Microsoft Inspire Q&A


So, you’ve registered – now what?

Busting with opportunities, new relationships and broader horizons, Microsoft Inspire is an invaluable conference. But you already know that. Our CEO is a 15-year veteran of this conference.  Just to put that into perspective, Julie has been attending since we were all still using Nokia phones, and the Black Eyed Peas released ‘Where is the Love?’

To take advantage of her knowledge and expertise, we interviewed her and gained some amazing insight!

Q: What’s the first thing I should do after registering?

A: Getting familiar with MyInspire is a great starting point. MyInspire is an online platform available to all partners, and the perfect place to interact before, during and post Inspire. 

There are many examples of tips and tricks that for a first timer will prove invaluable. For instance, partners sporting red lanyards are FTAs; and those with other colours are either Microsoft employees our multiple-time attendees. These people are always on hand to assist you, so don’t hesitate to engage if you are ever unsure of something or have a question to ask.

Q: What sessions should I be going to in order to maximise my time?

A: The FTA (first time attendee) session on day 1 is a MUST if you’ve not attended before. For all the advice you could wish for, top tips, do’s and don’ts; this session will arm and excite you for what’s to come next. Around 400 people attend year on year and all stress how helpful it is. You’ll then want to head to the Welcome Reception.

Our very own Sarah Gray (General Manager) and Tory Simpson (Head of Digital & Creative) are both Microsoft Inspire First Time Attendees mentors; providing advice, guidance and support pre-event, onsite and post-event. They are also both members of the Microsoft Inspire + Ready Partner Advisory Council. The Microsoft Inspire Partner Advisory Council (PAC) is an exclusive, invitation-only membership board of approximately 30 partner representatives from across the globe who provide actionable feedback and insights on the Microsoft Inspire strategy, objectives, content, expo layout and overall experience. 

Q: The parties, a yes or no?

A: Social events are great for meeting people you haven’t managed to arrange a more formal encounter with. And dependant on your personality, you may find making connections at a social event more productive than at a meeting table in the Conference Centre. 

Striking the right balance between formal meetings and socialising is key. As much as everyone is at Microsoft Inspire with a business agenda, they may relish a conversation for a few minutes to talk about something other than work.

Relax and have a drink or two, but don’t over-do it. Not that anyone needs reminding, but Microsoft Inspire really isn’t the place to be the person propping up the bar at 2 in the morning.

Q: The conference starts at 8:45 every day, I’ll be fine to leave at 8:30!

A: No way Pedro! With such huge numbers of attendees, everyone wants to get to the Inspire conference centre via the fastest route possible. You need to be measured, think ahead on how you will get somewhere, and then add on half an hour for any unexpected traffic queues! Take a look at a map, plan your routes, book things – don’t think “it’ll be fine” you might miss something super important just because you didn’t leave early enough to get there!

Q: What about what to wear?

A: Considering your dress code is essential to both efficiency and comfort. July is likely to be in the high 30°s or even hotter, but this is a business conference after all, so to be taken seriously we don’t advise walking around in a floral shirt and swim shorts. Smart, yet casual and comfortable works well.

Be mindful of your schedule; for a long, busy day taking you to numerous locations and events, you’ll want to be comfortable but dressed suitably sometimes for day and evening. Sometimes you may not get time to go back to your hotel and change. Do think about the footwear, ladies, high heels will be killing you after just one day, as there are massive amounts of walking, so pop a pair of flats in your bag. Seriously.

Q: Are the Corenotes important?

A: YES! An absolute must for Microsoft Inspire attendees are the opening sessions, previously called keynotes – now corenotes. They’re the conference’s main talking points, are attended by all, and feature the heaviest of Microsoft hitters like Satya Nadella, who will be speaking on Wednesday in the combined Microsoft Ready session. Be sure to catch Gavriella Schuster who will be kicking things off on Monday in the first corenotes session.

In past years, Corenote speakers have introduced Microsoft’s big bets, such as the move to ‘cloud first, mobile first’, while defining key strategies and messaging. Whole business models have been created and changed due to information shared at Inspire during the corenotes including Microsoft’s vision for the channel opportunity.

Q: Breakout sessions, how do I know where to go?

A: Familiarise yourself with the agenda beforehand. Know what’s happening, know the floor plan. The conference centre will be vast, so leave time between meetings to arrive on time. Look into every detail of your schedule, down to the logistics of getting around; where is your hotel? What transport is available? Knowing how long it’ll take to get around is a consideration that can save precious time. 

Q: How do I work out make the most of the networking opportunities?

A: The companies with big stands and sponsorship presence will likely be playing host to parties, giving early indicators of how to track down those relevant to you. Furthermore, if partners are involved with sponsorship, they’ll be looking for return on their Microsoft Inspire experience and expecting to do business. Hosting a party could be a good indicator that a business is ready to talk.

When you’ve managed to find a prospect; make the most of it. Do all the prep you can, find out who they are and what they do. A bit of knowledge can go a long way.  Ensure you’re well equipped with business cards, so you’re not forgotten. Amongst five days of corenotes, presentations, meetings and parties, you’ll be one of many, so ensuring your contact details go back home with people is crucial.

Q: On the topic of business cards, do you have any tips?

A: Other than making sure you have as many as you can carry, a great tip is to make a note on any cards you collect to help you recall the meeting; time, location, even what someone was wearing (even if you couldn’t possibly forget that shirt). A little reminder could save the embarrassment and lost opportunity of calling the wrong person about partnership opportunities, so be sure to have a small pen or pencil in your pocket and scribble a couple of notes when someone gives you a card.

Q: Do you have anything else to add to the list?

A: As well as being fun, never forget that many Microsoft and Partner Executives are incognito at the conference.  So always be aware of who is around you and may be listening to your conversations.  Don’t miss out on the golden opportunities available to engage with someone because you’ve got carried away having fun and dancing the night away.  The key to making a Microsoft Inspire party prosperous is being ready. Book plans into your Microsoft MyInspire and Outlook calendars; that way any new contacts can see where you are. You never know, someone might just be seeking to do business with you.

For more support before, during and after Microsoft Inspire email us at or call us on +44 1256 881100 – we are here to help.

- Julie Simpson, Founder and CEO

Marley Lacey