What’s New for Inspire Networking

Microsoft has released the “MyInspire Connections tool” which allows you connect with existing partners, potential partners, and Microsoft staff at the upcoming Inspire partner conference. This article summarizes what is new in the tool and how to use it effectively.

Microsoft’s partner conference is very efficient for organizing onsite meetings, saving travel costs and providing opportunities to connect with people you may not have a chance to meet otherwise.

As part of the conference, Microsoft provides the MyInspire Connections tool to identify attendees who have opted-in for networking. Over 10K attendees are visible now and a couple thousand more will appear in the coming weeks. You can search by name, company or a variety of attributes from attendee profiles including competencies (not verified by Microsoft), industry focus, business type, and customer segment.You identify people you want to meet, have a table assigned (or specify your own location), and the recipient will receive an email that they can accept (or ignore). Once accepted, a meeting request will be placed on your calendar. Note: the description you use in your invitation will appear in the body of the meeting request.

There are 41 half-hour spots available to book meetings Monday through Wednesday, plus 4 slots during the Welcome Reception on Sunday. The networking area isn’t available on Thursday (the departure day). Networking tables are conveniently located in the Mandalay Bay convention center. Meetings not accepted within 2 weeks get deleted (so tables are freed up for other meetings).

Microsoft’s internal sales kickoff meeting (Microsoft Ready) overlaps with Inspire this year. Microsoft staff who have opted into the MyInspire Connections tool will be available to meet Monday, Tuesday, or Wednesday afternoon (although Wednesday afternoon is the most likely time they will be available). You’ll be able to meet partner roles throughout the conference so focus your Wednesday time on account and specialist team connections. This year, Microsoft employees are a separate search filter, allowing you to distinguish between partner, corporate, and field employees.

Messages can now include hyperlinks and Windows 10 emoticons (press Windows key and period key). However, the number of sent messages is limited (20 messages every 24 hours once they fix a bug). This limit is meant to deter spam and encourage wider use.

Unfortunately, messages and invitations still look like spam in email because all line breaks are stripped out. Craft your message carefully so it is compelling when all jammed together. This is a known bug and may get fixed.

Searching by business type was easier last year (ISV, Reseller, MSP, etc.). This year, there is a lot more choices (over 60). Understand the taxonomy hierarchy by reviewing your own user profile so you search by the exact partner type you are looking for (e.g., “Systems Integration” instead of “Services”).

Two critical search criteria were removed this year: Country and Company size. For example, if you are looking for a mid-sized services partner in Canada, you’ve got over 4,000 people to review. Microsoft is working to add Country back as a search filter (should be resolved this week) and I’ve requested Company Size return as well.

In sum, there are a few bugs but with less than 4 weeks until the conference now is the time to start organizing your Inspire meetings. If you have a large partner recruiting effort, stage your messages over several days (due to the message send limitations). Note that Competegy provides an “Inspire Concierge Service” which helps companies recruit partners and maximize their Microsoft connections at Inspire.