Whether you’re a first timer this year or have attended dozens of events, Inspire (formerly WWPC), is nothing short of an immersion into the intricacies of information technology, and a veritable cloud computing bonanza. Having attended, presented, and sent a multitude of teammates to Inspire for over a decade now, I thought it would be useful and fun to gather and share tips and insights for those heading to the Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas between July 14-18, 2019. If you’re one of the nearly 20,000 attendees this year, we’ve also included some fun, experiential recommendations and for you and your team in Las Vegas!
Pre-Game Preparation: Although it can be overwhelming, especially your first time around, Inspire is quite simply about getting business done while absorbing Microsoft’s vision, and taking business-building insights back to your team, company and clients. With highly specialized tracks dedicated to the technical community as well as the sales and marketing aspects of the Microsoft channel community, there is plenty (sometimes too much) for everyone. Our first pro tip is to invest time into pre-event planning. It may seem like a lot, but we suggest blocking the equivalent of a full business day ahead of your trip (sooner than later) for scheduling your time in Vegas for maximum return on investment.
Download the MSFT Events app in either the Android Play Store or in Apple iTunes and fill your calendar with all sessions you’d like to attend (you can even take notes in each session within the app). When you’re on your desktop be sure to absorb the content on the main Inspire site, and review and follow Inspire social media handles. Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter Similarly, you can extend meeting invites to colleagues, partners, vendors and friends during this important pre-event scheduled time.
Microsoft Inspire is a city within a city, and the last thing you want to do is show up without an action plan or an onsite itinerary. And don’t worry, meetings, sessions or scheduled events will likely change. Being agile after you’ve pre-booked your week may seem contradictory, but schedule flexibility is a must. Considering the mission, putting quality time into your show-week schedule, including your meetings, will allow you to not only manage your time but also ensure you’re getting the most bang for your investment.
When landing in Las Vegas, no matter the time, it’s hard not to immediately feel the energy of The Strip. If you’re a sports fan, you may want to take a little time after check-in to stroll down to the sports book and place a few friendly wagers on your favorite teams and events. Getting this out of the way early will throw you square into your new habitat quickly. It will also afford you some interesting people watching ahead of the frantic pace of the rest of the week! What’s more, placing a wager on behalf of your team, department or work colleagues is a fun way to make everyone a part of your Vegas experience. We enjoy the sports book at Caesar’s Palace if you need a recommendation.
Game Time: With your schedule locked and your sessions outlined, it’s time to get in the game and in your zone. Nobody knows your business and your company’s value proposition as well as you but consider the realities: there are nearly 20,000 people attending Inspire this year and they aren’t aware of the minutia that drives your daily business. Nor do they have time in the hotel lobby to absorb your twenty-minute pitch. Our second pro tip is to have a few elevator pitches ready, refined and rehearsed.
So, you’re an Indirect CSP partner and have experienced double digit growth the last two years? Great, but what’s your differentiator? Do you have a vertical focus—is your IP in market—do you have a lead-gen program or a video, or a wildly successful use case that demonstrates uniqueness in this hyper-competitive market? Remember, at Inspire you’re amongst the most respected and knowledgeable leaders in the cloud computing industry. Knowing the hot buttons of your audience and using your small windows of conversation effectively will make your meetings memorable and actionable for post-event follow up.
Food (and drink)! The experience should always be about the relationships and the company, but the memories are cemented by the setting and the venue. Do you remember when they practically gave away hotel rooms and offered complimentary dinners in Las Vegas for simply sitting at a low stakes table? Well, those days are long gone but thankfully the Las Vegas dinner scene is a foodie’s delight and offers options for the most discriminating palettes. Here are a few of our favorite eating and drinking recommendations: For Italian, try the Parpadelle Bolognese at Lupo Wolfgang Puck; for steak and large groups, share the Australian Tomahawk at StripSteak; and for steak, oysters and small groups, definitely head to Charlie Palmer Steak and get the Porterhouse (for two or three!). If the day or night call for less formality and a heightened sense of, eh um, jocularity, try O’Sheas where you can drink, wager, and even play team beer pong!
Post-Game Debrief: By now you’re exhausted, your brain hurts, your throat is sore from talking, and you’re jet lagged! But, unfortunately, your work isn’t over. As a matter of fact, it’s just starting. Bookending our pre-game planning ritual, the third Microsoft Inspire pro tip is to block time to share your learnings and assemble your post event action planning go-do’s.
You now have the insights, the research, and the experiences under your belt. From AI to Azure cloud migration to transforming the modern workplace, it’s time to implement and execute. If you’re reading this and are proactive by nature, here’s a friendly reminder to give your contacts at least a week before probing and following up. This may be mid-year for many of us, but in Microsoft-land this is the beginning of the new fiscal year and the height of worldwide vacation season.
Bright lights, great restaurants, and a bit of debauchery is what comes to everyone’s mind when thinking about Las Vegas. But, there’s more to this city and this part of the world. A Merit Miler’s favorite childhood memory was on a Vegas trip with his Dad. After spending a couple of nights teaching him the tables and seeing shows, they spent their (dad’s) winnings and extended their stay by a day… Dad hired a small craft private plane and father and son had a transcendent aerial tour of Lake Mead, the Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon. Yeah, that one won’t soon be forgotten! Nonetheless, on this trip or a future visit, consider going off The Strip for day or more. The golf course at Bali Hai is a green playground in the desert. And Red Rock Canyon is great for hiking, mountain-biking and wildlife-watching.
Lastly, when you unpack your Inspire experience and catch up on your Las Vegas sleep deprivation, think about how lucky you are to work in an exciting and ever-evolving industry and to be a part of a global partner ecosystem that generates $10 for every $1 in top-line Microsoft revenue annually. Your opportunities are limitless.
To connect at Inspire, or to learn more about Merit Mile and how we can craft, produce and deliver game-changing marketing solutions for your organization, please drop us a line at Hello@MeritMile.com.