The countdown until Microsoft Inspire is on, and at Fifty Five and Five we’ve been putting in our preparation for the conference in July. However, what should you do to get the most out of Inspire–before, during and after the event?
To find out, we spoke with Kati Quigley—Senior Director, Partner Community Marketing at Microsoft–about what works best for partners attending Inspire.
Can you give us a run down of how partners should plan for the conference?
Kati: I think the biggest thing for partners attending Microsoft Inspire is that they go in with a plan and have a clear idea of what they want to achieve. The whole purpose of Microsoft Inspire is that everyone can create their path, and that can take many forms because the event has so much to offer.
If you want to be educated on learning how to build a business, for example, you should find the right sessions that give you that opportunity to learn from the experts. If you’re going in and saying “you know what? I already have my business solution, and I am trying to find other partners to market with”, then that’s when you need to be focusing on the networking side of things. You should be going to the Commons in the expo area to meet and share with like-minded individuals.
I recommend all partners go to the keynotes this year; we have three, one each day. Microsoft Inspire marks the start of Microsoft’s financial year, and the keynotes are a place where the leadership of Microsoft talk about the direction the company will take for the year ahead, so don’t miss that!
We also have a ‘First Timers’ Session on Sunday [15th July] for people that haven’t been to Microsoft Inspire before. It’s a discussion of things to do and what to get from the event, so even if you’ve been before it’s something worth considering.
To get the most value out of the conference, from your experience, what should partners be doing?
Kati: In the same sense you should plan for the many different events at the conference, you should prepare for your big event—people coming to learn about your company.
I’ve seen that people are getting away from ‘real’ business cards and going more virtual. So if you have OneNote on your phone, I think that’s super helpful. As you walk away from someone, you can take a few notes on who they are and the action they want to take while it’s fresh in your memory. Every year, partners think that they’ll remember the small details, but they don’t.
Building in a 15-minute break in between meeting people is super helpful, as that gives you a chance to take those notes, get everything captured and then move onto the next thing.
During the conference, there is so much to learn, see and do. Is there anything that partners should make sure they have when they leave?
Kati: Microsoft Inspire is about accelerating the business, and partners should think about how they are going to ‘capture’ things that fit into their business plan. They can put a framework in place, and as they pick up on things they can say “hey, this falls into business development” or “this piece falls into a particular practice” so that it’s a bit more organised. Then on the flight home when it’s fresh in their mind, partners can sit and add a little more thought to it.
So, conference over, and the office is back in order. What are the next steps for the perfect post-Inspire strategy?
Kati: I think if there are other people from your company who went to the conference, then it’s best to sit down with them, share notes and put together key takeaways and connections, and decide what actions to take next.
Reaching out to those contacts that you met in the following week is important. When you meet someone, it’s very thoughtful to follow up, even if it’s to quickly say “It was good to meet, let’s talk at a later date about the things we discussed.” It doesn’t have to be an overwhelming task; see it as a thank you. The more immediate you make it, the better, plus you’re going to stick out a little better. Everyone says “Oh, we’ll drop you an email” but for too many, this is just a hollow gesture.
Finally, what is the best piece of advice you could give to partners for Microsoft Inspire?
Kati: It’s about being realistic about the schedule, and not to overdo it. When you’re actually at the conference, you don’t have much time to think about all the people you meet, or the time capturing what actions you need to take. You don’t want to waste time while you’re there, but you also don’t want to feel hurried or that you have a lack of focus.
It’s like the advice you give when you pack a suitcase: You pack it, then unpack half. Develop a schedule, and then take half of it out. It then allows you a bit of weight and space. Then at the conference, you have some time to go and hang out in the expo area and end up having a conversation you never expected. If you’re overscheduled, you’ll never have that chance!
Kati’s 10 essential Microsoft Inspire strategy tips:
Kati’s advice for your Microsoft Inspire strategy in 10 steps:
- Develop a clear idea of what you want to achieve form the week
- Create a schedule of everything you want, then ‘edit’ this down to the essentials
- Choose sessions where you can maximise learning
- Set aside time for networking – and visit the Commons
- Move from paper to digital ways of collecting information
- Build in breaks between meetings to write down your notes
- Create a framework for the information you collect
- Share notes with colleagues
- Get in touch with new contacts the week after the conference is over
- Finally, don’t forget to enjoy yourself!
Thanks to Kati for taking the time out to talk about all things Microsoft Inspire and for giving partners tips on putting their Microsoft Inspire strategy in place! We’re really excited about our plans for Inspire – and make sure you come and visit us at stand number 1622!