Cisco Live, London–Wrap Up

IMG_0228Now that the event is over, and everyone is safely back to their normal lives, I wanted to send up a quick recap of the conference.  If this event was a precursor to how the VCE 2012 event schedule is going to go, I’m very excited!

Before each event, the marketing team puts together targets for the show: number of in-booth scans, number of surveys submitted, number of in-booth presentation attendees, number of labs taken.  Much like a sales target, the better we do, in relation to the size of the show, the higher the bar gets.  When you consistently have greater than half of a conference’s attendees make their way to your booth, that’s a big deal, and we certainly hit that target in London.  In fact, we exceeded every target that was set for us by at least 25%, so I’ll be very interested to see where they set them for Cisco Live Melbourne!

IMG_0253For those of you who don’t know, VCE has one of the more grueling booth schedules that I’ve been part of.  We try to do a booth presentation every 15 minutes, covering a wide range of topics from vCloud Director integration to M&O to the core Vblock value deck.  From a practical standpoint, this puts a lot of pressure on the booth staff!  The marketing team has to be constantly working to pull people into the booth, and the technical team has to be ready for anything.  With a live Vblock in the booth, there are constantly people coming up to ask questions of varying complexity, and with a second Vblock in the EMC booth and the VPLEX demo that we did multiple times a day, we had to provide some coverage over there as well.  In addition, we have questions to field after every booth presentation, we have questions from partners to handle, and this year we added the hands-on-labs as well, all of which leads to very, very full days.  Throw in setup and tear down of the booth, and it’s a series of 12 to 16-hour days, most of it on your feet.  Even the after-hours “fellowship” is muted at shows since everyone is generally too tired to party (much) and dreading the next morning’s early start.  The international shows add a dash of jetlag to the mix just to make things fun!

IMG_0239As someone who has been part of the majority of the significant marketing events for VCE over the last 18 months, it’s funny sometimes to hear about comments made by people who have never attended a show.  When I hear managers describing it as a “reward” for employees, or as “personal development” it makes me laugh.  In the dozen or so shows that I’ve been part of, I’ve never once attended a general session that wasn’t being given by a VCE employee.  I’ve only gotten to see a handful of keynotes.  I rarely get to attend the customer appreciation parties.  What I do get to do, along with the rest of the core team, is work for weeks preceding a show to get the content and presentations together and approved.  We get to spend hours and hours building lab configurations, maintaining lab equipment, working with 3rd party co-location facilities to ensure bandwidth availability and doing the capital acquisition dance to make sure we have equipment for the booth.  We get to spend days before the conference getting the event Vblocks (named Bert, Ernie and Elmo, for those of you interested) configured and ready for shipping.  We get to fly in early, usually on a weekend that should be spent with our families, and get the booth set up.  We get to work 16 hour days, living out of a hotel, for a week.  We struggle to maintain any semblance of diet or sleep pattern.  And then we put all that aside and spend three or four days being the literal face of the company and our products.  Professional development my ass!

IMG_0257Of course, those of us that do it, love it.  At this point, I feel like we share ownership of the events with the marketing team, since we all spent the last year figuring out how to make them successful together.  With the introduction of the hands-on-labs that feeling of ownership only increases for me personally.  It’s so gratifying to see something that was built in-house end up standing in front of customers.  The feedback from the 25 people who went through the UIM3.0 lab was fantastic, and hopefully we’ll have two or three more available in Melbourne!  It’s hard work, and I know that realistically I won’t be able to attend every event, but when you get such a great team to work with, and you get to see the feedback from inside and outside the company, it makes everything worth it.

And man, what a team it is.  Starting at the top, Harris Sussman and Ruya Barrett understand the importance of the events to VCE, and do a great job of providing air cover to those of us working the event.  Jeff Lesniak did a great job and not only got his first event under his belt, but handled the triple-whammy of Cisco Live, VCE sales training and the VCE Finsbury Circus office grand opening better than anyone expected.  I’m very much looking forward to having Jeff involved in upcoming events.  Mary Martinez started the week sick, but thanks to some magic European cough medicine she finished strong.  Her strong sense of what she wants the events to be like and how she wants things done rubs off on everyone, plus she does an excellent job of taking care of her team, making things as easy as they can be on us!

On the technical side, the core of Jae Ellers and Tom Chatham, along with Kenny Coleman, Aaron Delp, Steven Bryen and others really form the heart of the show for us.  Yes, it’s marketing, but these are all very, very technical folks who have full time jobs with other groups within VCE.  They bring the real-world context to the show for the customers, and I think that’s one of the huge differentiators for us.  Sure, we have giveaways, and we have cool schwag, but we bring more high-level technical resources on a regular basis to every show than any other company out there.  Ask hard questions, folks, we have the firepower in the booth to handle it, I promise!

Looks like Melbourne is next, and I can’t wait.  It’ll be my first trip to Australia, and I can’t wait to meet everyone.  Plus, I’m tired of winter already, and late-summer sounds much better!  Thank you to everyone who supported the VCE team in London, it really means a lot!