Catherine Simmons, Vice President, Strategic Events at Salesforce was Keynote Speaker at the third annual LEAP Conference on May 18 where she shared her take on the strategic, practical and creative processes required to build Dreamforce, the world’s largest software conference.
No ordinary meetings and events veteran, Catherine believes in design experience over meeting planning. A “Design in Action” plan is at the core – the strategic design of an event answering the questions What and Why before getting into the physical and logistic design that come together in the practical planning of How. Asked when the industry shift was made from meeting planner to event designer, Catherine replies, “We have always been designers in our strategic approach, considering the practical and creative, logistical and operational ways to figure out the experience” adding that “we have now become more sophisticated and honed with our communication and skills.”
The path to Dreamforce was not direct for Catherine; along the way she lived on several continents and took not one but three sabbaticals. She is quick to point out that taking a break was never a detriment to her career and in fact was a great way to reassess and refresh. “Don’t be afraid to try something different.”
Considering herself lucky to get into Tech events in the 90’s, Catherine’s trajectory through a who’s who of Tech companies landed her at Salesforce in London producing the European programs. In 2008, seeing an opportunity, she asked for and was given Dreamforce in San Francisco.
When asked about the future of events, Catherine believes we will have to wait and see. Certainly, VR will enhance our experiences. However, at one time we were preparing for virtual meetings to replace in person events and that has not been the case. “I love meeting with other professionals and sharing our stories” she notes when asked about her involvement in LEAP. “Telling the Dreamforce story, sharing our achievements and our challenges, brings the opportunity to hear from others. Two–way story conversations bring awareness, interest, and open the door to more experiences. Nothing beats face to face communication.”