Of the 16,000 attendees who came to Washington, D.C. for WPC 2014, 4,200—more than a quarter—were First Time Attendees (FTAs). Many veteran attendees volunteered to be mentors for the FTA community, working with them in advance to ensure that their first WPC was as successful as possible. On site, WPC featured a First Time Attendee orientation session and daily lunches with mentors. Red badge lanyards identified FTAs to other attendees, and green ones allowed FTAs to find mentors easily. We spoke with four FTAs about their experience, which we’ve detailed below.
Despite being “initially overwhelmed at the sheer size of the event,” Simon Bell, head of technology at Complete I.T., had prepared enough in advance that the shock quickly wore off. “The tools available on the WPC website were very useful,” he said. “I had enough information to get started.” He attended LS711 – Make the Most of the First Time Attendee Experience as a primer, sat in the FTA area for lunch throughout the week with FTA mentors, and reached out to other “helpful and approachable” attendees for guidance when needed. Paul Ince, solutions architect at Technology Services Group (TSG), agreed that the 16,000 attendees were “an inclusive bunch of people” to “shar[e] the journey with,” noting how open and collaborative partners were. Other partners’ willingness to offer advice and join meetings enhanced Ince’s success. He advised forming connections with “someone not in your field” as it “may give you an inspirational idea.” Meetings with partners that complemented rather than mirrored his offerings were “truly invaluable.”
Another FTA, Rick Oppman, vice president of sales at Pinnacle of Indiana IT Services, reiterated the benefit of meeting with other partners in Connect, and also expressed how WPC enhanced his relationship with Microsoft: “My first time experience at WPC was tremendous. The content and excitement [surrounding] being affiliated with Microsoft was completely substantiated by attending WPC.” Ince added that the Vision Keynotes in particular were fantastic for gaining insight into Microsoft’s vision and strategy. He says, “[we have] been able to take key directional messages back to our business to inform others, and, in turn, form our own strategy on how we put all this into practice.”
In addition to their successes, the group had plenty of learnings from their first WPC. Darlene Smith, senior director of Partner Programs & Alliances at tekVizion, emphasized the need to “give yourself time between scheduled meetings.” Bell agreed that blocking transition time is necessary to ensure you’re on time in case other meetings go long.
Smith and Ince both reiterated the importance of keeping track of your experience while it’s happening. Ince advises writing down ideas as they come to you, including context. Note the session where these ideas occurred, so you can access the digital content later to refresh your memory and “validate your thoughts.” Smith goes a step further, saying, “Immediately write a note on the back of each business card you get.” This way, when compiling notes and new contacts at the end of each day, you’ll remember how you met each person and what you talked about.
Finally, make time to explore the city and take photos of the sights. As Ince puts it, “you wouldn’t want to come away from the conference without pictures other than photos of slides!”
Want to make the most of this expert advice from 2014’s First Time Attendees? Register today for WPC 2015 in Orlando.
p.s. If you’d like more information about the WPC First Time Attendee program, please reach out to Ashley Bogard.