Several years ago, when I was relatively new to the Microsoft Channel, I walked the floor of the 2011 WPC Expo Hall in Los Angeles. This year, I had the opportunity to experience all of WPC as a First Time Attendee, and am now truly convinced that every Microsoft Partner should have someone from their organization attend.

As the West Regional Chair for the International Association of Microsoft Partners (IAMCP), I went to Houston a few days early to participate in some additional events, including an extensive board meeting, a special VIP tour of the Expo Hall, volunteering at the golf tournament, and attending an exclusive dinner with Microsoft Senior executives.  During these pre-WPC activities, I was surprised, but so excited, to see what a great partnership IAMCP and Microsoft share!  Recognizing this connection solidified my thoughts and validated the hard work I have put in locally for IAMCP over the past several years. I was excited for the real WPC festivities to begin.
Walking into the conference for the first time was an experience that took over all of my senses: The hum of voices and technology, the scent and taste of the food waiting to be eaten, and the touch of hands I shook as I met so many new people.
I was handed a name badge with a red lanyard, versus the other black ones I had noticed.  After I put my badge on, strangers began to approach me, introduce themselves, and offer their assistance. I quickly realized that anyone with a red lanyard was also #NEW2WPC. It ends up that of the over 9,000 attendees, nearly 3,000 were 1st time attendees, like me.  The different lanyard colors encouraged WPC veterans to help make us newcomers feel more comfortable during the conference. I definitely think it was a success.
The entire conference was an experience in itself, but my participation at the First Time Attendee Lunch was definitely a highlight. It was something I decided to attend last-minute on Day 2 and ended up repeating on Day 3.  I thought the lunch was a great way to get additional tips and share some of the ones I had already learned.  I also had a chance to talk about IAMCP and get more Partners interested in joining. I really look forward to sitting at these tables next year at #WPC14 and possibly helping someone else through their first-time experience.
As a Dynamics Partner, another highlight was seeing such a Dynamics presence at WPC: In the Expo Hall, during sessions and even when Steve Ballmer mentioned “Dynamics” in his keynote.
I am already so excited about WPC 2014, and I cannot wait to be as much as a part of it as I possibly can! Here are a few things tips I learned this year to prepare you for next year:
  • Bring water with you all the time
  • BandAids – I was so glad I had them for the blisters on my feet (you do a lot of walking!)
  • A portable charger for my electronics (although plenty of public charging stations were available)
  • Only book ½ your day – I realized that my plans were always changing
  • WPC is about NETWORKING! The sessions are important to go to, too, but NETWORK, NETWORK, NETWORK!

I’ll see you at WPC 2014.

David Gersten, Sales Account Manager, Bond Consulting Services, Long Beach, California
@dsgersten – twitter