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How To Not Waste Your Time at WPC 2014

For partners that don't come prepared, Microsoft's annual Worldwide Partner Conference can be overwhelming and unrewarding. Our former Microsoft field rep gives a few guidelines for how to make the most of your time at WPC.

The Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC) can be one of your best uses of time or one of your worst. It all depends on the preparation beforehand and your energy during the event. The best outcome is coming away with both a clear picture of where Microsoft will be putting its energies and efforts in the following fiscal year and where other partners are truly making money in the Microsoft arena. The worst-case scenario is paying a lot of money for extremely basic overviews and convention center food.

Go with a goal: We've all heard the advice about achievement; invariably it all starts with having a clear goal. The size of the WPC can be bewildering. Choose a focus for the event that's important to your company. Personally, I develop a set of core questions I ask over and over again to a wide variety of people. I tend to learn the most from the gaps -- for example, instances where Microsoft is talking up solutions and partners are having a difficult time monetizing the same solutions.

Focus on the people and not the event: The best part about the WPC is the people you meet. Partners from non-competitive locations can be a wealth of information, and their advice tends to be über relevant because it comes from someone facing the same challenges. By design the sessions have to appeal to a wide audience of participants from across the globe. Unfortunately, this has created a least common denominator-type approach to the content. However, the speakers can be incredibly knowledgeable. At the very least, they know how to work their resources at Microsoft to get a free speakers pass to the conference. Take the time to meet them at the end of the session, trade business cards and ask for deeper insight into the content.

Beyond the partner community, Microsoft makes a major investment in sending a variety of its people to the event. On the field side, find individuals assigned to your geography and market segments. Ask questions about their goals for the next fiscal year and draw parallels to how your activities can drive joint success. Corporate resources can know about new initiatives months and years ahead of the field. Ask them questions about how their initiatives will land in market, how they think partners will participate and what their plans look like to engage their own channel.

How do you find these folks? The best place is an introduction from another Microsoft resource who can help explain why they should invest time in meeting with you. If you lack those connections, consider using Yammer. Sign up for the groups that are most interesting to your business, find the most relevant content posters and then reach out to them individually. If they aren't attending, they might be able to introduce you to a colleague. TechNet is also a great way to find the people who are generating the content, instead of just consuming it. Contact information is almost always given or use the Lync phone directory at 425-882-8080.

Visit the tradeshow floor: Look for solutions that can plug in to your core offerings. This helps spread the cost of the sale over more revenue. Engage the staff who are working the booths and find the individuals who are making a living selling these solutions. Their wealth of knowledge can be deep. I'm also looking for vendors who are partner-centric. Have they staffed their booth with partner enablers or salespeople who make more when they sell direct? Smart conversation frequently will lead to offers of smaller-focused events, happy hours or off-site suites. At these smaller events you can engage in more dialogue and find your peers who have already been successful selling the vendor's solution.

Get out of the Connect area: For those new to the WPC, there's a Connect area reserved for private meetings. Anyone can set up a meeting there. Get out of this area as often as you can. An off-site beer or breakfast takes more planning and coordination, but the payoff is typically a more in-depth conversation.

Building long-term relationships and avoiding convention center food -- that is success at the WPC.

More Columns from M.S. Partner:

About the Author

M.S. Partner is a pseudonym for a former Microsoft U.S. field rep who returned to the channel and writes this column to help other partners succeed with Microsoft. Let M.S. Partner know your thoughts and questions about how Microsoft works at mspartner@rcpmag.com.

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