Finding Value in Cisco Live 2018

The world famous Cisco Live Sign picture, 2018 edition

Another Cisco Live has come and gone. Overall it was a fun time for many. Catching up with friends. Meeting people for the first time. Enjoying the balmy Orlando weather. It was a chance to relive some great times for every one. But does Cisco Live 2018 dictate how the future of the event will go?

Packing The Schedule

Did you get a chance to attend any of the social events at Cisco Live? There were a ton. There were Tweetups and meet ups and special sessions galore. There was every opportunity to visit a lounge or area dedicated to social media presence, Boomerang videos, goofy pictures, or global outreach. Every twenty feet had something for you to do or some way for you to make an impact.

In fact, if you went to all of these things you probably didn’t have time for much else. Definitely not time for the four or five keynote addresses. Or a certification test. Or the classes and sessions. In fact, if you tried to do everything there was to do at Cisco Live, you’d probably not sleep the whole week. There’s almost as much stuff to do outside the conference sessions as there is to do in them.

But is it too much? Are the activities around the learning sessions taking away from the conference itself? Think about something like the Big Ideas theater this year. In theory, it’s a great way to get people to attend sessions that are not specifically related to tech. You can introduce new ideas, especially those that are focused more on changing the world. But you’re also competing for time away from sessions that are focused on new products or building better architectures.

Every booth in the World of Solutions is designed to draw you in and keep you there. For the sponsors of the event it’s important to have conversations about their products and solutions. For Cisco people, it’s almost like they’re competing with the sessions to give you different content or a chance to interview people. Is that how things should be? I can understand the desire of DevNet wanting to change the way people look at programmable networking, for example. But every other little booth like Cisco Advanced Services or the Emergency Response Vehicle? Those feel more like attractions designed to show off rather than educate.

Paying the Piper

And what does all this cost in the long run? Sure, I love having extra features around the conference as much as the next person. But to what end? Things don’t pay for themselves. Every conference has a budget. Every piece of entertainment and every showcase booth costs money in some way or another. And how does that all get paid for? By us, the attendees.

It’s no secret that attending conferences isn’t cheap. A full conference pass for Cisco Live is around $2,000. In the past, there were cheaper options for just attending for the people networking aspect of things. But, with the growth of DevNet and other “included” options at the conference, Cisco needed to find a way to pay for them this year.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time going into the Imagine Pass issue right now because I want to sit down and have an honest discussion with Cisco about the pros and cons of the approach. But it is very important that we examine what we’re getting for the increased cost. There has to be a significant value for people to want to be a part of the event if the costs go up. The way to do that is to create compelling reasons to want to be at Cisco Live.

The way not to do that is to lock the content behind gates. Some of the things at Cisco Live this year were placed in areas that were not easy to access. One of my personal pet peeves is the NetVet lounge. I’m going to start this off by saying that I was a NetVet for many years before I moved to Tech Field Day. I’m no longer a NetVet. However, until 2013 the NetVet lounge was one of the de facto social hangout places. Now, it’s another area where you can get coffee and snacks.

Why does the NetVet lounge bother me? Because of the placement. Front and center across the aisle from the on-site Cisco Store (which took the place of the Social Media hub from 2013). Why does the NetVet lounge get to be outside the World of Solutions? Aside from the historical reasons, I can’t think of a good reason. You need to have a full conference pass to achieve NetVet status. A full conference pass gets you into the World of Solutions. Why not have NetVets meet there?

The obvious reason is that the World of Solutions closes. Yet the NetVet lounge does too. And the hours are pretty similar. Why not move the NetVet lounge into the World of Solutions and give that space to the Social Media folks. There are no restrictions on getting into the Social Media Hub. Why not have them front and center? Again, aside from the “tradition” of having the NetVet lounge outside the World of Solutions I can’t think of a good reason.


Tom’s Take

I love Cisco Live. I realized this year that I’ve been to thirteen of them. Every year since 2006. The conference has changed and grown. The focus has shifted. But the people remain the same. With the changes in the way that the pass structure the people may not be there much longer. We, as IT professionals, need to decide what’s important and give some feedback. We need to make it constructive and honest. Point out what works and what doesn’t. Don’t whine, but offer direct criticism. We can only make the conference we want by telling the people what we need. That’s how you make Cisco Live a place to be for now and for the future.

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