We’ve been closely following the Cisco GSX event for the last two years as Angie Smith, Senior Manager, Global Sales Experience, Cisco Systems and team went from a 20,000 person physical global sales meeting lasting weeks to a completely virtual event in the course of just six months. Having successfully pulled off arguably one of the largest virtual meeting in history last year, the team came back in 2010 with another innovation…a hybrid event with a twist.
The Global Sales Experience (GSX) 2010 has taken the engagement to the next level as a hybrid event, delivering both online connection as well as face-to-face experiences through an innovative hub-and-spoke model that promises again to change the way organizations communicate their vision for the future and inspire employees to action. At Virtual Edge, we think of this as a model of “connected events” where multiple satellite events are taking place some at the same time and others tuning in and out based on time zones and local programming. Check out the GSX 2010 planning and design video.
Over 21,000 attendees connected throughout the globe via their computer and in 1,100 conferences rooms representing 162 Cisco offices. The event included live staging and production in 4 cities in various regions in the world. This connected event managed to outscore the physical-only event in some cases including overall speaker ratings. That is quite a feat considering the event had over 100 live sessions totaling over 130 hours.
“Getting so many people to go to our conference rooms was a huge, very difficult undertaking,” said Smith. “But in the end it was all worth it and although the attendee experience varied tremendously based on the office, equipment and Internet, our initial read is that people really loved it although being sales people, they still ask about the physical version of the global meeting. What’s interesting though is that our speaker ratings we’re higher than we have ever scored with a 4.74 out of 5. So that combined with the lack any technical issues even with more than 10,000 people downloading video and files at the exact same time, and an integration of eight different systems (collaboration portal, virtual platform, registration, WebEx, gaming, Cisco TV, etc.) all with single sign on…we’ll we think we have it down now.”
“We were excited to be a part of the launch of GSX last year but this year, the team blew it out of the water,” said Kenny Lauer, Vice President Digital Experience at George P. Johnson. “The Cisco team again upped the bar well beyond anything any virtual or hybrid event has ever attempted and it is a huge success. Last year’s event was amazing but this year jumped it to a whole new level.”
Using Cisco’s many global Cisco TV studios allowed the producers to bring in internationally recognized technology architects and allowed for global collaboration. The theme of the event was “Together We Can” and had a strategic framework that helped to drive alignment around the Cisco messages and produce measurable business value to the company.
Cisco used the InXpo virtual environment platform while integrating in several Cisco technologies including WebEx and TelePresence. The virtual environment was developed and designed with help from George P. Johnson, jUXT Interactive and Tim Fink Events & Media worked on the physical aspects of the events. The rich design elements and alternate reality game helped drive engagement over the 7-day event as did the “Together App” an enterprise mobile platform that allowed attendees to microblog and connect via mobile devices, fill out surveys, and check into session.
“This was another ground breaking event for the industry from Cisco. A hybrid experience with a virtual hub that integrated several systems to support a unique, highly interactive global engagement,” said Chris Meyer, Executive Vice President of InXpo. “It was also one of the most ambitious experiences we’ve seen so far and to see it all come together flawlessly was a tribute to the efforts of everyone involved and to Cisco’s bold leadership”.
“Now that the event aspect of GSX has concluded, we’re focusing on keeping the environment, content and communication alive.” said Smith. “We are looking at this as a 365 day a year engagement strategy with rich resources that are easy to keep updated and easy for the sales organization to locate. We launched our community around the event using a Cisco environment called IWE (soon to be QUAD) and now, with the sales organization being consolidated in communities around the solutions that they sell, there is more collaboration and the great thing is that instead of just picking up a phone and talking to someone, now they are posting and chatting and the information is being kept, updated and is available for everyone to share. That’s why we’ve seen adoption more than double. It’s really going viral as they realize everything is now in one place.”
Angie Smith is one of the featured speakers at the Virtual Edge Summit 2011 (January 12-13 in Las Vegas and online) where she will share the GSX experience in case study and discuss what Cisco has learned about multi-day internal sales meetings. She’ll look at why and how Cisco has managed to shift this giant physical event to a hybrid and save tens of millions of dollars while delivering on the primary business objectives of educating, connecting and motivating their massive global sales organization.