Cisco Unveils a Virtual Sales Meeting Strategy
Cisco’s Global Sales Experience (GSX) in 2009 was one of the industry’s largest—and boldest—virtual events of the year. In an effort to save costs (it was the height of the recession, after all), the company decided to transform its annual weeklong sales meeting from a real-world event with a 20-year history into a 100-percent virtual event for its 20,000-member sales force.
It was a tall order and despite its success, and a strong year two as a hybrid event, in year three, Cisco decided that a better balance of live and online experiences would be a savvier strategy for reconnecting, rewarding and reenergizing its sales team. The evolution took the form of a hub and spoke model, with a central live event in San Jose for the highest performers and dozens of satellite events at Cisco locations all over the world. The events were designed to deliver content virtually via the web (through a virtual environment), on mobile devices and through local in-person employee meetings worldwide.
The GSX experience began two weeks before the event with an invitation for attendees to participate in “The Hunt” alternate reality game. The multi-channel adventure unfolded in real time, both online and in the real world, and leveraged social media, the web and Cisco products as players joined global teams and played detective to solve the intricate puzzle. Plot points hinged on the use of Cisco products, as well as the creativity and collaboration of the players. Other gaming devices included a Symphonic Togetherizer music mash-up software and Head to Head Sudoku. Over the course of several days of live events, a customized mix of keynote presentations, entertainment including performances by Joss Stone and Steve Martin, breakout sessions, exhibitions and other forms of education, entertainment and networking unfolded. The content was made available live at satellite locations and recorded 24/7 and available via the web and mobile devices.
The satellite events delivered team recognition, helping local executives and managers reward superstar salespeople in front of their colleagues. Throughout, social media was a key element, allowing attendees to find content and network with one another while adding their own voice and perspective. A wide range of Cisco technology was integrated throughout the experience including WebEx, TelePresence, Digital Media Solutions, Enterprise Content Delivery System, Live Chat and microblogging apps that attendees used to communicate with each other within the virtual environment.
For the virtual side, Cisco brought in architects and graphic designers from all over the world who used Cisco products to work together to design the new environment that was built on the InXpo virtual platform. Finally, the brand’s custom social media platform, known as the Together App, ran online and on mobile devices and enabled attendees to interact with sessions and Cisco to collect evaluations and surveys for real-time insight into event content performance.
By the time the event wrapped, it had hosted 85 sessions in 1,100 conference rooms, in 168 locations, in 69 countries, covering 240 time zones over 101 event hours and seven days. A global sales experience, indeed.