We are just a few weeks away from what has become my favorite event of the year: Cisco Live. I’ve been attending Cisco Live consistently for the last several years and this year I will be attending as a NetVet for the first time. What has kept me coming back year after year and, this time around, on my own dime and time? Well, there’s the World of Solutions where you can see all the new devices with the latest blinky lights, there are the incredible amount of brain melting tech sessions, the keynote sessions, and of course the much anticipated Customer Appreciation Event (really, it’s all about the hat). At the end of it all though, the reason I keep coming back year after year are the people I meet, both new and known, that are my peers in the industry.
The Year was 2008…
My first Cisco Live was in Orlando, FL in 2008. It was, in a word, overwhelming. So many people, so many sessions, and so much information coming at you. Others have said it’s like drinking from a firehose and I would agree completely. It was both awesome and intimidating (especially being of the introverted type as a lot of us are). Twitter and other social media platforms were in their infancy at the time and other than the CAE, WoS, and meeting with your account team it was hard to connect with people. You know how they say New York City is the place where you can be among millions of people at once but be utterly alone? Yeah, it was kind of like that just on a smaller scale.
Fast forward to Las Vegas in 2011, my second Cisco Live. By this time Twitter had become a medium that I had started using heavily to connect with my peers in the networking world. This time, after getting registration out of the way I met up with a few of the folks I had connected with on Twitter at a table in the lounge area just outside of registration. Over the course of the week this area became a meeting spot and focal point for those of us on Twitter to meet up, chat, see who was going to what session of awesomeness next. This area became known as Tom’s Corner – after Tom Hollingsworth (@networkingnerd) who, along with a few others, helped champion the power of social media to the conferencing team in charge of Cisco Live. The following year there was a dedicated social media lounge area.
Five years after my first Cisco Live I found myself back in the wonderful heat and humidity of Orlando, FL for Cisco Live 2013 (I missed 2012 in San Diego – long story). After registration my first stop was to the social media lounge area. It was like walking into a family reunion. I got to shake hands and exchange a few hugs with friends I hadn’t seen in a long while and met a lot of new people. A few people even noted my absence from the previous year’s event and said, “don’t do that again.” It made the whole experiencing that year that much richer. Since then I have made it a point to keep Cisco Live on my “must get to” list every year.
It’s All About the People
The reason I put so much emphasis on the people aspect is this: in an industry dominated by a majority of introverted personality types it’s incredibly hard for some of us to step outside of our comfort zone. Being at such a large event can be overwhelming (as was my first experience in 2008). The Social Media Hub provides an area meet and interact with new people, exchange ideas and war stories, or simply chill in between sessions. Stepping outside of our introverted shell and forming these connections can lead to many new things. I know of a few blogs and podcasts that got started this way (as well as a few career changes for folks). So, step outside of your comfort zone and interact.
Want to catch up? I’ll be at the Social Media Hub when I’m not in sessions. You can also follow me on twitter (@avalonhawk). See you all in San Diego soon!