In the last #WPC16 update we were arriving back in Toronto after a fantastic night at Niagara Falls. Thanks again to Sarah and the Australian team for putting on a great event.
For our Sunday afternoon we had a few options. We could have attended the "first attendee orientation" event. To be honest, the thought of sitting through a few hours of content about getting the most out of the conference didn’t really excite me. Especially after reading great blog posts from the likes of Gary from DDLS. Instead, as both Stuart Moore and I are representing "emerging" partners who don’t have any official partner team handlers, we thought a little bit differently about how we could get mindshare with some of the Microsoft team. Between the two of us we planned an afternoon at the Baseball. The Blue Jays were playing the Detroit Tigers - so we bought 12 tickets for Rogers Stadium and got a group of Microsoft folk together for an afternoon at the game. It was our pleasure to host Ian Palangio (our authentic Canadian translator), Kati Burridge, Ben Place, Tim Lockley and Alan Watts, as well as some of our new partner friends. Sitting in the sun on a Sunday, drinking beers, eating hotdogs and sharing plenty of war stories was a great way to spend the afternoon.
After the game and a quick shower, we walked up to the official Microsoft Australia Hotel – the Sheraton (about 6 blocks from our AirBnB) to catch the bus to the official Australian Networking Welcome event.
The bus dropped us a km or so from the hotel, where we boarded an elevator to a rooftop bar 51 floors above the Toronto skyline. The beer, wine and conversations flowed for about four hours. It was another great opportunity to connect with Microsoft stakeholders and the broader partner community. The sunset over Toronto was beautiful way to finish the weekend – and get ready for the first day of WPC.
Monday was the first big Keynote of the conference. The conference completely filled the Air Canada Centre – the large indoor sports stadium here in Toronto where the Toronto Maple Leafs play. After an introduction from Gavriella Schuster – the new global partner lead at Microsoft, Satya Nadella took the stage. Whilst it was great to see Holo Lens in action and learn more about how Microsoft is executing on their vision… for me the key takeaway from the keynote is that data, and more importantly how you use that data to enable people to take action is increasingly important. The customer scenarios – particularly the example shared from GE really hit home.
Upon reflection, it wasn’t until walking out of the keynote that I realised the scale and the potential of WPC. There are almost 20 000 people here. The Toronto Police need to shut down streets to move people between the Air Canada Centre and the MTCC. You need to plan your travel through the conference because it is massive. A lot of people to connect with!
Speaking of connection… the one thing that has pleasingly surprised me at WPC is just how approachable Microsoft executives have been during the conference. I have already met with one Corporate Vice President, and have numerous meetings set up with Director and Senior Director level stakeholders from Microsoft Corporation. A simple email or a tradeshow hall conversation is all it takes to hear about their priorities, and give you an opportunity to help them understand how your business can help them achieve their goals.
I think the connections so far, the conversations over a few drinks, and the business focused catch ups all mean that we have already got more value from the conference than the price of admission. Now it is time to amplify that over the next few days.