Silicon Valley in-person tech conventions to return in fall

In-person tech conventions in Silicon Valley are slowly making a comeback.

While Apple's mega software showcase of the year, the World Wide Developer Conference remained virtual for a second year, many more tech conventions are poised to be in-person, after California moves away from the color-coded tier blueprint on June 15.

"Next year we'll be back more forcefully," John Hutar, president and chief executive officer of the San Mateo Silicon Valley Convention and Visitors Bureau, said.

Hutar added that venue bookings would normally be sold out already for next year's conventions, but they're not. Instead, companies are dipping their toes back into in-person events with fall bookings. 

"Are we 100 percent is everything solved today? No. But wow we are in such a better place than we were a few short months ago," Hutar said.

In September, the Moscone Center in San Francisco will host 5,000 attendees for Dreamforce, Salesforce's four-day technology convention that usually brings more than 140,000 attendees.

"For us to have the ability to bring people together in-person as part of the reopening for San Francisco, we were all in," Karin Flores, senior vice president of corporate marketing and strategic events at Salesforce said.

With safety a top priority, Salesforce will host simultaneous in-person events in San Francisco, New York, London, and Paris, while also offering free online access.

"We knew that we couldn't do 140,000 people in San Francisco, it's no the right thing to do," Flores said. "We want the ability to create space for us to connect safely in person, so we looked at our other markets and decided to gather people there."

Flores said that the hybrid model for conventions is something Salesforce is considering for conventions into the future, noting that last year their virtual keynote speaker drew 140 million online views.

The San Mateo County Event Center will host a three-day worldwide software conference this September, SaaStr Annual, the first major booking there since the pandemic.

The event will be in-person only and capped at 5,000 attendees.

"Virtual is a good stopgap," Hutar said. "But that human to human I don't think will ever be replaced."