Showing results for 
Search instead for 
Did you mean: 
Walkthrough Wednesdays

The Virtual Gift Exchange Experience


Today we had a department gift exchange.  Your first thought may be "Why?", but it was a great way to take a break from the after holiday ramp-up we've all been experiencing.  Also, since this was a white elephant gift exchange it was a great way to clear out one piece of clutter while getting something to immediately take its' place.  What struck me about the gift exchange was the experience and seamless it was across locations.  In San Jose we gathered (about 35 people) into a large Telepresence room.  There were a number of other Telepresence attendees from cities such as; Boulder, Boxborough, San Francisco, and Austin.  There were also people joining in from their office desk or home office in other locations.  These people were using high-quality video over WebEx and it was integrated with our Telepresence sessions.  Furthermore, there were people in each Telepresence room with laptops that were connected into the session so everybody could watch the unwrapping of the gifts from up close and decide if they were going to steal or go for something new.

Everybody took an hour out of thier day to enjoy this experience.  We laughed at the different gifts.  I myself received an awesome set of "ShamWow!" towels coming my way from our Austin office.  The thing about this experience is the way everybody was able to participate and it felt like we were all in the room together.  You could see the size of the package and how well wrapped they were or weren't before making your pick.  You could watch and hear the paper being ripped open along with the crowd response and comments from the peanut gallery.  You could then see what it was and decide if it was going to be stolen.  One guy in Boulder had the eye and his picks were stolen 6 times before we agreed to give him immunity.  The only thing I couldn't understand was that not a single chia pet was in the mix!

There's a lot of talk in rest and recreation circles about the experience- the hotel experience, the spa experience, the cruise ship experience and the safari experience.  When it comes to the workspace we tend to talk about the end-point experience- new laptop is fast, new Blackberry doesn't drop calls, new video phone is cool, and new expense reporting tool is easy and fast.  This experience was not about the end-point, we had people using Telepresence, PCs, Macs, built-in and add-on cameras, there was even one person attending on their mobile as they were on their way to a customer meeting.  Regardless of anybody's location or end device the experience was one of comaraderie and fun.  The ability to bring people together to share the same experience is what the new workspace is about- even when it's all play.


Thanks, John.I thought today was great fun. I'll admit to being a little skeptical about a virtual "gift swap" with nearly 70 people collaborating from multiple countries, offices and work settings. I thrive on work setting collaboration. After all, I'm remote and away from headquarters. But, a casual event...hmmm. I wasn't so sure as this was going to require rapid-fire interaction and fast thinking as I had to grab the Star Wars pancake molds before someone else did (which I did ).  My skepticism was unfounded, really.

It was amazing how quickly the screens and distance faded into the background and the team interaction - yes collaboration -  really took centerstage. I cared less about the monitors, screens, and technology - and more about the people...and, my secret wish that someone's gift just might be a Chia pet...maybe next year...


I remember the early days of video conferencing -- delayed lag time, bad camera angles, and painful experiences.  The thing that struck me about yesterday's virtual gift exchange is how quickly the technology faded away leaving us with a room full of people who were enjoying themselves and exchanging gifts.

It didn't matter that the participants were located at opposite ends of the country and everywhere in between.  What mattered is that we were able to collaborate and enjoy the experience as if we were all sitting in the same room together.  The technology didn't impede the process, it enabled it.  More than that, it enhanced it.  That's the true power of collaboration.

Laura Douglas
Frequent Contributor

John and Melissa,

It was a lot of fun! I was actually working from my home during the gift exchange. My 4 year old daughter was miserable with a fever but refusing to sleep or be too far away from "mommy" ... but able to understand and respect that mommy was working.  So I was one of the many participating using high-quality video over WebEx.  As I watched the gift wrapping starting to fly and listened to the roaring laughter, my curious daughter crawled into my lap, (I turned off my video camera) and we enjoyed the spectacle unfold together!  I felt fortunate for the work/life balance provided to me at that moment.

I also enjoyed seeing the faces of our brand new team members for the first time, and getitng to know them a bit through the spirited interactions.

And what amazed me was that my 70-some coworkers from all those many locations -- each taking turns opening/stealing gifts -- all finished in 55 minutes. Enough time for our vice president to give us an update on important late-breaking news. And, I was able to attend my follow-on meeting on time.

I encourage our community visitors to add their experiences -- how have you used collaboration technologies to enabled your geographically dispersed teams to prosper (in fun and in business)?

Laura Douglas

Collaboration Community Manager


Super fun way to bring the team together!  So glad I snagged the wine opener and not the Snuggie


That was a lot of fun and it was nice to include our remote team members.  Like others, I was a little skeptical about how interactive it really would be but it ended up truly being a team building exercise.  Our technology worked great (yay!) so I think it makes us all a little bit more excited about marketing such cool products!  And I can't wait to get my book in the mail so I can begin thinking about where to retire. 

Cisco Employee

I thought the gift exchange was a ton a fun!  It was great that I was able to steal a Peet's gift card from a coworker on TelePresence and see everyone's reaction on when the SpongeBob was opened!  It was great that the technology let us all laugh together.


Great fun, and it really showcased the power of Collaboration to successfully complete a gift exchange with so many people across so many sites .  On the other hand, a little *less* efficiency would have been better for me since I took the prize for "most gifts stolen from".


I was eyeballing those Star War pancake molds also!


As Jeff and I left the Boulder office we agreed that the gift exchange was such a great experience!  An interactive session with the whole team once a quarter would help continue to build comradery with our whole team!  We both work out of our home offices.  Jeff is south about an hour and I'm north about an hour from the TelePresence unit in Boulder.  The fun was well worth the trip.  I'd like to see our team create an interactive experience once a quarter when we all have access to the new WebEx tools!  Let's show the rest of our new team how ONE Collaboration team works!  


What an experience!! Truly exemplified that Cisco brings people together . I am enjoying my warming tumbler, never have cold coffee during your commute again!

Cisco Employee

What a great to bring the team together!  I will be playing my newly acquired wine game this weekend!  :-)


We had 50 folks across locations take turns exchanging presents - with comments and laughter interspersed - and we still ended up with 5 minutes to spare. Try doing all that on email - or an audio call. You just can't replicate that experience without high quality video.


I wanted to drive into the office to participate via TelePresence, but Boston was expecting a major snowstorm, and advising those who didn't have to commute to stay off the roads. Being able to participate over web cam from home was no hinderance to the fun - and I scored a football-shaped chip bowl.


I love white elephant gift exchanges.  The one gift that made us all laugh throughout the exchange was Peter Milligan's Sponge Bob's gift!  And we'll have to remind folks -- no breakables in paper bags!!


It's not that I don't appreciate a good Nancy Drew role-playing DVD game... I do. But I was secretly hoping someone would steal it.  I increased my odds by not-so-subliminally flashing it in front of the close-up webcam I was using to follow each person opening their gift.  It gave the remote particpants a better view of what we could all see happening in the big room.

Fortunately, my new best friend Stan Mizerny had a daughter the right age and stole the Nancy Drew DVD, leaving me with a flowery aromatherapy pillow <heavy sigh.>  What NOBODY knows is that I cut a secret deal with Tracy Southall over WebEx Chat to trade for her Iron Arms exerciser.  Everyone goes home happy

Content for Community-Ad

Spotlight Awards 2021