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Most Innovative Meetings 2017: #14 Cisco Live

To add real-time engagement, organizers used social media to connect attendees with speakers.

By Martha C. White October 31, 2017, 5:51 AM EDT

The event offers in-person and virtual attendees a chance to connect with Cisco execs.

Photo: Sonia Savio

The tech world has changed considerably in the 28 years since Cisco launched its flagship Cisco Live conference, and the myriad ways people now connect and keep in touch present both challenges and opportunities—especially when it comes to embracing virtual attendees.

As part of a recent initiative to incorporate today’s social technology into attendee communication to create greater engagement with virtual attendees as well as those on site, the tech giant turned to social media communication tools to get the conversation going.

Using Cisco’s own Spark messaging platform, “we created virtual rooms for specific topics that people could become a part of—so before the event, you could start having a conversation with the speaker and other attendees,” said Kathy Doyle, Cisco’s director of global customer conferences.

With close to a million square feet of exhibit space and roughly 28,000 attendees who converged on Las Vegas in June, Doyle and her team needed to find ways to keep attendees from feeling like they were lost in the shuffle. “Because it’s such a large event, it’s very important to find ways to build more of those communities with our customers,” she said.

In addition, for the first time, Cisco used Facebook Live to broadcast the event’s keynotes so that Facebook followers could watch in real time.

Then, after the keynote presentations, “one of the things we did to leverage our virtual audience is we gave them custom, curated Q&As with Cisco leadership,” said Casey O’Looney, the company’s senior manager of global marketing.

Questions were solicited via LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook prior to the broadcast, then moved to the comments thread of the Facebook Live stream for immediate engagement. Although communicating via comment thread is nothing new for Reddit users participating in an “Ask Me Anything” interview, crowdsourcing a real-time conversation with company executives was groundbreaking for Cisco.

O’Looney explained that it strengthened both attendees’ connection to the event and to the company itself. The immediacy of responses from executives, she said, gave in-person and even remote attendees a greater sense of belonging.

“Anyone participating in the conversation feels seen and heard by the Cisco Live team,” she said.

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