(This is a followup from my previous post on our virtual sales meeting.)
It’s been several weeks since we assembled more than 19,000 sales people virtually for Cisco’s annual sales meeting. Cisco broke new ground for the sheer size of this virtual event, as well as the creative combination of technologies that included TelePresence, WebEx, IPTV and a very engaging Alternate Reality Game (ARG) called “The Threshold”.
I have to admit, like most of my peers, I had reservations about changing something that has been around prior to me joining Cisco 17 years ago. We were significantly altering a well established in-person event that for many of uswas the pinnacle of the sales year. It’s an event of grand proportions ….and cost. The goals of these annual meetings are to educate, share, interact, motivate and inspire the sales teams. This was a tall order to fill -- especially with an event of this size. We were entering into uncharted waters …and I packed my life preserver.
- Participants from 89 countries spanning 24 times zones
- 3 global Contact Centers (running 24x7 on Cisco technologies) supporting the users (in the environment as well as via phone and email) and providing technical monitoring and support real time
- 88 hours of consecutive sessions crossing 24 time zones
- More than 13,000 active players of the alternate reality game (ARG) “The Threshold”. We were expecting around 7,000
- More than 8,000 participants in group chat within the “Chat Zone”
- More than 9,500 playing mini games
- Satisfaction scores for the sessions comparative to previous events
- Offset 84,400 metric tons of carbon dioxide
- 90% cost savings
- 90% cost savings (no, this isn’t a typo, which is why I’m repeating it.). This includes the millions of air miles saved from not flying everyone around!
What worked really well
- Salesforce education - I thought this venue was a better vehicle than the in-person event for education. The combination of presentations and technical sessions via video, chat, discussion forums -- and especially the games -- really reinforced learning in a much more interactive way. It also allowed me to learn at my own pace…SLOOOW.
- Theater scores were the same as in-person events for content. This is pretty amazing in my book. I actually thought the content presented was richer in this environment.
- We pushed the boundaries of technology in a new and creative way. I really love this about Cisco, always trying to innovate!
- Lots of interest in the game. We had MORE people participate than we expected…and many were SMARTER than the designers (finding clues in the ARG much faster, and easier, than we expected.)
- Global Command Center monitored issues and responded to them quickly.
- Flexibility - format allowed for you to view anything you missed in a “non real-time” VoD. This came in handy on two of the days when I was committed to speaking at an event. I missed the live broadcast but got a chance to see the VoD later in the day.
- Save a substantial amount of money.
What challenges we saw
A small percentage of participants experienced difficulty joining the event. This was not unexpected and these issues were worked via the command center. I am happy to say that I didn’t experience any technical issues other than pilot error on my end …that too was expected. :)
I think the greatest challenges to overcome are all in the human dynamics arena. People missed seeing their colleagues. These are sales people after all and they like connecting with people. Several mentioned it wasn’t as inspirational as when you’re there in person and John Chambers live is always the highlight of the sales meeting. I would agree that I did miss seeing my friends in person and the personal human interaction.
My impressions and closing thoughts:
My overall experience with the virtual venue was quite positive. I thought the team did an incredible job on creating an experience that was visually beautiful, easy to navigate, rich in content, engaging and interactive. The games, especially “The Threshold”, were over the top cool and forced you to learn and collaborate in a fun and exciting way.
Yes, I did miss my friends and colleagues but at 10% the cost of an in-person event, the increase in productivity by eliminating the time loss due to travel, and the positive impact on the environment, I have a feeling we’ll be seeing a lot more of these kinds of events in the future. If you go back to one of our key goals of educating the team, I think this format yields better results than an in-person event. As a matter of fact, the event has opened my eyes and I believe that gaming and ARGs will play a significant role in the way we learn in the future. Why can’t learning be fun and interactive and …a game.
I don’t think we’ll ever be able to replace the human need for live interaction (maybe with holograms) but at 10% the cost I have a feeling a lot more people will take this kind of technology for a spin. I want to congratulate the entire team that worked countless hours to pull this off and I really appreciate the risk taken and the innovation delivered. Job well done!
In reply to many of your comments, I’ve been working with the team to give you a feel for what it was like to play “The Threshold”. I’ll post a blog next week specifically about the game and give you a flavor for what it was like to play the ARG.
Until then …remember the E.L.L. process -- experiment with new technology, learn from the experience, and of course, leverage. Hasta luego amigos!