As the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference approaches, what are some of the things you can do to be prepared for attending the event? Here are a few ideas to make the most of your experience:
- Determine your goals for attending:What do you want to get the most from the conference? It’s good to map out your objectives ahead of time so that you can prioritize and spend your time wisely.
- Learning: What technologies do you most want to focus on? What sessions would be most helpful to run your business?
- Networking: There will be lots of formal and informal opportunities to meet other Microsoft partners. How can you make the most out of these connections?
- Supporting, maintaining and closing business – Set up meetings with other attendees who you have business relationships with to strengthen them.
- Listen for new ideas: There will be lots of opportunities to spark new ideas to help your business grow.
- Uncover the nuggets of thought –Sometimes it’s just a simple idea from a speaker that can make a big difference in your business. Don’t just take notes on what is being said; take notes on how you can use those ideas and make them actionable.
- What are the new technologies that are being presented by Microsoft and other partners? How can you leverage those announcements into new areas of business?
- Think disruptively. How can you use the ideas from the conference to push out the edges of creativity in your industry? How can you help your customers use technology to transform their business?
- Network with Microsoft resources. WPC will provide you with an opportunity to meet with a large number of Microsoft product and program subject matter experts, all in one place. Map out the exhibition floor ahead of time and make sure you meet with the teams that are high on your priority list. Walk the show floor with an open mind to new opportunities and make connections to your business.
- Network with fellow attendees.One of the key benefits to attend conferences in person is to make new business connections.
- Network with a purpose – how can other partners help your business?
- Be open to meeting new people – There will be lots of great opportunities to meet new people – before/after sessions, parties, meals, breaks, shuttle rides, hotel, flight in and out, etc.
- Engage on WPC Connect – This is great way to connect with other partners at the conference. If you’ve attended WPC in the past or have been active on social media it’s a good place to find people you may have connection with or have similar interests as you have.
- Take notes on the back of their business cards and follow up promptly with the more important connections you make. If it’s a hot connection, consider following up at the conference for a more in-depth talk. By making notes on the card, it will help you remember where you met the person and what you may have spoken about. The business value of your connection may not be obvious at first but you may think of something later.
- Leverage the social media fire hose– There will be a very active Twitter stream using with the #WPC12 hash tag. Create a strategy to join in on the conversation.
- Don’t just broadcast marketing messages – Add value to the Twitter stream. Tweet interesting/entertaining/current ideas that you’re getting at the conference.
- Use Twitter hashtags to connect communities – if you’re tweeting about great SharePoint information use the #wpc12 and #sharepoint hashtags so followers of both tags get the benefit. Make sure your followers get the benefit from your WPC attendance as well.
- Think about what’s working well and getting good response and adjust your participation to optimize your activity.
- Engage your online community – If your company has a community site where you may have blogs or forums, look for ways to get exciting and interesting content from WPC to your customers. Blog, podcast, post to forums so that your customers get the latest scoop from you. Don’t have your own community? Find communities where your audience could be hanging out and post your content there. It’s a great way to add value to the community and helps position you as a subject matter expert – it’s a great position to be in when customers start looking for partners with your capabilities.
- Focus on your customers – what is most important to them and what kind of ideas will resonate most with them? Ultimately the ideas you bring back with you will be for your customers and how your services and solutions will benefit them.
- Work the exhibit hall – Walk the hall with a purpose. Go back to your priorities and determine what types of products or services can help your business. Map out the exhibit hall and find the exhibitors that could provide the most value. Then go back and browse the exhibit hall for ideas for your business. Some opportunities may have obvious connections to your business but you may also see or hear something that sparks a new idea that you can use.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes – There are usually long walks between sessions and the exhibit hall. Wear shoes that you’ll be comfortable to walk in all day and make sure they’re broken in before the show. Also wear clothes that you’ll be comfortable with while sitting for hours. You may also consider bringing a light jacket since some conference halls can be set at a cooler temperature.
- Have a follow up strategy – Don’t let the end of WPC be the end of your learning and engagement. Review your notes and ideas immediately after the event while your thoughts are still fresh and your motivation is high. Look for ways to turn some of the ideas into actionable items when you return. Create a plan for following up on your networking leads throughout the year. Make sure you follow up with your hot connections and consider adding the more casual connections to your social networks.
WPC can be an important launching point for your business over the next year. There will be lots of great business ideas, lots of new product information and plenty of opportunities to make new business relationships. Work the conference with a purpose but also have fun while you’re there.
Thoughts? What tips have you found to make conferences like WPC beneficial for you?
[Updated for 2012]