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Microsoft Community Connections: Building Local Relationships

Would you like the opportunity to demonstrate your knowledge of Microsoft solutions to an audience of business leaders in your community? That's probably a pretty easy one to answer, and on a recent Thursday in Greene County, Va., Phil Jaderborg and Chip Taylor of PJ Networks took advantage of just such an opportunity. The Greene County Chamber of Commerce and PJ Networks sponsored a lunch-and-learn through Microsoft's Community Connections program.

Connecting Local Businesses with Partners
The Community Connections program was recently launched by Microsoft as a way to connect local business organizations like Chambers of Commerce and Rotary Clubs with Microsoft partners. Promoted to the end-user organizations, Microsoft provides everything from event promotion materials to prepared presentations. The presentations are designed to help business leaders learn how current Microsoft Windows, Office and other productivity tools can help them improve their business operations.

Melissa Liberatore, Greene County's Chamber of Commerce director, who's always looking for programs that address "issues that are relevant to our membership," was intrigued by the Community Connections program. The added bonus of having one of the Chamber's members qualified to present the Microsoft materials made the event a win on multiple levels. For PJ Networks, the program provided a perfect opportunity to introduce their computer and network services offered through a new location in Greene County.   

Lessons Learned
Liberatore and Jaderborg decided that a lunch-and-learn at a local hotel meeting room would be the best venue for the Community Connections event. Liberatore promoted the event, titled "Focus on Your Business. Integrate Windows 7 and Office 2010 into Your Business," through the Chamber Web site and with materials that Microsoft provided. About 15 business leaders paid $15 (or $30 for non-Chamber members) for a two-hour session over lunch.

About the promotion of the event, Jaderborg said, "Word of mouth was probably one of the best avenues, but the most valuable asset was teaming up with the Greene County Chamber of Commerce. Most of the attendees were also members of the Chamber and the Chamber coordinated the process of actively signing up participants."

Jaderborg and Taylor found the Microsoft-supplied materials a little too extensive and had several suggestions for partners. "Instead of spending a tremendous amount of time trying to learn and memorize every single detail and shortcut for every Office feature, it would be wiser to start by paring down the material you plan to present. That process includes thinning out the PowerPoint presentations and removing some of the scripted material from the provided resources. After that, you can focus more easily on the remaining features to be covered."

Are the Results Worth the Effort?
Events take time to organize, promote and prepare. Commitment from both the sponsor organization and the partner is the key to a successful event. That was clearly the case with the Greene County and PJ Networks teams. Jaderborg said, "The time and effort was definitely worth it; both Chip and I even learned a lot of interesting little tidbits and hidden features that we may not have discovered so easily on our own, such as Sparklines in Microsoft Excel."

Liberatore was appreciative of Microsoft's process and support. Copies of Windows 7 Ultimate and Office 2010 Professional were supplied to support an event raffle as well as an internal use copy for the Chamber. "Feedback was very positive," Liberatore said, but had one suggestion for event organizers: "A couple of attendees brought their laptops and, next time, I will recommend that everyone has a computer to follow along in the applications through the presentations."

In terms of building business for PJ Networks, Jaderborg believes, "This experience has reinforced our reputation for being knowledgeable engineers, but has also helped to demonstrate that we are hands-on with the technology that we utilize and deploy on a regular basis. Those who did not know us before the event saw that we are friendly and approachable as well -- that never hurts."

Connect with Your Local Business Organization
As Jaderborg says, "We have received a lot of positive feedback from the attendees, and that is valuable in a smaller community where people pass your company name around as a matter of course."

Get people passing your name around! Talk to your local Chamber and suggest participation in the Community Connections.

Have you sponsored a successful event? Let me know about it so we can share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on June 09, 2011 at 11:57 AM


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