This year I got to experience Microsoft Convergence, in New Orleans, LA, for the first time. What an experience! After a ton of subtle, then not so subtle hints to my boss that I wanted to be the one to go before I finally got the approval. With that comes the excitement of visiting somewhere warmer than Minnesota, the idea of learning, and the nervousness that all that networking brings. While I have been working with Microsoft Dynamics CRM for about 5 years, this position is my first true consulting position and chance to experience Convergence. This started me thinking about what I need to know for Convergence, what will I get out of it, and what can I do to ensure there is value in my company sending me and ensuring they will send me again.
With that in mind I started my online searching to get some insight and varied experiences to jump start my prep.
Tip #1: Google (or Bing) sporadically until you leave, including LinkedIn and Facebook. This gives you a wide scope of experiences, insights, and updated information from not only Microsoft but past attendees, presenters, and an idea of who you want to connect with for networking events. There are so many things going on that it takes a while to get all the details and decipher which will be the most enjoyable and valuable to you. It also helps you determine if/which vendors you want to talk with at the expo, which vendor events you want to attend, as well as what you should highlight and share with your clients that will be attending.
Tip #2: Work on the agenda. This agenda changes right up to the last day of Convergence – not by Microsoft but due to the diverse aspects of being at Convergence. I scheduled time with my co-workers, brought the list of sessions, and we walked thru and highlighted what each person thought brought value. This allowed my team to realize that while they couldn't go, I was going to represent them and their needs. I attended sessions that not only were of value to me but were valuable to those within my organization. The problem is that there are so many, balancing that schedule becomes tricky. Especially as being a first time attendee I didn't take into consideration the time it would take to get from one session to the next if they were on completely opposite ends of the convention center or if a session is filled before you can get into it – even if you registered for it. Also remember to include in your agenda keynote speaker sessions, lunch, and the time you will need to meet and walk around the expo with your clients.
The flexibility and back up options are what will make your experience a success. Not getting caught up in running from one place to the next, having time to network, and having back up options for when a session doesn't or won’t work out. I also registered for my sessions, doubling up on time slots at times and having them pushed to my calendar. This made it easy to view my schedule when a client wanted to know where I would be, helped me figure out where I was going to be and what my back up options were for when a scheduled session wouldn't work out.
Finally I arrived and was all set to explore Convergence.
Tip #3: Make sure you’re comfortable and not carrying a ton of things or the day gets “heavy.” Comfortable shoes – check (or so I thought), layered clothing to meet in and outdoor temperatures – check, a bag (you do get one when you register) to carry my IPad and the various items you collect throughout the day – check. Now it was up to me to make the most of my experience! What I wasn't prepared for was how much I would be on the go. My days averaged about 11 hours at the conference hall and 5-7 hours networking at after hour events or sneaking in mini tourist things. As I posted on Facebook for my friends and family I was often teased about it being a vacation and not work, however a vacation would not have left me so mentally tired. This experience was one that definitely provided a series of experiences that have not only increased my technical understanding of Microsoft Dynamics products but also expanded my comprehension of client needs, client viewpoints, and allowed me to expand the necessary diversity needed to excel as a Microsoft Dynamics CRM consultant.
If you attended Microsoft Convergence 2013, you can still access the great content until March 2014 or register as a virtual attendee.
Next year Microsoft Convergence will be in Atlanta, GA from March 4-7. Look out for the information coming later this year.