MeetingsNet’s 2021 Changemakers list recognizes outstanding meeting professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find the full 2021 Changemakers list here.
Carolyn Pund, CMM, DES
Global Leader, Strategic Meetings Management and Digital Webinars
Cisco Systems, Inc.
For designing revised policies and procedures, along with new health-and-safety advisory services, that lay the groundwork for the return to meetings
Cisco Systems’ Carolyn Pund, CMM, DES, is no stranger to change management and industry leadership. MeetingsNet recognized her as a Changemaker back in 2011 for her work on Cisco’s strategic meetings management program. In 2015, she was awarded the Distinguished Meeting Professional of the Year by the Professional Convention Management Association, and she has sat on that organization’s board of directors since 2017 and the executive committee since 2019.
So, it may come as no surprise that Pund took the reins when Cisco needed to create new guidance for getting back to in-person events. That initiative involved several related elements: creating a “return-to-events playbook,” changing the meeting-approval structure, adding a new Event Health & Safety Advisory service to her team’s centralized offerings, and providing training on the changes.
The return-to-events playbook covers a wide range of topics for Pund’s operations teams as well as for people around the company who plan events without the help of her department. It covers changes to the RFPs (for example, new space-per-person requirements), new contract addendums, procedures and guidance on PPE and sourcing medical services, and new staff roles around health and safety.
At the same time, Pund put 12 team members through Covid Compliance Officer training as the first step toward launching a new Event Health & Safety Advisory (EHSA) service. Region managers in Europe, Americas, Singapore, and India, as well as their directors of operations and team leads all completed the course. While Pund’s department will offer education on how to manage health and safety, in many cases planners won’t have the bandwidth for it, she says. “It really is a new service / function. The EHSA works with the planner. It’s an entirely new role beyond logistics, to cover the new health and safety measures now required for our events.”
Having certified health-and-safety advisors in place is essential to the third leg of the plan to return to in-person events: changing the meeting approval process. “Pre-pandemic, meetings had to be registered as part of the company’s SMM program. Utilizing the existing strong internal SMM practice is now the gating process to return to physical events. It has become especially valuable, as events will now go through a consultation that includes health and safety as well as a corporate security sign off on the destination. In the past, a planner needed a meeting ID to open a purchase order. Now they’ll need it to begin planning.”
Pund and the Global SMM team are working hard to get the word out about the new services and processes. “We’ve done a lot of training with our admin community as well as with our regional sales and marketing teams who are naturally, the most anxious to get back in front of their customers,” she says. “We have a lot of resources in place.” An internal SharePoint is home to policy updates; training that can be downloaded on demand; and vendors for ordering PPE and other pandemic-support services.
At this point, the new guidance and processes are on the launch pad with the engine running. The company’s industry events are halted through August 31, with smaller events aligned to when Cisco offices re-open. When meetings do finally resume, Pund is confident that the changes will give Cisco meeting hosts the support they need to put on well vetted, safe meetings that assure attendees’ confidence in their decision to attend in person.