Each year, Microsoft Inspire brings together thousands of Data Platform experts from its partner community so they can pick up new skills, learn about the latest product innovations, and most importantly, network and build connections.
Because it is such an important event for the industry, organizers wanted to persevere through COVID-19 cancellations. This year’s Microsoft Inspire will not only be entirely virtual, but also free.
Making the conference accessible to all in this way means that we will see a lot of fresh faces. But it also means that networking opportunities will look a lot different; without happy hours and in-person mingling between sessions, you’ll need to be creative when it comes to forging new connections and gaining new leads.
Microsoft Inspire has indicated that they will provide opportunities for attendees to network, but exact details about how they plan to do this have not yet been shared. However, there is still plenty you can do to ensure you’re ahead of the pack when it comes to successfully networking at virtual events.
Paper Sword attends Microsoft Inspire every year, and the connections we’ve made have turned into lasting business relationships. We have extensive experience attending and hosting virtual conferences, and have gained invaluable insight into how to best take advantage of events like these for growing your network.
We created this guide to help you capture more quality leads at this year’s virtual Microsoft Inspire conference. Once you’ve created a clarified message to feed your sales funnel, capturing quality leads at Inspire is as easy as following these 7 steps!
Before the event:
1. Register Early for Networking
Registration for Inspire is now open, and as part of the sign-up process, you’ll be asked whether you want to park part in attendee networking. Make sure you check ‘yes’ – though not live yet, the Microsoft Inspire team has told us that attendees can create a public profile and view other attendees’ profiles by mid-July.
In writing your profile, make sure to accurately describe your current role, your company, and what you want to get out of Inspire. Make sure to add all relevant links to your company website, as well.
Keep your eyes peeled! Microsoft will email all attendees who want to be listed in the public directory once it’s live.
2. Put Your Best Foot Forward
You’ve invested a lot of time, energy and money into developing your product or service, but you can’t neglect the final polish that makes it attractive to potential leads.
Give your online assets a quick look over. Websites with unclear messaging and difficult navigation, inactive company social media accounts and out-of-date personal LinkedIn profiles do not do you any favors. If you have time, book a free website audit with us to get the ball rolling on your website efforts, but at the very minimum you should ensure that both your personal and your company LinkedIn profiles are up to date and presentable.
And, when the above-mentioned attendee networking tool is launched just before the event, you’ll want ensure your profile is ready before go-live date as they’ll be a lot of people trying to stand out from the crowd.
3. Get Organized
Meeting a new lead is only half the battle. How are you going to follow up with new leads? You need to have a system in place to keep track of all these amazing business connections you’re making. Pay close attention to people’s names, companies, and job titles. Keeping this information documented in a spreadsheet will help you prioritize who you’re following up with after the event.
If you’ve ever struggled to keep notes about in-person interactions, virtual conferences actually make it much easier. No more frantic scribbling on the back of a business card – you can have your spreadsheet open on your screen!
Your needs will vary in terms of what supplementary information you’ll need to jot down, but be sure to include things like name pronunciation, preferred contact method, and date of last contact.
4. Stay Connected
If you aren’t already a member of the Global Microsoft Partner Network and United States Microsoft Partner Network groups on LinkedIn, join them. Make a habit of checking these groups often for updates on who’s attending, and make sure to connect with these users so you know to follow up with them later. Haven’t been leveraging a LinkedIn Social Selling strategy yet? Start by reviewing our guide on how to generate more sales through LinkedIn.
Lastly, you should take a look at #MSinspire Twitter Activity and follow active users before the event commences.
During the event:
1. Stand out From the Crowd
Share your LinkedIn profile with other attendees often and be active on the #MSinspire hashtag on both your personal and company profiles. They’ll be a lot of online noise during this event, so ‘standing out from the crowd’ means posting quality content and engaging with other attendees’ content as well.
If you’re having trouble finding ways to meaningfully engage with other attendees’ posts at first, leverage the relationships you already have with other attendees. People are more likely to respond favorably to connection requests if they have seen your name ‘around’ and if you appear to be well-connected already.
2. Ask Questions
Understanding the pain points from potential clients or future partners during Microsoft Inspire will be paramount to building a business relationship. Ask questions about current problems they’re facing, and be comfortable explaining how your business can help them in a simple, concise way.
Paring down all your operations to a quick elevator pitch is no easy feat. Download our One-Liner Guide to create your clarified message. A short, easy to understand one-liner is more likely to stick in someone’s mind, and is more easily repeated to other members of your new contact’s team.
After the event:
1. Follow Up with Leads
All the networking in the world can’t help you if you haven’t created an efficient follow up system. Once you’ve built your list of potential clients, make sure you’ve sent connection requests to each of these users on LinkedIn. After this, we recommend saving them into a Sales Navigator list for future marketing efforts.
As the inaugural virtual Microsoft Inspire, the 2020 conference presents an exciting opportunity. You’ll be able to connect with more people than ever before, but if you’ve relied on more casual, in-person networking strategies, then you have to make sure you’re prepared to pivot. The competition will be tough, but you can ensure you have a leg up by going in with a clear message and organized system for success.
Need help taking the next steps – or figuring out what the next step is? Give us a call.