Last week Cisco Live! 2011 took place in Las Vegas, NV. This year was my first time attending the conference, and I am a bit amazed at my experiences looking back on the event now that it is over. In addition to the deep technical content the conference is best known for, I found more valuable benefits are afforded to attendees willing to take a more active role in the technical community.
Arguably, the most valuable aspect of the conference is the opportunity for professional development through interaction with influential members of the industry, both internal and external to Cisco. Professional networking provides a foundation for growth and success by drawing on the energy of a collective group of friends and associates who share similar ambitions and have a drive to be successful, enabling the group to move forward as a whole. Building communities within the industry is when the magic starts to happen. Joining these communities can provide access to shared knowledge, creation of new and exciting opportunities, leveraging of broader connections throughout the community, and promotion of valuable content, products, or services created by trusted members within the community.
Many of these communities begin as virtual communities, built on social media platforms such as Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and the rapidly growing Google+. These platforms enable greater access to members within the community, but must be used appropriately to be effective. Individuals trying to join the community must provide value to the larger collective and interaction must be genuine. A quote from a widely successful writer and blogger comes to mind…
Networking is always important when it’s real, and it’s always a useless distraction when it’s fake. – Seth Godin
Industry events, such as the Cisco Live! conference, bring the virtual community together allowing attendees to build on existing relations formed online and expand on them by providing more personal interaction, helping to form more meaningful relationships.
The conference provides organized formal opportunities for attendees to have direct access to internal Cisco resources who present many of the sessions, the ability to meet Cisco Press authors, interaction with experts one-on-one, and casual discussion during planned social events such as one of the many welcome receptions or the customer appreciation event.
The event also provides a great forum for informal virtual communities to self-organize and enhance the value of the event by networking with peers, discussing session content, exchanging unique perspectives, and gathering insight from experts across numerous technical fields. A large group of networkers that are active on Twitter organized ad-hoc ‘tweetups’ to do just that. Having been a member of this virtual community for some time, the opportunity to meet many of them face to face was invaluable and solidifies my trust and reliance on them, and on the broader community, as a valuable resource in my professional network. The ability to interact in more relaxed social settings after conference activities concluded during many of the days provided deeper friendship among many, and I would like to think that we have formed more lasting relationships among one another.
Our Twitter Networkers Group at Cisco Live! 2011
In fact, our group was so active in the event that we garnered the attention of a few conference organizers and even established an un-official tweetup table outside the registration area. We coined the table “Tom’s Corner” due to the most active organizer among us (Tom is in the Collaboration User’s Group, which is probably not a coincidence). By Wednesday night we had even garnered an exclusive tweetup section at the Customer Appreciation Event!
The use of social media during the event also allowed attendees to provide live session updates to the broader virtual community and incorporate real-time discussion and feedback during sessions Q&A periods. The feedback that I received was one of genuine gratitude for providing content to the broader community and the ability for others to be involved in the event even if they could not attend. In addition, social interaction between attendees at the conference was frequent, allowing live discussions within many sessions as well as access to content in alternate sessions occurring at the same time.
Cisco Live! provides a wealth of opportunities for individuals to grow their professional networks through personal interaction and to make networking ‘real’. Join the community and we’ll see you next year!
Note - This post originally appeared on the Cisco Blog on Mobility. Thank you to Scott Simkin for providing the opportunity to share my experiences with the broader Cisco audience!