I do not think I have ever seen Marc Benioff blush. He is usually busy talking in hyperbole, and slapping backs to be slowed down by much. But Sheryl Sandberg teased him and had him agape during their Lean In interview last night at Dreamforce. The whole conversation around sexual equality is an uncomfortable one for most audiences but Marc did not stray from the focus of her recent book, even though he and the audience were dying to hear a bit about Facebook futures.
Even more than his always interesting keynotes, I like to observe Marc as Charlie Rose. Last year he let Richard Branson discuss legalization of pot – again another uncomfortable topic for a tech conference. He handles heavyweights like Colin Powell and Jeff Immelt with respect and a child like curiosity.
Marc is also unafraid to talk about charitable pursuits and implore audiences to open their wallets and calendars to support worthy causes. His time on Haiti and the SF Children’s Hospital easily added up to an hour of valuable prime time conference time this year.
He is a patron to all kinds of music. Genres from Will-i-am to Green Day to Neil Young have graced various Dreamforces.
But I really like how he handled a press conference this year. He engaged with a room full of over 300 journalists, financial and industry analysts and bloggers. He repeatedly overrode his PR folks and kept allowing more questions. He was humorous, sarcastic, respectful in turns. Given how tired he must have been after a draining keynote and other meetings, it was a masterful performance.
I worry about many aspects of Salesforce as a company, but it is a pleasure to see so many aspects of Marc as dynamic executive, mature industry leader and a passionate human being.