Protestors disrupt Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer at Dreamforce '13

Summary:Benioff even rattled off advice, "If you want to protest, first go outside. Also, it's better to split up because then less people get arrested."

fd-marissa-meyer2

SAN FRANCISCO---It looked like it was going to be another lovefest on the Dreamforce main stage on Tuesday evening.

For an event that is scheduled and scripted down to the letter, Salesforce.com experienced a noticeable disruption when CEO Marc Benioff interviewed Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer today.

No, Salesforce's cloud didn't go down. (Although the Wi-Fi wasn't performing at its peak.)

The event got going with Benioff mostly showering praise on Mayer's tenure to-date as chief of the once beleaguered search engine. 

Reflecting that he first met Mayer when she worked for "another company" that he couldn't remember the name of, Benioff particularly credited Mayer's gift for "simplicity," hinting that has been key to Yahoo's dramatic turnaround.

Mayer thanked him, acknowledging that she doesn't actually play as much of a role in the design specifics as one might assume.

"You don't get to design the products, but you can design the organization," Mayer remarked.

But Mayer's appearance at Dreamforce wasn't all smooth sailing.

For starters, Mayer was more than 30 minutes late to the keynote stage at Moscone Center, implicitly forcing Benioff to stall and fill time with customer stories.

"You don't get to design the products, but you can design the organization," Mayer remarked.

Then about 10 minutes into the discussion, a group of high-pitched voices started yelling and chanting loudly from the back of the cavernous expo hall. Given that the messages the protesters were uttering were somewhat incoherent, it was difficult to determine who or what the protestors were targeting.

Earlier in the day, there was a small group of a few dozen protestors around Moscone Center, vocalizing opposition to the appearance of Sean Penn and Haitian Prime Minister Laurent Lamothe during the morning keynote session. The two were on-hand to describe how the Salesforce Foundation has contributed to relief efforts in Haiti since the 2010 earthquake in the Caribbean nation.

Nevertheless, both Mayer and Benioff looked flustered. Benioff, who typically demonstrates a natural talent for improv, took a few seconds to gather his thoughts, finally joking that everything was fine and he was sending Salesforce's "general counsel" over. 

Security guards escorted them out instead.

While the conversation shifted back to the elements of design and the mobile-first approach at Yahoo, the incident hung over the rest of the interview like the clouds in the rainy San Francisco sky outside.

At one point while describing her responsibilities lie more on the business rather than design side, Mayer shared that she, like Benioff, did not go to business school.

"I don't want any more protests on business school," Benioff quipped as the audience responded with laughter.

Benioff even rattled off advice, "If you want to protest, first go outside. Also, it's better to split up because then less people get arrested."

Yet even following his comments, loud cries could be heard just outside the keynote hall doors.

Topics: Cloud, Enterprise 2.0, Mobility, Salesforce.com, Social Enterprise

About

Rachel King is a staff writer for CBS Interactive based in San Francisco, covering business and enterprise technology for ZDNet, CNET and SmartPlanet. She has previously worked for The Business Insider, FastCompany.com, CNN's San Francisco bureau and the U.S. Department of State. Rachel has also written for MainStreet.com, Irish Americ... Full Bio

zdnet_core.socialButton.googleLabel Contact Disclosure

Kick off your day with ZDNet's daily email newsletter. It's the freshest tech news and opinion, served hot. Get it.

Related Stories

The best of ZDNet, delivered

You have been successfully signed up. To sign up for more newsletters or to manage your account, visit the Newsletter Subscription Center.
Subscription failed.