In the past, Microsoft had developed and deployed a new Connect platform every year, tailoring its style to suit the needs of the particular conference. However this strategy lacked the continuity that Microsoft wanted to achieve, failing to capitalise on WPC’s annual occurrence and enable relationships which could continue from one conference to the next.
WPC’s social platform has a direct effect on the attendees’ engagement and ultimate satisfaction with the year’s conference. Past instances of Connect had revealed gaps and flaws where Microsoft Worldwide Partner Conference 2014 usability and efficiency could have been improved, so it was important for WPC 2014 to do it right.
Drawing together scheduling capabilities, social networking, news and content streams into one smooth platform was vital to the complete integration of WPC and the technology it promotes. And with WPC’s particular focus on the area of Enterprise Social, Connect needed to be exemplary.
SharePoint 2013 offered out-of-the box functionality, hosted on Microsoft Azure using Infrastructure as a Service. The Connect platform leveraged internet services for greater connectivity across WPC, engaging partners even when they were away from the conference floor.
Connect is massively integrated with a diverse range of services, including:
- Event scheduling
- Rich media services
- Syndication of web content
- Social tracking and sharing
- Web Analytics
- Profile-based recommendations
By simply signing in with a Microsoft account, users gain access to the social environment that has been created by Connect. Familiar tools such as hashtags and @mentions inspire discussions and forge new relationships across the virtual space.
Event scheduling tools helped partners to become their own event managers, allowing them to structure their conference experience to uniquely suit their needs. They can register for public events and coordinate private meetings with other people on the Connect network. Users are able to message each other directly without needing to disclose personal email information.
Meeting requests can be sent and received instantaneously, drawing groups together based on shared connections, expertise or interests. Video storage holds recordings of sessions for off-site viewing, meaning that no one needs to miss out.
The result is a platform built for partners by partners that creates opportunities to extend the experience of partnering, 365 days a year. Microsoft now has an all-encompassing system for networking and personal event management, connecting partners in more valuable ways from both inside and outside the conference. Since the site went live earlier this year, it has had 430,000 views and 63,500 visits. Each visit lasts an average of 14 minutes, revealing the new levels of engagement that partners are achieving with the updated Connect platform.
Connect also blends seamlessly with Microsoft’s 365 format, establishing a year-round community of engagement with WPC. Partners who are unable to attend can experience the conference in a virtual environment, meeting other partners and creating networks from across the globe. With an emphasis on joining groups, Connect promises to establish links between people in exactly the way that an event of this size and nature should. The platform also incorporates a truly new and unique recommendations engine, facilitating connections, relevant content and discussion based on people’s profiles.
An important part of this conference is the attendees’ ability to host and attend meetings, engage in productive discussions with each other, and immerse themselves in the interactivity of the environment. Connect provides a highly integrated platform for doing just that. But beyond this, it also connects one conference to the next, building an attentive membership among the existing attendees and enticing others to join the network as it grows from year to year.
The business case
A strong focus on delivering the best possible service to WPC attendees drove the development of the new Connect platform. WPC 2014 provided the opportunity to create a communications platform, which could grow and change with the event, connecting members in new ways to provide a deeply integrated conference experience.
The business value
- Highly integrated platform encourages communication and increased connectivity between conference members
- Scheduling capabilities promote each attendee to personal event manager, coordinating meetings and session times to tailor their own unique WPC experience
- Information regarding news and events is streamlined, available to attendees through a single interface
- Scalability allows for Connect to serve as the standard conference network going forward, creating continuity between WPC events
- Greatly increased user engagement, directly reflected in levels of attendee satisfaction with the conference as a whole.