This has been an incredibly busy year for me. It’s almost halfway through 2014 and I’ve already spoken at or attended at least a dozen live events and conferences. I believe that showing up for these in-person opportunities is a key to succeeding in whatever you are pursuing, because strong relationships are foundational for a prosperous business and life.
When my friend, Bryan Kramer, invited me to be in a select group of twenty people who would be VIP Social Influencers at Cisco’s annual customer appreciation event, Cisco Live, it didn’t take me very long to say yes.
While I am very much a fan of technology, I must confess that I know very little about networks and the industry surrounding what Cisco does. But knowing I would be around some old friends and have the opportunity to meet many new friends, I practiced what I preach and I showed up.
I’m really glad I did because Cisco Live was a fantastic event, not only due to the people I got to hang out with, but also because of what I observed at the event itself. Here’s my quick recap of my experience at Cisco Live 2014.
I arrived in San Francisco just in time for the opening keynote at Moscone Center featuring Cisco CMO Blair Christie and CEO John Chambers. The 25th event of its kind, over 27,000 attendees were treated to the theme “Tomorrow Starts Here”.
Unified around the idea of “The Internet of Everything”, a term which embraces everything that ties together big data across the cloud and global network of computers and mobile devices, the conference sought to demonstrate how Cisco and their partners are using technology for everyone to do business, and life, and in a more effective way.
I have to be honest. Much of what is discussed at a tech conference like this goes over my head. I don’t really care how packets are sent from point A to point B. I don’t understand much about how routers or the cloud work. I’m just glad they do work!
But John Chambers did a great job keeping much of the audiences attention and helped set the tone for the event. Meanwhile, my fellow VIP Influencers and myself were busy taking pictures and tweeting away using the hashtag #CLUS.
When we left the keynote, we were greeted by the sound of music. Featuring a traveling band that you would only find someplace like San Francisco, let’s just say that the experience was… unusual.
Want to see what this looked and sounded like in real time? Buckle in…
I moved on to the expo hall, which was titled World of Solutions.
Approximately 250 vendors, including a very prominent booth belonging to Cisco, dominated the floor space. Tchotkes and knick-knacks a-plenty were on hand to draw people to the various booths, not to mention the promise of winning a variety of high-tech prizes.
One of the first things I noticed about the expo hall stood out from other expo halls I’ve been in. There was no short supply of both food and beverage. In other words, Cisco spared no expense in making sure their attendees were well-taken care of. Food buffets and adult beverage stations (aka: bars) were scattered through the entire Moscone South exhibit hall.
As a vendor, you’ve got to love this. People are drawn into your expo hall and they are enjoying themselves. It makes for a much easier conversation flow.
Being near dinner, I had no problem enjoying a glass of red wine with my new friend, Dave Cox. (Photobomb courtesy of Courtney Smith Kramer)
After enjoying a meal and a drink, the group of influencers was invited to closed reception at the W Hotel. We had an opportunity to be welcomed by Heather Henderson Thomas, our liaison at Cisco.
You may wonder what the role of a VIP social influencer is at an event like this? Well, in a micro-managed capacity they may be told what to post, when to post, how to post, where to post, why to post and who to post about.
That simply wasn’t the case at this event. Kramer and his team knew that if they invited people who used social media as an extension of their own personality, posts and tweets would happen in an organic fashion, without anyone being told what to do.
That’s exactly what happened. More about the results later in this entry.
Of course, we were treated to more food and beverages. I was impressed at the social media reach of the people in the room. But more impressive was the variety of backgrounds and specialties that each of these people brought to the table.
I can’t name everyone in the room, but other VIP Influencers included Steve Farnsworth, Neal Schaffer, Ted Rubin, Brian Moran, Adam Helweh, Chris Heuer, Janet Fouts, Robin Fray Carey, Todd Wilms, Mitra Sorrells, Shel Israel and Ajay Ramachandran. I felt privileged to be among this group of influencers. And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, I am linking to people’s Twitter accounts so you can easily follow them.
My apologies to the other influencers who were on hand that I didn’t mention. We didn’t get to spend much time together and I hope to get to know you more at a future event.
Here I am with Shel Israel and Ted Rubin, two of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet.
The following day the influencers were invited to a special luncheon to here from the people at Cisco who make Cisco Live happen. There are a lot of moving parts at an event of this size, and the women who pull it all off are truly amazing.
As I walked the expo floor, I took advantage of acquiring cool swag and grabbing some fun shots. A few companies were giving away swords or sabers, so Bryan Kramer and I took the opportunity to mug for the camera while entering to win a prize from #CiscoPowered. Which Jedi will triumph?
Here’s an all-too-common scene when you get a bunch of social media people together. Phones out, tweets firing off!
A number of us grabbed dinner at Historic John’s Grill, requesting a table for … well, for a lot of us. Real relationships are forged over meals. Discussion takes place, and with a group like this, there is a lot of laughter. The meal was fantastic, made all the better by the company we kept.
What to do after such a great meal? Karaoke, of course!
The pledge was that there would be no video (though there are a couple of clips out there somewhere.) I do , however, have some evidence that it happened. Yeah, I cut loose just a little. Let’s just say my voice wasn’t the same the next morning.
In in this photo I reveal Brian Moran, Bryan Kramer and Adam Helweh belting out a tune. Needless to say, much fun was had and no one was harmed.
As the person responsible for heading up the Influencer program, Bryan Kramer was charged with interviewing many of the influencers on locations. Cisco had an incredibly professional production team to film video, manage sound and handle operations. Here I am having the shine taken off my face so I would look better on camera. Too bad she couldn’t remove the double-chin.
Here’s my brief interview with Bryan.
If something looked interesting to me, I stopped to ask questions. When I saw an Oculus Rift being used to demonstrate how technicians could enter a virtual world to manage servers, I knew I had to give it a try. I was disappointed that I couldn’t shoot anything in the virtual world, but I did walk away impressed.
Here’s my interview with the software developer while Bryan tried it on for size.
And impressive was once again the word to emphasize as Cisco provided lunch outdoors for everyone in the beautiful buena Yerba Gardens, just across the street from the conference center.
Music played on a perfect Spring day as we choose from a variety of box lunches.
Speaking of impressive, I saw something else at Cisco Live which other event hosts should take note of.
Positioned just outside the main exhibit hall where it could not be missed, this is where Cisco’s social media team kept busy tracking all mentions of the event. Attendees were instructed to use the hashtag #CLUS or #CiscoLive, which made it simple for the social media team to keep an eye on all the tweets that were being sent out.
With 27,000 people in attendence and more than 200,000 watching the keynotes streamed remotely, the sheer number of tweets made their task a daunting one.
The screens at the Social Media Hub displayed photos that were posted along with the accompanying tweet. The team would select tweets to highlight along with the tweeters profile picture. Mine showed up a number of times, as did the other influencers. After all, that’s why we were there!
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I used Uber half a dozen times to get around in San Francisco and I absolutely loved it.
So what’s happening here below? Well, lets just say that riding along with Adam and Dave was a bit different from an Uber. 😉
Wednesday night, Cisco held a customer appreciation event at AT&T Park, where the San Francisco Giants play baseball. Essentially, they rented out the entire stadium for the evening and treated us all to a live concert featuring Lenny Kravitz and Imagine Dragons.
Of course, the food and beverages were top-notch, especially for the influencers who got to enjoy the Club level amenities.
And as you can see, the concert was very festive. Party hats were distributed. The dugout was open for us to sit in. And we basically roamed wherever we wanted to enjoy the show and the great company. Suffice to say we had a blast.
Below in the dugout from left to right –> Me, Brian Moran, Bryan Kramer, Adam Helweh, Tim Washer
More pictures of the crew having a good time… this time with Courtney Smith Kramer, Kevin Ferlin and Serena Shnayer Carlson in on the fun.
Here’s a brief clip of Imagine Dragons concluding the show with their hit song, Radioactive. Notice the fireworks behind the stage? Well done, Cisco. Well done.
I made one more visit to the show floor Thursday morning before departing because #CiscoPowered tweeted that I had won a Bose Bluetooth Minispeaker worth $200. Who doesn’t like winning something?
In summary, Cisco knows how to put on an event. Granted, they’ve had twenty-five years to master it, but an event of this magnitude is no small undertaking.
Everything ran incredibly smooth. If there were glitches, they were handled professionally and without much ado. With team members staffed for blocks outside the convention center and more than enough on hand inside Moscone Center, there was always someone to assist within sight.
It was fantastic to be a part of the VIP Influencer team. I want to thank Bryan Kramer for inviting me to be a part of an experience that I will not forget.
The Cisco Live social media team tracked over 286,000,000 impressions of tweets created by those who used a hashtag from the event.
The influencer community of twenty was responsible for over 30,000,000 of those impressions! So essentially, twenty people made up more than 10% of the impressions in an audience of over 27,000 people. And that’s just counting tweets, not Facebook, Google Plus, Instagram or other social networks.
I believe the Cisco Live social media team and Bryan Kramer and his team at PureMatter.com can say “mission accomplished”!
What impressed me most about the group I was with was the humility and openness. While each one is very successful in their own right, I didn’t sense any pretentiousness. Instead, I was surrounded by genuinely caring, giving individuals who knew how to keep it real.
At the beginning of this entry I mentioned how events were essential because of the relationships that can result when you “show up.” I’m pleased to say that I deepened existing relationships and made a number of new friends at Cisco Live. For me, that’s priceless.
Were you at Cisco Live 2014 or do you just wish you were? Be sure to leave your comments below!