​When it comes to partner programs and events, I’ve always believed that Microsoft offers a lot of good business value.  From my early days, I remember the opportunities to get a head start on the next Microsoft products through local events like Open Door Days and Direct Access.  If you recall those names, then you’ll surely agree that Microsoft has come a long way since those good old days; but one thing that hasn’t changed over the years is the value of great partner events.  And let’s face it, there are a lot of Microsoft events for us to choose from every year, from boot camps and hands-on trainings to product launches and regional meetings.  The Microsoft event schedule has always kept me busy. 

 
The one event that passed me by year after year was the Worldwide Partner Conference (WPC).  My perception was that it was a large-scale, global event that didn’t really apply to my small consulting business. So for years, I stuck to events at the local Microsoft office and didn’t really see how WPC could do anything for me. 
That all changed a few years ago when my new TPAM asked me why I didn’t go to WPC.  I told him why – that I didn’t think it was for me, and that my small business didn’t belong at a global conference. He insisted that WPC was the one event that could take my business to a new level.  Reluctantly, I agreed to go and scheduled my trip to WPC 2010 in Washington DC.
 
When I got off the bus at WPC, I felt like a bee seeing the hive for the very first time.  Everywhere I looked, there were partners and vendors and all things Microsoft.  I remember feeling completely overwhelmed and excited all at the same time.  This certainly wasn’t like anything I had seen before. 
 
I was soon sharing stories and experiences with partners from every part of the world, and it was empowering to find that we shared a lot of the same challenges and perspectives. In the following days, I found myself discussing my business with Microsoft people who I had only read about on the internet. I was attending sessions that delivered tangible ways I could improve my business. Most importantly, I was gaining strategic insight from Microsoft that gave me the vision to plan my business for the year ahead.   At the end, with exhaustive notes and tired feet, I couldn’t believe that I had bypassed this opportunity for so many years. 
 
With my first WPC under my belt, I was determined to take whatever steps I could to maximize my next WPC investment. At WPC 2011 in Los Angeles, I scheduled meetings in advance with essential partners and key individuals from Microsoft.  Just like in DC, I met additional Microsoft folks who were interested in my business, my opinions and my success.  Those connections turned into lasting business relationships, and have become the biggest differentiator between WPC and all other Microsoft events.  WPC offers partners the unique opportunity to connect and collaborate with the Microsoft teams, business groups, and executives who can directly impact and influence your success.   
 
As a veteran WPC attendee in Toronto, it was time for a progress report of sorts.  Was attending WPC really worth my time and effort?  That answer came in the fourth day of WPC 2012, when my company was featured during Cindy Bates’ regional keynote.  There on the big screen, her presentation showed statistics about my company’s growth. That was all the proof I needed that my investment in WPC was really working and was really, really worth it.  If you’ve been sitting on the sidelines, debating with yourself about why WPC isn’t right for you, let me tell you this: you do belong at WPC, and a world of opportunities are there if you just put the plan in motion. 
 
As I look ahead to WPC 2013 in Houston, I’m already thinking about the people I want to meet, the goals and milestones that I want to have accomplished, and the first time attendees I want to welcome. But why wait until July? Let’s get the introductions started.  One way is to go out to Twitter and, using hashtag #WPC13, post a photo and share with the partner community why your hometown is unique.  Do this before Friday, November 30, and you’ll even have a chance to win prizes from Microsoft.
 
See you at WPC 2013 in Houston!  
 
–Bill ​