Inspire 2019 isn't far off, here are our top tips for attending
Are you prepping for the biggest Microsoft Partner conference of the year? Fifty Five and Five have attended the last three Inspire events, so we thought it would be good to share the top Microsoft Inspire 2019 preparation tips to make the most of your time at the event.
The team and I have seen first-hand how Microsoft Inspire (formerly known as the Worldwide Partner Conference) provides a massive amount of value for attendees and even those that join from afar. That value stems from the thousands of Microsoft partners large and small looking to grow their presence among like-minded people.
9 Microsoft Inspire 2018 preparation tips
Those experiences have also taught us some valuable lessons on what to expect and how to prepare, that other partners can benefit from. So, here are our 9 Microsoft Inspire 2018 preparation tips:
1. Know your demographic
Before deciding the ‘what’ and the ‘how’ of your company’s presence at Inspire, it’s useful to take a good look at the attendee demographic of past shows. Microsoft provide detailed data on the subject, including:
- Attendee figures
- Sector and industry breakdown
- Job role breakdown
- Areas of interest breakdown
Be sure to look out for this information when Sponsor and Exhibition sales go live this year. As a digital marketing agency dedicated to Microsoft Partners, everyone at Inspire has the potential to be a customer, lead, or useful connection for a partner like us. But even so, it was important for us to take time to study exactly who was attending. ‘Doing your research’ ahead of the event—and rather, any event in general—pays huge dividends.
2. Add value
While you’re probably looking to grow your client base (and, ultimately, your revenue) through attendance at Inspire, it’s important to think about the visitor perspective. Those visitors are bombarded with hundreds of stands, thousands of leaflets and endless competition for their attention.
To provide value to our customers, we produced an annual review celebrating the marketing efforts of Microsoft Partners: our Inbound Marketing Excellence report. It contains interesting features, guides and how-to pieces to help partners improve their own marketing. We launched the 2016 and ’17 editions from our stand at Inspire, giving away free copies to visitors to our stand. Our pitch was simple: “Would you like a free guide to improve your online marketing efforts?” It was that kind of value that helped arrest people’s attention while initiating further conversations for those who took a particular interest.
3. Get organised
If you’re considering attending Inspire 2019, first of all, great! We hope to see you there. Before the excitement can truly start to set in, you need to get ready for this Microsoft Partner conference. It’s important not to underestimate the amount of work involved in preparing for the event itself.
- Set a budget. Include all your costs and, most importantly, stick to them. Resist the temptation to get another 10,000 leaflets or cards printed at extra expense unless you believe it’s absolutely necessary.
- Decide who is attending. Ideally, this needs to be done well ahead of time. Not only is this a cost and logistical issue (think flights, accommodation etc.) but keep in mind who will be tasked with getting the daily business done during the event.
- Pinpoint collateral and your USP. What are you taking to the show? How is it being produced, collated, and rehearsed? Do this planning now, so your experience at Inspire is more strategic and prepared.
4. Define roles and responsibilities
Once at Inspire, you need to be very clear about who is doing what, and when. Consider the following:
- How many people will be promoting your company and services at any given time, and where?
- Who will be networking at other stands, speaker events and social functions?
- How will people cover ongoing work or check in with the office while at the conference?
In our case, we had four people at our stand at any given time to promote Fifty Five and Five—speaking to leads and sharing copies of the report. The rest of the team was split between networking on the floor and attending useful talks and presentations. Having a clear definition of roles and responsibilities helped keep us all on track and get as much out of the event as possible.
5. Have a target list
Everyone at the stand should have a customer ‘target list’ with information such as:
- Named leads that you really want to connect with, along with background information so people recognise them.
- Named companies that you also want to connect with.
- Exhibiting companies you want to visit.
- Existing clients that are attending that you should say hello to.
- Relevant Microsoft employees that you want to meet at the show.
We prepared a printed datasheet so everyone knew who was important to talk to and why. It was extremely helpful during the conference.
6. Get the right data
While Microsoft Inspire employs the latest RFIP badge scanner technology which records details from visitors who swipe their badges, this system won’t capture the most important data of all—your conversations with them.
That’s why we learned it was important for everyone at our stand to also have the more ‘traditional’ clipboards, paper and pens. Not only was everyone scanned, but after conversations had finished, notes were immediately written up with as much detail as possible. Contacting these people afterwards was then a very natural case of “Hi, you spoke to my colleague X about Y, and wanted to know a little about Z…”. If you plan to host an event where your attendees’ badges will be scanned, don’t rely on that alone—this sort of personal, authentic email is so much more effective than an automated mailer, and we would not have had the information without collecting it ourselves. Just make sure you aren’t caught clipboard in hand, as this can be off-putting to passers-by!
7. Follow up with leads
When following up with your leads and new contacts from the conference, be sure to keep track of the following:
- Who was contacted?
- When were they contacted?
- Who in your business should contact them?
- When should you follow up again?
You can use a good CRM system to automate this process like we do. But a simple spreadsheet can sometimes be just as effective. We’ve learnt that actual work won’t come as an immediate result of your trip to the conference. But be patient and persistent and you can expect to see real results. It takes time but is well worth it in the end!
8. Maximise your investment
You want to showcase that you are the kind of company deserving of a presence at a conference as big as Inspire. To make the most of the experience, we invested time in writing blogs and sharing collateral from the show. We were also very active on Twitter during and after the show, and have continued to share videos and pictures from the week.
9. Calculate your ROI
Ultimately, any company attending Inspire is doing so to grow their company. That requires revisiting your experience of the event soon after its conclusion.
- Calculate every cost you incurred in attending Inspire. Don’t forget all the incidental costs while you were away.
- Look at the work you have won since returning. It is very likely you need to take a long-term view that incorporates the length of your typical sales cycle or longer as leads from a trade show will typically take longer to result in billable work or sales.
- Remember to note a return for the connection you made with Microsoft. While harder to put a number to, often this is the most valuable reason to be at Inspire.
Great advice Chris! Having attended every WPC/Inspire (and older names) since 2002 in Los Angeles, I can witness that it takes an effort as a participant - but the return is plenty when you do it right. Going to Inspire is simply a great business investment!
For me personally, Inspire is a highlight in the year - I get to meet interesting people, learn a lot and teach a bit!