Microsoft Inspire 2022: My Schedule, 10 for Teams and Everything Else I’d Recommend

Written: 28/06/2022 | Updated: N/A

Inspire. Number Five. Two in-person and three now virtual. But the million dollar question is – will we ever see the likes of the big one out in Vegas again? I’d never say never. Yet on paper it’s probably safer to say that the days of singing it up at the Q and being out on the tiles in sin city doing business in the Hard Rock, Mortons, The Venetian and Nine Fine Irishman have pretty much come to an end. And whilst it’s easy to point at things like superspreading and the transmission of the virus, its sustainability and the virtualized experience within lockdown which is driving the format. In the first instance, Microsoft has a commitment to carbon negativity – that’s a much more difficult objective given a significant proportion of it’s 40,000 attendees fly halfway across the world and staying for a week or two. It’s hard to argue given the challenges we face collectively. But digital events? The data Microsoft received and analyzed showed that basically more tuned in. They tuned in to the extent of almost 100% more. Now I know just from being in the community and being on the circuit that in-person events are having a revival. Healthcare systems are mitigating the impacts of Covid, the barriers to travel are coming down and the desire for immersion and getting out amongst the people is high. But the blueprint for how future conferences will play out is likely what we have already seen this year at Build. It’ll be hybrid. Travel will be contained regionally and what is referred to as the digital core will be served up and broadcast online. It makes sense. On paper. How do we get the breadth whilst being sustainable, whilst being responsible in terms of the virus, whilst also keeping in mind rises in the cost of living. It’s like an economic equation. But the thing is – humans are neither simple nor predictable so it’ll be interesting to see how regionalism pans out the next few years.

So what will be the themes this year? I argue that it will be one theme and one theme only underneath it all – and Judson Althoff already talked about this recently at Microsoft Envision. This is this years digital moniker ‘Digital Perseverance’ following on from digital resilience, digital optimism and the rest. Now what does this mean? As Althoff – who I am actually a really big fan of (check my Twitter timeline for verification), said himself “Even as uncontrollable factors continue to challenge us, the only way forward is to persevere with our digital priorities and stay nimble and agile,” In other words it’s a ballsy way of saying that we are facing challenging times (as in conditions for making revenue) so we need to double down and get selling. How? By lasering in and locking onto the priorities for organisations which have been identified by Microsoft as being 5 interrelated but distinct areas: hybrid work, resilient supply chain, sustainability, cybersecurity and co-innovation. So it is from this playbook that every session at Inspire derives. Just look at the titles of the first 12 in the schedule. See it within the titles: Industry, Innovate, Imperative, Streamline, Profitability, Business, Sovereign, Value, Lower Entry Cost. I’ve been around commercial a long time. Over 10 years. And this is the language of hard selling. It is the language of a harder selling conference which makes me question whether Microsoft themselves are seeing shortfalls in the market, velocity or their own expectations regarding revenues or profit in certain areas. So expect vertical and ISV sessions galore. Expect Security given the recent Q3 earning call, it’s rapid growth and the situation in Ukraine. Expect an uptick in the coverage of Viva given new modules. Expect Azure. Lots of.

Microsoft Inspire is a two day event carrying over into a third for repeats of the second day. Of 212 sessions at the time of writing almost a third of them (58) cover Azure which is over twice the number of Modern Work (27). Security has 13 dedicated sessions. Its bizarre to me at the time of writing that there only appears to be 1 session marked for Power Platform and Dynamics – but this could be due to the Biz Apps Summit in Orlando in September and Microsoft do tend to roll in sessions between the schedule release and the event. In terms of the harder selling motion we see this in the 28 industry sessions and 27 program sessions which, when taken together is almost as many as Azure. Now as a Partner focused event there will typically be more vendor related sessions than at any other of the majors. There are sessions based on assisting Microsoft partners such as through co-sell, and there will be regional sessions for partners which cover what the subs have planned for the fiscal. Again there is nothing available for MCT’s and MVP’s in terms of speaking being so streamlined an event (the old in-person event had about 1200 sessions, and this in itself is even less than last year). So once again I have the pleasure of being able to be a carefree attendee. I have come to realise that sometimes this is a good thing, and since I am with Althoff in this belief that you have to adapt given the conditions I’ll need to save energy for the coming year. When conditions are not always favorable, you need the energy and that hard mentality to work through and get to the end goal

So hope to see you there! If you haven’t already, register here.

MY SCHEDULE

As an attendee this year I don’t have to worry about speaking, moderating, prep, tech checks, dry runs or anything else. So I get to pick as many cool sessions from the agenda as I can reasonably pack in given existing commitments. This is my schedule in full. Once again, you’ll notice I’ve haven’t gone too gung ho. NOTE: all times are in British Summer Time (BST)

TitleSessionDay/Time
Microsoft Inspire OpeningKEY01Tue 16.30
Insights into the SMB Landscape and OpportunitiesOD18Tue 17.10
The digital imperative in hybrid workTS03Tue 17:40
Help customers streamline their security across clouds and platformsTS04Tue 18:00
Win New Customers and Grow with Microsoft 365OD56Tue 18:30
Enable digital employee experience with Microsoft VivaBRK32Tue 20.00
Ask the Experts: Enable digital employee experience with Microsoft VivaCATE32Tue 21:00
Unlock business growth with Microsoft TeamsBRK33Tue 22:00
Modernize Communications with Teams PhoneOD59Tue 22:30
Enable Hybrid Meetings with Teams PhoneOD58Tue 23:00
Go to market investments to help you win customer with Microsoft SecurityBRK42Wed 09:15
Unlock new opportunities for modern access with Microsoft EntraODBRK92Wed 10:00
Microsoft Purview and Microsoft Priva PlatformsODBRK90Wed 10:45
Microsoft Sentinel and Microsoft DefenderOD63Wed 11:00
Create New Revenue Streams with Teams appsOD49Wed 13:00
Manage Microsoft Teams Voice Quality and Boost Customer SatisfactionODFP10Wed 13:45
Windows makes hybrid work, workODBRK83Wed 14:30
Unlock the Business Applications opportunity with FY23 Solution PlaysOD27Wed 15:15
Digital PerseveranceKEY03Wed 17:00
Ransomware Rivalry: The Game Show – Microsoft partner editionCTTFP18Wed 18:30
Making the business case for Microsoft VivaCTT17Wed 19:30

TEAMS SESSIONS AT INSPIRE 2022

I won’t be attending every single Teams and Teams-related session this time around – at least during the days of the conference – but here’s 10 which I am calling out for the general Teams enthusiast. Now, as we have seen in the past there will be two keynotes for Teams. One will be the de facto Teams keynote which is Unlock Business Growth with Microsoft Teams with Nicole Herskowitz. This will be the one with the MAU, the growth areas, the partner opportunity and the partner investments. The second will be The Digital Imperative in Hybrid Work hosted by Emily He and Collette Stallbaumer which is a plenum session for Modern Work who will big up Teams in the context of a broader look at Microsoft 365. This has been Jared Spatero’s usual slot during the pandemic. If you are time limited or only want to dip your toe in the water then these two will have the goals, big insights and the key functionalities. For the workloads this year we have the usual suspects – Apps (OD49), Calling (OD59), Meetings including Teams Rooms (OD58), Frontline/Firstline (OD47) and we also see the Dynamics integration become more explicit in the session with Charles Lamanna who heads up Business Apps (BRK30). Whilst Viva, being fully GA, has now split off into its own set of sessions, there is a number of vendor sessions mainly around devices. Poly and Yealink seem to be getting the limelight – but then again they are likely sponsors (CTTFP20 + ODFP23). NOTE: all times are in British Summer Time (BST)

TitleSessionDay/Time
The digital imperative in hybrid workTS04Tue 17:40
Unleash customer service innovations with Dynamics 365, Teams & NuanceBRK30Tue 19:00
How Device Partners can drive growth on the Microsoft CloudBRK02Tue 19:00
Unlock business growth with Microsoft TeamsBRK33Tue 22:00
Enable Frontline: Drive Growth & Empower the World’s Largest WorkforceOD47Anytime
Create New Revenue Streams with Teams appsOD49Anytime
Enable Hybrid Meetings with Teams PhoneOD58Anytime
Modernize Communications with Teams PhoneOD59Anytime
Bring all your essential apps, tools, and processes into the flow of workOD60Anytime
Explore Yealink hybrid work solutions for Microsoft TeamsODFP23Anytime

WHAT ELSE WOULD I RECOMMEND?

Outside of teams I am always on the lookout for sessions where I can indulge in my other passions and so I have three sessions which I am recommending. The first is on assistive tech as a key differentiator which features the universally loved Dona Sarkar. Dona is a brilliant speaker – I know having worked with her on events such as Teams Nation, but she is also really passionate about assistive tech so with this, she’ll bring her A game like she always does. It’s a subject which is important for all to create better and more inclusive futures for all. Second, this is the session on corporate sustainability. I am a big believer in that its very easy to talk a good game when it comes to sustainability – from a personal and professional perspective. But doing it is hard and re-evaluating and revolutionizing how we work will be even harder. Accepting that these mega conferences where tens of thousands of people use air travel to get there and knowing, deep down, that this should really be a thing of the past isn’t easy given I had such a great time being out in the desert at the Tropicana, the night out at Mortons, the networking event in this beautiful garden at the Bellagio, walking past friends and rockstars at the Mandalay. Last, and more technically focused is the session on Entra: the new vehicle for Identity. We’ve seen the assimilation of security into Defender. We’ve just gone through the assimilation of compliance into Purview. Now we have Identity with Entra. Of course, the Entra portal already exists – it’s there today should you need to access it. This will be Azure AD and Microsoft’s acquisition of Cloud Knox coming together with other functionalities such as verifiable credentials. Ultimately, I have quite a passion for Identity since I write on it quite a bit and it’ll be interesting to see whether Entra is intended to be another MEM, or whether all of the services inside it get a rebrand like Purview. Microsoft Entra Active Directory. Entra AD. It’s all to see what’s coming down the pipe. NOTE: all times are in British Summer Time (BST)

TitleSessionDay/Time
Discover assistive tech as a key differentiator for your businessCTT01Tue 20:00
Corporate sustainability: from pledges to progressCTT15Wed 18.30
Unlock new opportunities for modern access with Microsoft EntraODBRK92Anytime

FOR MCT’S

As noted previously, MCT’s typically have a lower profile at Inspire since Inspire is predominantly about business and shared objectives over the course of the next fiscal. This year is no different since Inspire does not have a learning zone, nor a skills challenge. The following two sessions should be of interest to most MCT’s and particularly freelancers since they relate to the MCT’s job market and opportunities; as well as providing insights into what Learning Partners – who many MCT’s work for – will be tasked with over the coming year. NOTE: all times are in British Summer Time (BST)

TitleSessionDay/Time
How to build technical and sales capability in a time-starved worldBRK05Tue 09:00
Microsoft Learning Partner Strategy – FY23OD55Anytime

I’M FEELING…

  • The narrative. I don’t know whether I am all in on the term ‘digital perseverance’ but I’m down with the notion that Microsoft understands this will be a challenging year and rather than sitting back its one we’re going to need to lean into a harder posture. Sometimes you go get it
  • Embracing more female speakers for the big sessions
  • Even shorter session times: many are 20 minutes. These are often termed lightning sessions but they help in terms of concentrating virtually
  • Judson Althoff. If you think about the sheer numbers he has on his head, its nuts
  • Explicit sessions on inclusion and sustainability. Less talk. More action

I’M NOT FEELING…

  • SharePoint, OneDrive, Yammer or Stream. No sessions for the second year running. That’s cold
  • No dedicated session on Metaverse and Mesh. Refining Mesh or Kipman? Your choice
  • Again, no certificate of attendance. BS. Certain attendees, particularly in developing countries where labour laws are not so progressive, need this to get authorization to attend this during their work hours
  • MVP, RD or Regional Lead involvement. A part of me is grateful to have a conference off, but at the same time? Many of these are great in business too
  • I kind of feel like there was the opportunity to do this like Build. Regional. And sellers generally like people, networking and incentives. Here’s to 2023

MY TOP TIPS FOR A GREAT VIRTUAL CONFERENCE

I’ve done quite a few of them now. Here’s some recommendations for a great virtual conference

  • There are a lot of sessions and it isn’t going to be possible to view them all during the conference. There will be conflicts. Use the backpack in order to go back and watch sessions you missed
  • Most sessions have repeats so look at all times as one could be better suited for your schedule
  • Sessions which are prerecorded and on demand can be watched anytime. Prioritise live
  • Take regular breaks. You would take regular breaks at an in person conference. Stay hydrated and well fed and get away from the screen and stretch your legs
  • Get provisions in terms of eating, drinking and anything else you need so you are well prepared logistically
  • Ultimately, most things will be recorded so if you miss something you can catch up. Don’t underprioritise family/friends
  • Try and mix it up! There is a wide range of formats including Sessions and Table Talks. It could be more enjoyable to get involved in different sessions as opposed to just breakouts
  • Try to book a least a few sessions in both days, whilst you don’t want to take the spontaneity out of the event, having a few booked in will at least give you some structure throughout
  • If anything is RSVP – book now to avoid disappointment
  • If a session is good, call out the session and the speaker on social and give them a boost for a job well done
  • Keep the conversations positive! We are all here to have a great time and be together
  • Do technical checks early on the day to ensure you are good to go for the keynote
  • Stay in touch with colleagues and friends in Teams and even watch sessions together, now we are in person there may be an opportunity for a watch party
  • If you need proof you attended the event because some employers will want this you can download a copy of your sessions from the scheduler