For many partners attending WPC for the first time, the experience can be quite daunting. This is due in no small part to the sheer volume of people at the conference. Add to that the very long list of sessions being run and the amount of parties every night – and you can feel like a deer in headlights.
Advice for first-time WPC attendees
My first WPC was in Minneapolis in 2005 and was a culmination of firsts: first WPC, first Microsoft conference, first time in Minnesota, and the first time I had been in the US since 1986. Needless to say it was a lot to take in and I lost focus. The allure of the parties was also a bit much, which made the days longer and harder.
There is a lot happening in the three days that stretch WPC and, unfortunately, my first piece of advice for first time WPC attendees is this: expect to miss out on sessions and functions that you want to get to. It doesn’t matter how well you plan your days and evenings – other things will come up, or a conversation will go a lot longer than expected. By being realistic about what sessions and functions you can actually make it to, you will save the disappointment when you miss them.
My rule of thumb is to lock in the list of sessions and functions you want to attend – then prioritize one third of the selection. That is a realistic expectation of your attendance.
My second piece of advice: network with other partners! WPC is not just an opportunity to network with people from Microsoft, it’s a rare opportunity to meet partners from all around the world who share the same commitment to Microsoft that you do. Greet the person next to you when sitting down in a session, exchange business cards. Sit at a table in the meals hall with complete strangers – regardless of their accent. It is truly an amazing experience to share ideas and experiences with a person from another country, and a privilege to learn from them.
My third piece of advice: parties can distract you from the real reason you’re at WPC. It’s not uncommon to find yourself triple or even quadruple-booked for parties every night of WPC. Something to remember is that your days at WPC are long, as you are on the clock from the moment you step out of your hotel room. Many attendees still need to do their jobs while at the conference and will spend time emailing and talking on the phone. The WPC parties are fun, but how well can you network at 1am over a blaring DJ? How much harder will the next day be when you’ve only had 3 hours of sleep?
Remember that you are at WPC to learn, network, and have a good time – in that order!