This is the second part in a 3-part series about Microsoft Inspire. Read Part 1 here and Part 3 here

Managing your time at any conference is tricky, getting the balance between Keynotes (or Corenotes, as Microsoft like to call them), breakout sessions, private meetings and networking events is difficult and quickly you can spend all your time chasing your diary.

Factor in that Inspire is a big conference, we’re talking circa 20,000 attendees before you consider the Microsoft team, so naturally venues and hotels are going to be spread out – you need a plan. This is our 5 Step Plan.

1) Lock in the immovables

Some events are fixed, such as the Corenotes – if you plan attend, get those in the diary first followed by any sessions of interest. There will always be more sessions than time allows – so validate that the level of the session is appropriate for you – at Sales and Marketing conferences there is often a lot of content for new entrants – that might not be for you.

2) 1 to 1 meetings

If this is your first Inspire you might be surprised about how popular you’ve suddenly become if you have opted to be visible in the MyInspire Directory  - (to check this - click on settings).

Be ruthless, we only see organisations who:

  • Appear a good strategic fit – i.e. help solve a problem we already have
  • We have had some engagement with previously and with whom we want to formalise plan
  • We work with already – but take the opportunity to get leadership teams together

3) Where to meet

BloodyMary-Charlie

The official meeting area is the Connect Zone – best if you want to want a shorter meeting to establish if there is any common ground.

That said, we find that our best meetings are held elsewhere – breakfast works well, the Seabreeze café at the Mandalay Bay does a pretty awesome dirty Bloody Mary if that’s how you like to start your day; early dinner or simply in the corner of a hotel lounge all can work.

Our experience is that meetings away from the conference floor, and I include country regional areas in that, tend to be more open and have less distractions.

4) Effective Meetings

Meeting people in a conference is a lot like meeting people on holiday – you meet people who you might not usually talk to and everything is going to be amazing when you return back home – that is, until you return back home.

I took the following tips from the Sandler Sales training that we undertook as a business.

1) Define what you want to get out of the meeting before you even reach out – once a meeting is agreed, set expectations with an agenda.

2) Consider before you commit, this feels like a good idea now – but will it still be a good idea when you return home with your other competing priorities?

3) Focus on committing to a small number of focused activities and then following them through rather than "Yes" to everything.

4) Use an Upfront contract in a meeting – search for “Sandler Upfront Contract” to see what good for this looks like and why it’s essential to stop meetings turning into a conversation without direction.

5) And finally...

Something we find useful is to seek out partners who are not in the same geography as us but either cover the same or similar technology or have the same business model. You’ll find that you’ll have more open conversations than with your direct competitors at home and you can discuss how you approach common challenges.

As a further note, if this is of particular interest, search out “Ingram Micro’s TrustX Alliance” – they have a partner network for this very type of engagement.

In my final post in this series I’ll be covering “Making your Investment Count”.

Originally published June 20 2019, Updated July 10, 2019

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