If you work in the Microsoft ecosystem and want to grow your business, you can’t miss Microsoft Worldwide Conference that is held once a year and is the main event for partner-to-partner networking (p2p). This year the conference is held Washington, D.C. and based on what I have heard, there is going to be a record crowd of partners so if you haven’t signed up, it is time to do that now!
I think it is good time to summarize a few things that I have learned in my participations in large conferences, 10 years of IBM PartnerWorld Conferences as CEO for an ISV, and the last five years in the Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference as a CEO for a company that works with Microsoft ISVs around the world.
Social media has really become a foundation for successful conference execution and I think this is going to be the case also with the WPC10 in Washington. There are tremendous amount of good sources for how to be running social media and a conference/event; one very useful one is from David Meerman Scott, the author of multiple interesting books such as World Wide Rave: Creating Triggers that Get Millions of People to Spread Your Ideas and Share Your Stories, The New Rules of Marketing and PR: How to Use Social Media, Blogs, News Releases, Online Video, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly, and many more. Another one is Alan Belniak’s blog post of How to Leverage Digital and Social Media at Events/Conferences and this blog entry has to do with PTC/USER World Event 2010 in Florida.
I believe your media for successful social media tools use is going to be based on four things: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and DigitalWPC site that includes everything about the WPC conference including links to Agenda, social networking tool Connect, Social media streams, Videos, Awards, Regional, Logistics, as well as list of Expo participants etc.
You can follow things in Twitter using the official hashtag for WPC10 (#WPC10) and that is something that will be used heavily during the conference. The best way to stay tuned is to use desktop Twitter apps such as TweetDeck or Seesmic to follow information streams.
I also expect that the new and aggressively growing social media tool Foursquare that uses GPS technology to provide even location information of your friends in the conference. I have been using Foursquare for the past 6 months and find it a fascinating application. Foursquare recently closed their second round of funding of $20 Million whereby their valuation is now more than $100 million.
The question that each one of you should have is as follows: how am I going to benefit from this conference and what do I need to do pre-conference, during the conference and post-conference? In my workshops and seminars, I have always wanted to point out that people and businesses unfortunately miss a huge opportunity by not making good preparation for the event. What good does it do for your company if you haven’t defined your objectives for the conference, defined the target group of people that you want to meet and what kind of outcome you expect from the conference?
Top 10 DOs for you to take when you participate in Microsoft WPC conference:
1) Define the goals why you should attend WPC10 and also the metrics of how to evaluate the outcome of the event.
2) Define the target group of people that you need to have meetings with and prepare yourself for the meeting with a crisp and clear message that you want to deliver during the 30 minute slot that Digitalwpc Connect gives you.
3) Once you register to the conference, make sure you also register to Digitalwpc Connect social networking and meeting tool that allows you to book meetings with the target group that you want to meet during the conference. Only book meetings that you think are valuable, both for you and the party that you want to meet.
4) Build your agenda for the week before you arrive to WPC so you have a rough idea what you need to be doing throughout the week. This also helps you to plan the balance between WPC sessions and the Connect meetings that you will be having throughout the week.
5) If you want to have regional impact, ensure that you participate in regional events that are always taking place. However, try to avoid “hanging around” with your peers during the week, as you can do that when you get back home. You are at WPC as you want to grow your business and make new connections.
6) WPC is the most important event for Microsoft where they deliver the message to partners for the next fiscal year and if you want to be aligned with Microsoft, you’d better listen carefully what the keynote speakers have to say. If for example cloud is what is driving Microsoft business for FY11, then you need to see how you can be part of the cloud delivery for FY11.
7) There are a huge amount of sessions during WPC, so what I typically do is to select the tracks and interest areas that I want to focus on. I did this during PDC09 in Los Angeles and it worked well. I took all sessions in Windows Azure as that was the official launch conference for Windows Azure.
8) Make sure you spend time in the Expo areas as it will highlight exciting vendors with technologies that you need to know about. If nothing else, you need to make sure you understand where the competition is.
9) Part of the success of any conference is that you are active during the conference and participate in as much as you can as the week goes by quickly and this is your opportunity to collaborate and get to know Microsoft partners from all parts of world and walks of life. It is not only fascinating, but it is also gives you a perspective to life, career and business opportunities that exist on this planet.
10) A conference investment without good follow-up is a failed conference in my mind, so any meeting or any people that you have met during WPC and whose business card you have, you need to send a thank you note after the conference. And this has to happen within a month from the conference, not 6 months like many participants do.
Top 10 things that you should NOT do if you participate in Microsoft WPC conference
1) You should not ignore the pre-conference preparation.
2) You should not ignore to opt-in to Digitalwpc Connect social networking tool as that is where people will find you before the conference and during the conference.
3) You should not ignore the keynotes where Microsoft executives deliver their message for the next fiscal year. I assume it is going to be all about cloud and how partners can play the cloud scenario.
4) You should not spend all of your time with your colleagues from the same company or country. You will have time to do that when you get back home.
5) You should not ignore the social events that are taking place during the week. You should not underestimate the power of partner-to-partner networking
6) You should not drink heavily in the evening if you can’t make it to the conference in the morning.
7) You should not spend and waste your time in asking for meetings without really knowing who you are meeting. There are too many of those that just spam the Connect tool without a purpose.
8) You should not ignore the evening preparation for the next day’s objectives.
9) You should not ignore to make notes about the person you met, either on paper or behind the business card.
10) You should not leave before Friday as the evening festivity takes place on Thursday night. I have signed clients during the last evening party!
WPC is all about networking and you would be amazed how many participants arrive without their business cards to the conference. Bring hundreds of them, so you can exchange cards whenever you meet somebody. It does not mean that you will be doing business with that person/company, but it gives your company yet another point of contact if you ever need to go back and figure out whom you have met.
I have also met lots of people that companies send out to do business development and some of these development efforts are contained in the hotel room or by spending time in the bar. If your objective is to use this as vacation opportunity, I would suggest that you let the ones that want to do business, do their business. This also concerns the meetings at Connect. If you do not have anything specific to offer or discuss about, do not book meetings as many of us are fully booked with valuable meetings. This is after all the most important event for many of us, including my company.
And finally, check out the welcome message from Allison Watson, Corporate Vice President of Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Group.