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Cisco recently hosted its annual Strategic Leadership Offsite where about 3,000 members of Cisco’s leadership team gather to prepare for our upcoming fiscal year. Typically we get together in a place like Monterey, Calif., or San Francisco. It’s always a good time and an important milestone in aligning Cisco’s leaders around our key priorities for the next year. This year, owing to the challenging economic times, we at Cisco decided to host this strategic gathering virtually and eliminate all travel. We were nervous that a virtual event would be less compelling and motivational, especially during these uncertain times. As it turns out, these concerns were unfounded. In fact, we learned that you achieve equal or better results virtually. And of course, going virtual had a dramatic impact on how green this event would be.Even factoring in the power consumption of our collaboration technologies (TelePresence, WebEx, Unified Communications) to pull off this event, Cisco reduced the carbon footprint of this meeting by 90 percent. By eliminating most of the planes, trains and automobiles of the employees attending, we were able to reduce the event’s carbon emissions from 45 tons to 4 tons. Attendees to the event saw a 90% reduction in their travel and each attendee gained on average 11 hours of time back on their schedules. It turns out that video is the killer tool for making a virtual event possible. Over a three day period, 3,000 Cisco leaders downloaded in excess of 40,000 videos featuring the senior leaders of Cisco describing our priorities and opportunities for the next fiscal year. Most importantly, our satisfaction scores for this virtual leadership offsite were as good as, if not slightly better, than when we hosted the event in a physical environment. Finally, Cisco saved about $3 million by hosting the event virtually. Now that’s what I’d say is the “triple crown” of pulling off a world-class event: lower carbon emissions, higher participant satisfaction, dramatic cost savings.The travel and event business around the world is a giant business — in excess of $100 billion a year — and yet it is one that produces tremendous carbon emissions associated with the travel to and from these events. I think the future will see this industry completely re-invented. Cisco will never return to doing this event physically. The value proposition of the event triple crown is too compelling. It’s not often that you save money and reduce emissions while being happier. What’s your plan for next event? Are you ready for the triple crown?

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