also outside, but an officially sanctioned part of the entertainment, was a fifty-foot screen set up on the expansive green between Moscone South and North. Colorful beanbag chairs had been set up in front, and each contained a grown man in a suit glued to his laptop while Maroon 5 blared through speakers and drowned out Adrian Grenier’s keynote speech.

Sure Grenier — aka Vincent Chase (his character on HBO's Entourage) and the guy who tweeted an inappropriate 9/11 photo — is best known as an actor. 

But he was at Dreamforce to share "his experience as a business owner, his involvement in the upcoming show "Venture" and how embracing social entrepreneurship has helped him get in touch with small business owners to help them grow."

We’re Not in Kansas Anymore

Visualize people, organized chaos and a nonstop agenda of events and you capture Dreamforce in a nutshell. It's over-the-top, more than a little offbeat and overwhelming. 

An earthshaking 150,000 are registered to be there in-person and another 10 million are expected to join online.

Upon my arrival, I felt momentarily confused ... until a giant, fuzzy blue mascot stopped doing the Cha Cha Slide long enough to advise me how to pick up my press pass.

Upstairs at Moscone West I began to explore. I found myself at Trailhead, a camping-themed Salesforce training hub complete with actual “trail maps” and prizes for completing various training “quests” in areas such as mobile SDKs, CRM and fundraising.

Next I came upon a colorful installation called “Code Camp” which featured groups of children sitting at desks for a coding class.

I was already finding it difficult to discern at a glance which activities were targeted toward which age groups. All of the stations were equally colorful and thematic, and if anything, more stuffed animals seemed to be handed out at the adult booths.

Dreamy Sounding Food

Regrettably, I arrived too late for lunch.

But intrepid Dreamforce anthropologist that I was beginning to feel like, I managed to spy some empty containers labeled “Goat Cheese Sandwich” and “Gourmet Corn Dogs.” One lone food station was still pouring free India Pale Ale and still mobbed.

I caught up with two men from a Los Angeles-based software marketing company who were also surveying the remnants of the feast. They had just come from a presentation on XAuthor, a Salesforce solution for managing data and were excited about its prospects for their business back home.

Learning Opportunities

Foo Fighters and Jessica Alba

Next on their must-attend list was the talk by actress and founder of The Honest Company, Jessica Alba because “she has created a billion-dollar company that still has morals.”

As for party plans, the duo expressed confidence in a two-pronged strategy based on attending the Foo Fighters benefit concert and then simply “following the booze!”

Those two were not the only ones looking forward to Jessica Alba’s entrepreneurial insights.

I also spoke with a salesperson for a Fortune 500 company who uses Salesforce to help her with app solutions.

She was eager to hear Alba’s tips on work-life balance and then planned to attend every sales seminar she could find. No parties were on the docket though: She was local and would be heading straight home each evening to her two-year-old.

Sensory Overload

It's easy to experience sensory overload at Dreamforce.

A luxury car parked outside Uber’s booth was a popular background for selfies. The fuzzy blue mascot I encountered outside turned out to be the first of many dancing their way up and down the aisles.

The “Shopper Success Experience” displayed modern furniture, some of which was being given away as prizes. For every company booth I recognized, there were three that I had never seen before.

At the end of the day, that’s what I took away from my visit to Dreamforce: It brings people and solutions together and the possibilities for discovery were limited only by one’s imagination — and stamina.

Title image by Verne Ho.