For first-time attendees to Microsoft’s Worldwide Partner Conference (#WPC12), being held this year in Toronto, the biggest question is often "What should be our WPC strategy?" In an MPN Live broadcast last month, I joined Jon Roskill, Kat Tillman, and other partners to discuss the return on investment of attending WPC, sharing some of my own strategies.

 
In our IAMCP Seattle chapter meetings, it has been a recurring topic, with multiple speakers sharing their perspectives on how to prepare for WPC. In the June meeting, we were joined by Paul Solski, managing director at Microsoft partner AIM International, a business strategy planning firm focusing on international expansion and partner program development. Paul provided some excellent planning tips to help small and large Microsoft partners to prepare, sharing some statistics on the upcoming event:
 
  • 15,000 partners
  • 4,000 Microsoft people
  • 250 Microsoft executives
  • 600 sessions
  • 26 tracks
 
 
 
 
 
Unlike events such as TechEd and SharePoint Conference where the focus centers on the content being shared, the top reason why people attend WPC is to meet with other partners and network. Sure, there is content and Microsoft interaction and entertainment – but the real value comes from peer-to-peer interaction. The hard part is finding the right partners. And getting on their schedules.
 
 
 
Why partner? Paul outlined a compelling model for partnering, with the goals of increasing your market reach, adding to your sales and implementation capacity, lowering costs, and increasing the size of your sales pipeline.
 
 
 
This being my third time attending WPC, I’ve been at the forefront of planning for my team. The key lesson I’ve learned is to build our WPC Connect plan early: figure out who we want to meet with, and schedule those meetings as soon as possible. We are being very tactical about our partnership activities at WPC, examining our needs within each territory, identifying partners and Microsoft leadership from each geographical area, and reaching out early to get onto their Connect schedules. What we don’t want is a repeat of two years ago where we left this planning until the week of the event, and most of our target partners and Microsoft leadership were booked solid.
 
 
 
Similar to what Paul outlined in his presentation, my advice is to prioritize your activities as follows:
 
  1. Identify your key partners and Microsoft leaders, and schedule your meetings through Connect as early as possible. Be sure to include some level of detail in your invitation as to why you would like to meet, and the benefit to them for partnering.
  2.  

  3. Make time to visit the exhibit area and to go through the WPC Connect profiles to identify other potential partners, and either schedule them through Connect or contact and set up informal meetings.
  4.  

  5. Plan out your content agenda, decide which keynotes to attend, and build them into your calendar.
  6.  

  7. Figure out what parties and extracurricular events are going on, which you need to register for, and extend your schedule. Also – don’t plan on sleeping much.
  8.  

  9. Never eat alone – WPC is not a time to be shy. Get out there and talk to people!
 
One other critical piece of advice from Paul is to refine your elevator pitch. Have your company story down. Be clear on your company’s goals, the benefits you bring to a partnership, how you differentiate your products and services from the competition, and the action steps to move forward in partnering with you. You can download a copy of Paul’s IAMCP presentation here.
– Christian​