Last month saw us visiting Washington D.C. for the 15th year of Microsoft Inspire 2017 (formerly WPC). Inspire continues to be a huge event for Microsoft Partners all over the globe. As the person in charge of getting Team Crossware to Inspire safely each year, I thought I’d share my own experiences of Inspire planning this year to hopefully help you out with your own 2018 (and onwards) planning!
To sum up Inspire for any newcomers, it is essentially droves of Microsoft Partners coming together for a week, shaking off their jet-lag and stage fright for a week, to meet up and network until they can barely stand up.
With enough events to keep the most enthusiastic attendee busy for the whole week: keynotes, sessions, catch-ups, regional events and global events, there’s plenty to talk about. However, in the interest of keeping it short and sweet, we’ve picked out four key aspects you’ll need to consider when planning your Inspire booth.
We’ll be sharing a Part 2 of this guide soon, watch this space 🙂
Choosing your Microsoft Inspire Sponsorship Level
You can choose from various levels of sponsorship for Microsoft Inspire: (in order of increasing price, size and importance) 10′ x 10′ Turnkey, 10′ x 20′ Turnkey, Silver, Gold, Platinum, Titanium, Diamond.
Turnkeys are pre-made booths which require no set-up from you. They are a great option for anyone on a budget (not that the event is particularly cheap to sponsor).
We generally choose the 10′ x 10′ option to exhibit Crossware Mail Signature, which we have always found to be fantastic for meeting people, and not as intimidating as some of the larger booths for attendees. I would highly recommend this for a first timer. But don’t take my word for it, the Exhibitor Prospectus is a hugely useful resource when making a decision about sponsorship levels.
Choosing your Microsoft Inspire Booth Location
Some months after you’ve purchased your chosen level of sponsorship, you will be emailed by Microsoft prompting you to choose your booth number.
This is generally done via the Exhibitor Resource Center with waves of people being granted access for a short time only. The waves are often sorted by date of payment (early payers get first access) as far as I understand.
In terms of location, you’ll certainly want to find what works for you, but generally a good rule of thumb is to place yourself in a main walkway that will be used each day (Microsoft often provides diagrams to help you figure out where people are walking).
Other landmarks in the venue to place yourself near include coffee stands (these are free, and very popular), food serving stations (catch hungry attendees as they eat their many free meals) and regional lounges (catch people as they network). Keep an eye out for that killer combination that gets you the most traffic and remember it for next year!
Networking Effectively at Inspire
Microsoft provides some free NFC scanners for every booth (ranging from four for Diamond and one for 10′ x 10′ Turnkeys), to scan attendee badges. This basically means you’ll be using a rented Android smartphone loaded with an app to scan attendee lanyards. The scanners generally work well, with an occasional blip in NFC functionality.
Data can be downloaded in real time as well as after Microsoft Inspire to collect scans. Usually “surveys” can be included in the scan. These are useful questions which your event organizer can add. Fair warning, you likely won’t have much time to answer these for each person, as you’ll be simultaneously trying to hold a conversation with the scannee.
You can often (depending on the company that Microsoft chooses to handle your scans), draw a prize winner within the scanning app too, which is great. Extra scanners can also be rented (in advance, or at the venue) for a pretty hefty price tag if you find you’re swamped with attendees.
Attracting people to your Inspire booth
Being unique is certainly key to drawing attention, but you’ll also need to keep in mind that Microsoft oversees all your decisions and won’t be happy with everything. There are pretty strict guidelines for booth modifications, prizes (no competitor products!), merchandise handouts and booth-attraction techniques that you can utilize.
I would recommend that you get the go-ahead (via email) for everything you’d like to do to your Inspire booth, before you spend money on it. There’s nothing more disappointing than being told to stop carrying out your inspired (pun intended) booth traffic scheme at the event itself!
That being said, we suggest you pick an unusual prize, create strange and awesome merchandise and get your name out there. This is the only way you’ll shine in a hall of 20,000 people!
Part 2 – COMING SOON!
Anything else you’d like to know about Microsoft Inspire? Let us know in the comments below and we’ll try to squeeze it into Part 2, or answer it for you below. We’d love to share any of our experiences that might help you out with your decision.