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Partner's Events Shine at Microsoft Executive Briefing Center

The Executive Briefing Center (EBC) on Microsoft's Redmond, Wash., campus was designed to host high-level executives, showcasing the latest technology to enterprise clients.

Six years ago, when Michelle Follman, global alliance manager at Sogeti, learned about the EBC, she saw the potential to host a broader event, bringing multiple clients together in a unique and inspiring environment.

After convincing Microsoft's EBC staff to allow a multi-client event, Follman had to overcome some internal skepticism that clients would actually be willing to spend the time and money to travel to Redmond for an event. "It took a few times for the event to really take hold," Follman said. "But once the word got out, they became really popular. Today's briefings almost always sell out. We host two to three each year, with 15 to 20 clients at each event."

The events have been especially popular with mid-market companies that wouldn't be invited to the Microsoft-led enterprise executive briefings. "We invite the decision makers who may not be C-level, but provide guidance for their company's IT strategy. These people are key to our client relationships," Follman said. "Coming to the Microsoft campus is a big deal for them and we introduce them to people that they wouldn't normally see."

Even for enterprise clients, Follman has found the smaller-group events to be valuable. Instead of attending a Microsoft-led CXO event that may have 300 people in the room, Sogeti clients get more attention and better access to Microsoft experts. "The people who attend feel like they are getting more face time and a front-row seat to what's coming next," Follman said.

The impressive facility is matched by comprehensive event planning from the professional staff at EBC, according to Follman. Logistics and scheduling are handled through Sogeti's partner account manager and an EBC coordinator. A list of session topics and Microsoft speakers is provided to build an agenda that fits the audience. Sogeti experts co-present on some of the sessions, but Microsoft presents 90 percent of the content.

Follman has found that an agenda that covers a variety of topics, rather than a theme, has been more attractive to attendees. A broad agenda gives clients exposure to solutions that they may not be using, but would be valuable to their business. If attendees share an interest in a specific topic, like security or an industry challenge, Sogeti may add a day to dig deeper on the subject. Side meetings with Microsoft specialists can also be arranged for individual companies through the EBC.

Based on her six years of holding events at Microsoft's EBC, Follman shared best practices that have made the events more successful:

  1. The events are normally two full days, unless extended for international clients or for industry-specific topics.  
  2. Sogeti does not charge a fee to attend the events, but clients pay their own travel and lodging.
  3. A tour of the Microsoft campus and EBC technology demos break up the day and are popular with attendees.
  4. A dinner or outing for the entire group at the end of the first day adds a social element and helps build personal relationships.  
  5. Sogeti account executives (AEs) are invited to attend the event with their clients. Clients appreciate having someone they know at the event and AEs get two days of their buyers' undivided face-to-face attention.
  6. The EBC is a very busy place; work through your partner account manager to book a year in advance.

As for the return-on-investment from the events, which require a significant investment of time and money, Follman said, "It's one of the only on-site events where we can really demonstrate the return. Since your group of attendees is known and relatively small, you can track the opportunities that result in CRM." Sogeti's commitment to hold three or four events each year is evidence of its success.

Sogeti's executive briefing program is a testament to the additive value of Microsoft and the partner channel. Microsoft's has made big investments in facilities that demonstrate its technology. Follman brought a different perspective to extend the reach of those assets.

There are ten EBCs located around the world, plus hundreds of regional offices and retail stores. Taking a unique approach, partners can leverage Microsoft locations to host distinctive events that educate and build relationships with clients.

How are you making the most of Microsoft resources? Add a comment below or send me a note and let's share the knowledge.

Posted by Barb Levisay on September 09, 2015


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