The Protector: Cisco Systems’ Carolyn Pund


2021 BP - Carolyn Pund

Cisco Systems global leader of strategic meetings management and digital events Carolyn Pund recognized that the best way to return to meetings during and after the pandemic was to protect attendee health and well-being. Her global strategic meetings management team implemented a new consultancy and services program at Cisco involving a safety advisory team for all meetings and events. More than 30 members of her global team have been certified as event health and safety advisors, and all meeting requests with an in-person component must go through a consultation. 

What prompted you to create the new consultancy? 

We asked, ‘What do we need to do to return to events safely and let people be comfortable with returning?’ It was driven by the fact that we knew our 2019 volume of events before the pandemic was 12,000-plus registered in our global meetings portal. We do not expect to be back at that volume anytime soon, but we know that for any size and type of events that come back, we want attendees to feel safe. 

How many people are certified advisors, and what is the certification process?

The team is global, and there are varying numbers in each region. We have over 30 that are Covid-officer certified advisors. The process involved multi-day or multi-week training, depending on the region. But it was quite extensive training as well as proctored exams. These are the frontline consultants for our services.

Was the certification process created externally?

Yes, it was offered by medical organizations providing that type of certification. Some were for the production industry, like theater and movies, and the others were for meetings and events. 

How does the consultancy process work?

At Cisco, when doing any type of event, it is required to be registered in our global meeting portal. That is a natural gateway that was already in place. The consultancy service becomes part of a multi-step approval process, and at the end of that consultation, a meeting ID is issued. This allows meeting owners to move forward with their event. There are two parts: One is advising [event owners] on all their new post-Covid responsibilities to run an event. In addition to general planning, there is now the health and safety component. The other function our team provides is the planning and on-site services to support meetings from a health and safety perspective. Once we go through that full list of actions an event owner is now responsible for, they have the option of employing our team services, or they sign off to be fully accountable for health and safety as well as documentation and record keeping. If it’s a small meeting of 10 to 15 attendees, they probably will opt to do it themselves. If [larger], most opt to have us do that for them.


If we hadn’t had an embedded SMMP, I don’t know if it would be feasible to try to get buy-in. Because of the strong meetings policy and SMM already established as the way Cisco does meetings and events, it became another step in that gatekeeping to assure that this new aspect of meetings and events was included.”


Has it increased your team’s involvement in planning events for the company?

Yes, 40 percent of the teams’ time is consulting on upcoming events. There are some countries that are back to events, and some regions and countries that are still completely closed down. We have a regular cadence of communicating when the regions will open up. That decision is made by Cisco’s security and global medical teams. 

Any recommendations for meetings managers looking to do something similar?

This service conveniently was built into the already in-place global strategic meeting management operations. If we hadn’t had an embedded SMMP, I don’t know if it would be feasible to try to get buy-in. Because of the strong meetings policy and SMM already established as the way Cisco does meetings and events, it became another step in that gatekeeping to assure that this new aspect of meetings and events was included. For established SMMs, it may be the perfect opportunity to get stronger adoption. It depends on the size of the company and the influence of the organization that runs the SMMP.



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