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Mixing Business and Humanity at Meetings

Changemaker Desiree Hamilton helps Cisco engineer its “For Good” philosophy into conferences, going beyond sustainability tactics.

MeetingsNet’s annual Changemaker list recognizes 15 outstanding meetings professionals for their efforts to move their organizations and the industry forward in unique and positive ways. Find all the profiles here.

Desiree Hamilton

Operations Manager, Global Events

For putting “For Good” at the center of her conference planning and sustainability improvements


Making Change

Our “For Good” concept has become the foundation for planning Cisco IMPACT, the company’s annual sales kickoff event in Las Vegas. Our goal is to make things just a little bit better for the world. It started several years ago with an initiative to deliver banquet leftovers to Three Square, a Las Vegas food bank, and has expanded as we’ve pushed for our venues to donate hygiene amenities, use locally sourced food, and expand their composting efforts. Each year we work with our partner, MGM Resorts International, to expand these initiatives at their other properties in Las Vegas. Now smaller groups can also benefit from our efforts to operationalize these sustainability innovations.

The changes we’re making through our partnership with MGMRI have often started with us asking, “Why can’t we do this?” and MGMRI working with us to figure it out. For example, at the 2019 event, we had a change in our agenda that resulted in F&B underspend at one property, leaving me with a gap in my F&B minimum. We turned this negative around by working with MGMRI to use the unused F&B spend for a food donation. MGM cooked food for the food bank over the course of several months so the pantry wouldn’t be overwhelmed with a one-time donation. 

What’s Next?

Cisco IMPACT will be virtual this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. However, we still have a legacy to uphold and a responsibility to fulfill. Not meeting in Las Vegas means those massive food donations are not going to happen. With the current high unemployment rate, this will have an impact on food security for the local community. We’re currently working on ways to sustain this important program we’ve established, even in a year when our event is virtual.

By the Numbers

Since 2015, Cisco IMPACT has recycled more than 783,000 pounds of event material and composted another 538,000 pounds; donated 36,000 pounds of event material, 293,000 pounds of event food, and 3,000 pounds of room-amenity soaps; and planted 175,895 trees to help offset carbon impacts

Thinking Differently

Our “For Good” concept extends beyond traditional sustainability initiatives to the concept of the whole person. At this year’s digital conference, the content portfolio will include facilitator-led discussions aimed at enlightening attendees on key topics that can be used both in and outside of the workplace. The subject matter in these sessions will cover diversity and inclusion, personal well-being, philanthropic innovation, and more. To take our company to the next level, it is crucial that we develop leaders who are able to empathize not only with their customers but also their peers and most importantly, themselves. Our goal is to create trailblazers who excel by putting the human aspect of business first.

Managing Change

When change hits, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to take a breath. Then get on with it and start asking the important questions. The more questions you ask, the more you’re going to unfold the issues or opportunities ahead.

Best Business Advice

My mom would always say, “There’s nothing that’s not in your job description.” And I often fall back on “Grandma’s Rules”:  Leave something you borrow in better shape than when you borrowed it (like the city of Las Vegas); Always bring a gift; Never take the last bite. 

Spare Hour

Pre-pandemic, I’d use any spare hour to be with my kids. Lately, however, I’ve had a lot of kid time. Now, I like to read a book or go for a walk.



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