But the retooled event, designed to motivate salespeople and recognize top performers, also had its drawbacks, Veale said. In particular, salespeople complained that they missed networking with their international peers. Additionally, the virtual congratulations to top sellers weren't as powerful as an in-person handshake from Cisco CEO John Chambers, Veale said. Cisco found the salespeople's average rating of the GSX was 2.69 on a 5-point scale. That was down from a peak of 4.52 for the most popular GSM. In 2010, Cisco altered GSX again, making it a hybrid virtual/in-person event. Bringing together salespeople in five locations around the world helped keep costs down but also resurrected face-to-face networking as central to the event. Other changes, however, weren't as effective. Comedian Steve Martin's performance, for instance, wasn't universally praised. “Note to self,” Veale said, “humor doesn't translate in some areas.” Nonetheless, in part because of the restoration of networking, ratings for the event increased to 3.36. Last year, Cisco continued to make changes. For example, the virtual congratulations were improved, allowing salespeople to send virtual animated “pats on the back” to top performers. Veale said the number of virtual congratulations sent during the meeting increased from 1,600 in 2009 to about 62,000 two years later. Veale said the ratings increased to 3.51, only a little shy of the 3.63 rating the final GSM received in 2008.
E.J. Schultz on 04.18.2014