B2Bnn Reviews: Battle of the September conferences, Inbound vs Dreamforce

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A new feature we’re introducing reviews two major services/products or events ideal for B2B professionals, and in this debut column we look at what two major tech conferences have to offer in the coming weeks.

Welcome to the B2Bnn Reviews report comparing the Inbound and Dreamforce conferences.

First, some context. Inbound, run by Hubspot, runs from September 8 to 11, 2015, in Boston, while Dreamforce (brought to you by Salesforce) takes place in San Francisco September 15 to 18. Both events are considered must-attends for B2B employees working in marketing, digital media, social media, CRM, network management, IT and Big Data.

Inbound and Dreamforce feature marquee names, whether they are celebs or well-travelled speakers. This year, Inbound has invited the likes of author Seth Godin, comedian Aziz Ansari, Chelsea Clinton, comedian Marc Maron and BuzzFeed co-founder Jonah Perreti. Dreamforce will feature speakers Microsoft SEO Satya Nadella, YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki, actress and entrepreneur Goldie Hawn, Honest Company founder Jessica Alba, Academy Award-winner and activist Patricia Arquette, Golden State Warriors President Rick Welts and Uber co-founder Travis Kalanick.

Dreamforce is also highly praised for their concert series, where they feature Grammy-winning wattage such as Bruno Mars and the Red Hot Chili Peppers. This year, Dreamforce will present a concert starring Foo Fighters.

An Inbound attendee asking a panelist a question
An Inbound attendee asking a panelist a question

When it comes to size, Dreamforce is the top dog here. Registrants at the Bay Area conference reach up to 150,000 while Inbound attracts close to 10,000 registrants. Inbound invites around 100 speakers to deliver keynotes or sit on panels, and Dreamforce showcases around 1,600 sessions annually.

To help us navigate what to expect from these two conferences, who better to offer advice than a B2B professional who has attended both major events? B2Bnn interviewed Aleya Chattopadhyay, a Canadian business leader we profiled in December. She is the former CMO of ScribbleLive and Brookfield Residential Property Services.

B2Bnn: Aleya, when you went to Inbound last year, what was your first impression?

AC: I was surprised by Inbound, mostly by how big it was, and how much it’s grown and the level of professionalism it offers. I was impressed by the caliber of speakers during keynotes and various sessions. I noticed a great deal of excitement that everyone truly had there.

Aleya Chattopadhyay, former CMO of ScribbleLive
Aleya Chattopadhyay, former CMO of ScribbleLive

B2Bnn: And what did you think when you first went to Dreamforce in 2012?

AC: It’s phenomenal and outrageously large. Dreamforce truly takes over downtown San Francisco. Before then, I had never been to anything that large. For something that big, it was incredibly well organized, from the venues to different speakers to managing the keynotes. It was interesting to see inspirational leaders like Salesforce CEO Mark Benioff and Richard Branson and Beth Comstock. I also enjoyed the parties organized to complement the evening activities throughout city.

B2Bnn: What are the key differences between the two conferences?

AC: The great thing about Inbound is seeing how Hubspot has grown. It’s elevated from a small business to an enterprise and it’s quite encouraging to see that leadership in the Boston tech community and how that builds excitement for everyone at Inbound. Here, the conference isn’t all about Hubspot but about sessions ideal for startup growth and management.

At Dreamforce, everything revolves around Salesforce products and services. The Salesforce narrative weaves through most sessions, and that can be appealing to many attendees. The kinds of extracurricular things Dreamforce does for their clients there to make feel like part of the membership is outstanding.

B2Bnn: Because of Dreamforce’s size, isn’t it difficult to meet other professionals there?

AC: Right, and that’s why Inbound is easier to network at due to smaller trade show floor. After a Q&A at a session, it’s not so hard to find a speaker to talk to, while at Dreamforce it’s so big it can be hard to track down anyone.

B2Bnn: For a B2B professional who can go to only one of the two conferences in September, which would you recommend?

AC: I’d suggest going to Inbound first. Hubspot has a lot of free tools to offer and while they do have paid services there are still many ways to get started with them, especially if you’re a medium enterprise. It’s a nice soft way to start looking at CRM, and truly understand the customer experience and journey.

If you’re part of a large enterprise and you are looking for the best-in-class tech, then go to Dreamforce. Try to network with other customers and get a sense of the platform and what it’s capable of and if it’s suited with what your needs are. Or, basically go there if you have lots of money to blow and want to see the Chili Peppers.

Note that we’ll be covering Dreamforce sessions starting September 15 and regularly publishing sessions recaps and live-tweeting key events

Main photo via Salesforce

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David Silverberg
David Silverberg is the former editor-in-chief of Digital Journal Inc. He helped pioneer Digital Journal's proprietary technology to leverage content from writers from across the world. He was the host of Digital Journal's annual Future of Media event. David has been published in various publications, writing on everything from technology trends to celebrity profiles.