In May, I made my way to San Francisco for CLUS 2014. I had very fond memories from last year, and was looking forward to catching up with all of the great people that I met in Orlando.
This year was a little different for me. I purchased a full pass, paid for airfare, and my hotel all out of my own pocket. The ultimate question this year was going to be answered. How much is CLUS worth? Is the experience equally important when thousands of dollars come out of my pocket to experience it.
First, the most obvious difference this year was how crowded the experience was. Moscone was simply not big enough for 26,000 people. I recognized on day one, as I was looking for a place to sit for breakfast, that when San Francisco was chosen 5 years ago, the conference was much smaller. Conferences book their locations years in advance, and in this case the attendee base grew faster then they expected.
The large crowds definitely affected the experience. The World of Solutions reception on Monday was so crowded that I spent only 15 minutes there, and the majority of that time was trying to get back out. The crowds also affected the on-site meals. Lunch each day consisted of a boxed meal, breakfast was carb heavy, and the days that I went into the dining hall, it was extremely crowded.
On Thursday, I had an opportunity to talk with Kathleen Mudge, who manages the Social Media Team, and Kathy Doyle, the Director of Cisco Live, about the scale of the conference. Kathy mentioned that there were over 6,000 people who registered for Cisco Live at the conference. That is an incredible 23% of the attendees that could not be accounted for until the first day.
With that in mind, I can’t fault the conference. In-fact, I am surprised that the conference was able to absorb that many people and function at all. That is an amazing feat.
The next few years are in bigger venues, so I expect the conference won’t experience these growing pains again.
The sessions that I attended were all excellent, and allowed me to expand my knowledge in a few key areas that I had identified as needing more work. I didn’t attend as many sessions as I had planned, but that was simply a matter of not having enough time.
As for the social side of CLUS, it was everything I was hoping for. I was able to reconnect with friends made at CLUS 2013, and made many more. The Social Media Hub (which we quickly renamed the Social Media Routed Bridge) was in a great location. Power was easily available for recharging devices. The arrival Tweetup was well attended, and we were able to gather on Thursday for the final picture by the Cisco Live sign.
The Cisco Live Social Media Team at CLUS is always on top of the game. They work incredibly hard to help anyone who ask. They also keep things interesting with various games and prizes. I can’t say enough about the team, and how their work affects the positive experiences of so many attendees.
The parties and the Customer Appreciation Event were all excellent. I was able to participate in three Tech Field Day events, attended the CCIE party again as a non-CCIE, and participated in multiple Cisco Champion events. They were all opportunities to meet more people, and hang out with this huge group of engineers that I get to call friends.
Now for the question. Was attending CLUS on my own dime worth it? If my Cisco Live 2014 experience only included the standard CLUS sessions, the Customer Appreciation Event, and the World of Solutions, I would have to say “no”.
However, Cisco Live is much more than sessions, expo, and parties to attend. Cisco Live is a gathering of people who are passionate about technology and life. Cisco live is space camp, or as Denise Fishburne has begun calling it, simply “Summer Camp”.
Was Cisco Live worth it? Oh yeah. I’ll be back.