At 19,000, Cisco Sets the New Bar for Business Critical Virtual Meetings and Events

  • 4 min read
  • Sep 30, 2009
At 19,000, Cisco Sets the New Bar for Business Critical Virtual Meetings and Events

Cisco Maps the Future for Collaboration and Marketing

It may not be the largest virtual event ever, but it was certainly the biggest for the virtual meeting industry. Cisco’s Global Sales Experience called “GSX” ran 24 hours a day for 4 days and educated, entertained and motivated some 19,000 employees in the Cisco global sales organization. Virtual Edge got a chance to visit the “war room” where Cisco, George P. Johnson, InXpo and jUXT Interactive teams worked together to produce this amazing event.

Had Cisco just moved from the physical event to a virtual event on one platform, well that would have been a huge task. Instead, they set out to create a completely customized event environment, produce and integrate an alternate reality game, and integrate Cisco’s WebEx technology as well as Cisco IPTV. Every aspect of theses integrated elements then had to be tied together on a data highway and that could track results of all elements of the experience.

“Every element of the experience had to be visually exciting and mentally stimulating,” said Chris Meyer, Senior Vice President and General Manager of George P. Johnson. “To be sure, this was not your typical virtual event. This was a true virtual experience that will set a new standard for the virtual event industry. Having a client like Cisco that was willing to break new ground and go where no-one has gone before was foundational to the success. “jUXT Interactive (a GPJ company) created multiple games that attendees could play and help to avoid fatigue but keep them in the environment. They also created “The Threshold” an alternate reality game that looked like a Hollywood production and the audience participation exceeded all projections.

GSX hosted attendees from 89 countries spanning 24 times zones. Although they opened the environment more than two week before the event and encouraged people to log in and get familiar with the navigation, features and functions, GPJ and Cisco had 3 global Contact Centers (running 24×7 on Cisco technologies) supporting the users (in the environment as well as via phone and email) and providing technical monitoring and support real-time.

“We knew we had to ensure this experience was not only visually beautiful, easy to use and fun but we knew we somehow had to ensure they were paying attention to the content we were delivering”, said Angie Smith, Manager, Global Sales Experience “This ultimate experiment and grass roots concept around engaging the field in an Alternate Reality game was highly interactive and pushed the power of the Internet”.

Potential technical challenges were assessed, mapped out and an action plan was developed prior to the experience to ensure immediate resolution could be achieved. In addition every aspect of the event had to be designed to accommodate the various levels of global Internet bandwidth. “What Cisco did here has never been done before,” noted Drew VanVooren, President of InXpo. “This is going to be a game-changing event for the meeting industry. Now that it has been done–and very successfully, the flood gates are going to open and companies are going to want to replicate this kind of success. The savings and ROI on this event has to be astronomical.”

“The pressure was on from the start to bring a sales force that was used to meeting in destination cities into a virtual environment that would really engage them and keep them coming back every day,” said Christine Castle, Director of Operations, Worldwide Sales Incentive & Engagement. . “Though there were a few speed bumps along the way, they were minor and we worked them out. Overall results were actually beyond our expectations. Our satisfaction scores have been very high.”

The event ended with a live presentation from John Chambers and other Cisco executives as well as a recognition ceremony. Sales leaders were recognized and received awards and special insignia’s that will be attached to their profiles and email signatures to constantly expand their recognition. Finally, there were the prize winners for people who had racked up the most points participating and contributing to the meeting as well as for the winner of the alternate reality game.

Here is a little summary of some of the stats that Cisco shared with us:

  • 88 hours of consecutive sessions crossing 24 time zones
  • More than 13,000 active players of “The Threshold”, alternate reality game
  • More than 8,000 participants in group chat within the Chat Zone
  • More than 9,500 playing GSX mini games
  • 90% cost savings
  • Content satisfaction scores comparative to previous events

Aftershocks from Cisco GSX –New Roadmaps to Business Value from Virtual Events

Cisco, one of the founding fathers of the Internet, is now weighing in on new ideas for how companies can reap big business value from virtual events and meetings. This might just be the tipping point in the emergence of virtual meetings and events as a business-critical tool for today’s companies. Vance McCarthy an analyst for the Virtual Edge Institute says the new model of vendor/customer collaboration, along with the immense scale of the GSX event will open new options, blueprints and roadmaps for a range of businesses – from F100 firms all the way to smaller SMBs.

In fact, he predicts that the impact of virtual event collaborations such as GSX may resemble what happened as eCommerce matured from Amazon to $10-a-month shopping carts. “In the early days of ecommerce, not everyone understood what the impact might be from an Amazon or an eBay, especially as there were technology pieces missing and the user experience wasn’t always perfect,” said McCarthy. “History shows that the companies that won the e-commerce fight were the ones that first embraced e-commerce as a core part of their business model, not the ones who waited to sign up for a web-based shopping cart years later for $10 bucks a month. Executives need to embrace the idea at the highest levels of the company now. ”