Cisco Live, London–Day 1: Calvinball

imageHave you ever read the Calvin and Hobbes comic strips?  I grew up with them, and am a huge fan.  One of my favorite recurring things in the series was the concept of “Calvinball”, which was their way of rebelling against the rules they were surrounded by every day.  The only rules were that there were no rules, and you couldn’t play it the same way twice.

Well, I’ve come to realize that day one of a major marketing event is much like a real-life game of Calvinball: it never comes off as you expected it to, you never have the same challenges twice and the best way to get through it is to laugh, go with the flow and enjoy it!

Upload-2_1_12-11.13.28-AMVCE is one of the platinum sponsors of Cisco Live in London (and Melbourne, and in the US) and our booth is fantastic.  The theater area is expanded, and we regularly had 30-50 people crowded around to hear about topics presented by VCE partners, employees and customers.  For the first time we also have two hands-on-lab stations where customers can get a self-paced walkthrough of the new version of our UIM/P provisioning a discovery tool.  In addition we have all the usual stations, including one with partner information, one with VDI solutions and more.  The event marketing team at VCE has done their usual bang-up job with the logistics.

Of course, day one is barely-organized chaos.  With one of our main event coordinators in her hotel bed with the flu, and with the rest of the team cutting their teeth in London, it was up to those of us who have been through the gauntlet before to settle things down pre-show.  Since my field enablement team (with the incomparable Jae Ellers and Tom Chatham) have done a number of these, we were able to get things moving.  Of course, some things are out of our control…

Upload-2_1_12-11.08.00-AMFirst presentation of the day, by Colt, one of our great Service Provider customers no less, and the power goes out to the whole booth.  The event staff gets things back in order quickly, and then we realize that the power cycle has wiped out the configuration on the Cisco-provided internet switch that is powering the hands-on-labs (copy run start is your friend, people). 20 minutes later the Cisco team gets that resolved, only to find out that there’s some issue upstream from us that’s affecting multiple exhibitors.  After about an hour, everything is back in working order and we can finally start settling into a groove…

But of course there are more issues.  iPads that haven’t been configured correctly, surveys that are a little tricky to submit, booth presentations that seem to have disappeared, booth personnel that seem to have disappeared, all of the day one things that could be issues, were issues.  Hey, it is the first event of the year, maybe we just got everything out of the way early, right?

Once we did get things settled down, the rest of the day ended up being great!  So many customers, so many people wanting to talk technology, strategy, positioning, convergence… The traffic stream through the booth was overwhelming at times, even with the team we had there to handle it, and by 2:00pm or so I was reminded why the marketing events are so important in our industry.  No where else could we reach so many people in such a short amount of time.

Upload-2_1_12-11.14.36-AMTwo final things about day one before I get back to work.  First, Amy Lewis is awesome, and the entire Cisco Social Media presence is impressive.  The amount of energy she puts into everything is amazing, and while there are many cool things they are doing, the Cisco Services pinball machine is my favorite.  Of course I also have the high score, so I’m biased.  Aaron Delp talked a big game, but not even his vaunted foot kick could push him into the top spot…

Finally, most of you have probably see the Tweet and picture by now, but we had one of the NetApp FlexPod engineers come over from the booth next door and ask to run through the UIM hands on lab, which of course I was fine by me.  I’m not sure of the gentleman’s name, but over the course of the next hour we had a great conversation about the converged infrastructure market and management and orchestration stacks and he even made some suggestions for how we could improve the lab itself which I’ll have in place before the next event.  Sure, it was funny to have someone from NetApp asking to go through the lab, but it was a cool move by a smart engineer, and I think everyone came away better and more educated for it.  He was definitely a credit to his employer, and if there is anyone else who wants to come over and walk through UIM, please just let me know!

Day 2 is about to start (thank goodness for long cab rides…) so I’ll sign off here.  If you are at the event, please swing by the booth and say hi!