Cisco Live 2013 in Orlando is in the books. I’m sitting in the airport once again thinking about what made this year so special. It’s interesting to see the huge number of people coming to events like this. All manner of folks that want to see what Cisco is bringing to the market as well as those that want to talk to the best and brightest in the networking world.
I arrived on Saturday afternoon after taking a direct flight from Tech Field Day 9 in Austin. I made sure to pack a few extra clothes to be sure I’d have something to wear in the Orlando heat. As soon as I arrived and checked into my hotel, I headed down to the registration desk. Once I picked up my NetVet badge, I headed right next door to the Social Media Hub:
This area has grown substantially since its introduction at Cisco Live 2012. And when you consider that my original meet up area was a corner table with three chairs, you can help but feel awed at this presentation. I was very impressed to see the lounge aspect fully realized and the ample amount of seating provided a great place for attendees to hang out between sessions. Many of the Twitter folks at Cisco Live like Justin Cohen (@Grinthock) and Patrick Swackhammer (@swackhap) even used the Social Media Hub to watch the keynote addresses and comment on Twitter as they happened. They might have even exceeded their tweet count for a given time period and gotten silenced. It was impressive to see social media being used as the primary method of giving feedback during these big events.
Speaking of social media, the Sunday evening tweetup was a huge success. We had more than 50 people packed into our little corner of the Social Media Hub enjoy good conversation and amazing company. We even got a surprise visit from the former host of Cisco Live, Carlos Dominguez (@carlosdominguez), who stopped by to chat for a bit. We had a chef making Cherries Jubilee along with all the caffeinated and sugary snacks that one could hope for. I jumped on a chair to say a quick “thank you” to all those that attended. Events like this are the way to show the higher ups at Cisco how important social media is to a coherent and vibrant business strategy going forward.
Transportation seemed to be a commonly discussed theme at the event this year, though not usually in a positive manner. While the hotel shuttle system was keeping up rather well with demand and even offered in-bus wifi connectivity, the whole system seemed to break down when forced to cope with large numbers. The CCIE party on Tuesday and Customer Appreciation Event (CAE) on Wednesday both had large numbers of folks waiting for a very small number of buses. The most commonly heard explanation was heavy traffic around the convention center. I would love to believe that, but the fact that a few hundred people were standing around in the oppressive Florida humidity waiting for one of the dwindling spots on the few running buses was what I remember more than anything else. While San Francisco is a much friendlier city for walking I’d rather avoid the issues from this year.
The best part of Cisco Live is the people. I rekindled so many outstanding friendships this year and made quite a few new ones as well. I was astounded at the number of people that would stop me in the hallway to say hello or thank me for writing. Almost everyone was appreciative of the input that I gave into all the social media events. Truth be told, I didn’t really do that much. I helped out with a couple of things here and there, but for the most part I let the incredible Cisco Live Social Media team led by Kathleen Mudge (@KathleenMudge) do everything possible to make the experience amazing. I just wrote a blog post or two about things. If anyone deserves credit, it’s them.
I think Cisco is finally starting to get it when it comes to social media. They are pulling out al the stops to enhance the experience through meeting spaces, additional access, and even real time information gathering. For once, it wasn’t an airbrushed tattoo that announced me to the world of Cisco Live 2013. It was this tweet about hotel wifi:
Others such as Blake Krone (@BlakeKrone) got their tweets in the keynotes as well. VMware has always had an edge when it comes to social media in my opinion. This year, Cisco closed that gap considerably. Some of the conversations that I had with decision makers highlighted the ability to involve large numbers of people in a very personal way. Those influencers then spread the word to others in an honest and genuine manner. They are the soul of Cisco Live.
I’m already starting to plan for Cisco Live 2014 in San Francisco. I plan on putting up a poll in the coming months so we can plan a time for the big sign picture instead of leaving it until the last minute. I want to involve everyone I can in submitting suggestions to the Cisco Live Social Media team. Anything you can think of to enhance the experience for everyone will go a long way to making the event the best it can be. From the bottom of my heart I want to say “thank you” to everyone at Cisco Live. See you next year in San Fran!