Cisco Americas Sales Leadership Offsite: 3-Day Event Energizes And Aligns A Dispersed Team
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As the largest of Cisco’s three geographic regions, the Americas drives approximately $37 billion in annual sales for the company. Americas SVP Rachel Barger leads a diverse and dynamic team spanning 17 countries and six organizational theaters.
Historically, the Americas Sales Leadership Offsite (ASLO) had brought together the organization’s senior leaders each year to energize, align goals, and map vision with execution for the coming year.
The COVID pandemic kept the annual ASLO on hiatus for three years. A year into her role as Cisco Americas SVP, Barger knew it was time to bring her executive leadership team together in person.
The post-pandemic ASLO, if done correctly, would clearly establish the direction and tone of her leadership. The ideal event would build critical thinking and collaboration among Americas Sales executives, and create memorable experiences for a geographically dispersed team.
Barger’s senior leadership team would need an event partner who could hit all those marks and do so on a tight timeline, with little more than two months to plan and execute.
From pre-event venue sourcing to post-event communications, this would be a massive lift.
Cisco selected Lightspeed to provide full event planning, management, production, and creative elements for the three-day event.
Having established trust with Lightspeed on previous events and marketing projects, Cisco took a mostly hands-off approach to let Lightspeed run with this event. Barger’s chief of staff served as the liaison between Lightspeed and the Americas executive leadership team.
Among the many highlights:
Choose The Right Venue To Set The Event’s Tone
Lightspeed handled all venue sourcing and logistics. Selecting the right environment to set the tone, Lightspeed recommended a boutique hotel in New Orleans near the French Quarter. The hotel’s French Art Deco vibe immersed guests in the city’s history and culture.
Briana Fahmie, Program and Events Lead at Lightspeed, says, “This was a corporate group but a non-traditional Cisco meeting. We avoided a typical corporate meeting location but still wanted guests to have a VIP experience with a certain level of comfort at a boutique hotel.”
Manage Registration and Logistics Even When Plans Quickly Change
Halfway through the planning process, ASLO’s intended audience expanded beyond sales to include engineering and other teams. Suddenly, planning for 75 executives turned into planning for 120.
A 60% increase in invited attendees AFTER signing the hotel contract meant Lightspeed had to get creative in accommodating 45 additional executives. This affected not only hotel room registration but also the setup of onsite meeting spaces and local team-building exercises.
Lightspeed’s event team quickly pivoted and ditched the plans for casual rented couches and end tables for the central meeting space. New plan: Use theater-style banquet chairs to allow for the increased audience size, but add small coffee tables in easy reach for a more relaxed setup.
Stay On Track Even With Delays
Executive value proposition messaging feeds into all aspects of an event like this, from the theme and agenda to creative treatments and presentations.
With unforeseen delays in receiving that messaging from Cisco, Lightspeed focused instead on logistics and registration. The team also built the foundation to support messaging and content once approved messaging became available.
The short planning cycle for the event remained on track.
Create An Evocative Event Theme
Barger wanted the offsite event to reinforce a key message to her leadership team about embracing change.
The message: Good leaders ask questions, should expect questions from their boss, and should be open to questions from their employees.
Lightspeed distilled that directive into a simple yet evocative event theme about openness to change and growth:
Inspired by the supernatural undertones of New Orleans, Lightspeed pushed the event theme and creative elements in the direction of conspiracy theories with images of UFOs, Bigfoot, the Loch Ness Monster, and the like.
“We wanted to soften the Question Everything theme so it didn’t come across as a negative, but we also wanted attendees to have fun with it,” says Rob Johnson, Lightspeed Managing Director. “The moody, bohemian vibe of the hotel also deepened the theme to create a unique experience for attendees.”
Mix Up Your Content With A Variety of Elements
Create A Theme-Driven Scavenger Hunt To Build Team Collaboration
A highly coordinated scavenger hunt sent 10 teams of 12 colleagues through the streets of the French Quarter. Each team had clues to decipher, objectives to complete, and photos to snap to prove they had accomplished their mission.
Following clues across the French Quarter, members realized the locations and people they needed to find tied back to images and CSI-style evidence boards planted in the hotel’s central meeting room each day.
“Once we started explaining the team building and their objectives for the scavenger hunt, it all started to click for them,” Johnson says. “We built everything in the team building around the Question Everything theme.”
Lightspeed managed the scavenger hunt to run in dual tracks, with teams staggered to avoid overlap at each clue destination. Team members documented their sleuthing with Polaroid cameras, using provided props to recreate the clue-driven scene or statue they found.
Lightspeed even got a couple of Jackson Square artists in on the action. The artists incorporated Bigfoot and UFOs into their artwork to catch the eye of scavenger hunt participants. Not enough? How about a green alien and scruffy Sasquatch roaming the streets of the French Quarter to inspire the teams and provide bonus points if they posed with them.
Informal feedback from attendees throughout the event raved about the experience as fun, cool, and not your typical corporate event.
Through the post-event survey, 100% rated the ASLO event as Excellent. The administration of the offsite event received a perfect score as well.
Every time we work with Lightspeed, they validate the trust we have in them to meet and exceed our expectations for an awesome event. They intuitively know what needs to be done, and their years of experience make event planning seem effortless when it’s anything but. Combine that with their first-class creative team and you’re likely to see perfect scores in your post-event survey like our Americas Sales Leadership Offsite did.”
– Joy Bradley Cuomo, Chief of Staff – Americas Sales, Cisco