Day Six of Microsoft Partner Learning Series: Two ways to expand your network and get the most out of attending training and conferences (The Gift of a Robust Network)

Today is the sixth day of the Microsoft Partner twelve days of Learning Series. I had to conduct some research today as I had no idea what a Brolga was. For those of you like me who had no idea, the Brolga is a large grey crane, with a featherless red head and grey crown and is known for its spectacular dance displays during breeding season. Brolgas form large family groups and flocks of up to a hundreds of birds.

So as it is the last day of 2015 I put a challenge out to all of you, in 2016 be prepared get the most out of the training and conferences you attend and strategically increase your network by hundreds. I give you the Gift of a Robust Network.

Still not sure what I am talking about, let me try something different. How many of you are going to wake up tomorrow (New Year’s Day) and decide that you are going to cycle in the Santos Tour Down Under or play tennis in the Australian Open?

No one… right?

So why would you not plan or start planning for upcoming training and or conference the week before?

I see this all the time, it is such a missed opportunity for you and your business.

Training and/or Conferences are a fantastic place for you to make connections, share best practices, create business partnerships and build your network. To maximise your impact at any Microsoft Australia Training run by myself and/or my team mates or any of the major Microsoft Conference in 2016, such as Convergence, Worldwide Partner Conference, Ignite or Australia Partner Conference you need to start preparing long before the training and/or conference date to get the most out of it.

Here are two ways you can start preparing for any upcoming Microsoft training or conference:

1. Become a social influencer

First impressions matter (well that is what my mum tells me) and your first introduction to the community occurs via your social profile.

Whether you’ve established a significant social following, or if you have yet to really begin engaging, it’s important to leverage your social media efforts for networking purposes. Once you have identified your social media goals, you’ll want to provide value to your followers by producing content that provides your audience with an opportunity to learn. Not sure where to start? Here are a few tips:

  • Follow thought leaders and successful partners in your business via Twitter, and connect with them on LinkedIn.
  • Stay up to date by reading articles and watching videos on things like best online reputation practices and what we learned about digital marketing in 2015.
  • Re-tweet and share valuable content, but don’t forget to build upon their thoughts with your own ideas and knowledge.
  • Differentiate yourself. Don’t be afraid to be bold, and make yourself interesting. I have met a lot of you and you all have interesting points of views and ideas, share them.
  • Be consistent. Consistency in your posts will instil confidence with your followers and result in a dependable following.
  • Specialise. Don’t try to be the master of everything. Pick a primary social media platform and leverage other social media channels to direct visitors to this primary location. For me this blog is my primary location for sharing information with you and the Australia Partner Yammer group is the primary area to answer your questions.
  • Establishing yourself as an industry leader can’t be done overnight, it requires a concentrated, consistent effort, but as you work towards becoming a social influencer, other partners will take notice. As you gain influence and build connections, that means less work – and more fun – for you while at any of the conference.

2. Plan meetings in advance

Even in today’s digital world, face-to-face meetings matter and they are the best way to interact and build successful partnerships. Since training and conferences provide the opportunity for thousands of potential interactions, you need to do three things before you get there:

  • Identify your goals and begin initiating relationships. Once you’ve identified key contacts, reach out to them. By initiating these relationships now, you will bypass the small-talk during the event, saving you (and them) time and maximising the value of your interactions. The Australia Partner Yammer group is a great place to find out who is attending what training and the Australia WPC Yammer group is a great place to connect with people attending 2016 Worldwide Partner Conference.
  • For Conferences determine your must-attend sessions, speakers, and social events. Large conferences typically offer a lot of content, which can be overwhelming. Determine which sessions, speakers and events will help you learn the most or connect you with the most relevant people. Use the conference tools as soon as they become available to build your schedule and plan meetings. Doing so before the conference ensures you’ll arrive prepared, which will make you more productive.
  • Make sure the right people from your team are present. It’s impossible to be an expert in all areas, so be sure the right mix of team members is attending. Then assign each person into one of three categories: Enablers, Innovators and Executors. Enablers should focus on industry trends and business operations. Innovators seek out thought leaders and novel technologies. Executors will tackle marketing and sales best practices.

Implementing these strategies prior to attending any training and/or conference will go a long way in helping you maximise the value of your attendance. As we look ahead to 2016, now is the perfect time to start initiating your planning process.

Happy New Year’s Eve Everyone!

I look forward to seeing you in person at any of our training courses or conferences or digitally on the Australia Partner Yammer group.

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