We were used to large events in major Canadian or US cities, with sprawling setups and impressive celebratory parties and dinners; lots of food, fruit, snacks and beverages; loads of transportation logistics; plenty of security personnel, catering, guides, custodial work… Large crowds at hotels, museums, zoos, restaurants, bars and parks and the terrific trade-fair, with nice complementary briefcases, prizes for answering surveys, lots of exercise moving from one place to another to attend each session, lots of areas set aside for taking a breather and answering calls, charge our cell phones or computers, etc.

Well, this year we transitioned to a 100% virtual event, with cutting edge technology to connect the over 7000 attendees scattered across the world. Everyone connected from home and sessions were available 24 hours a day, allowing everybody to see many sessions at their own pace with a nice cup of coffee, breakfast, a snack or even a glass of wine, or perhaps another spirit. Everything changed due to the pandemic that has been ravaging us since the beginning of 2020, and it looks like it could stick around until next year.

Nevertheless, it was a wonderful 3-day event, splendidly executed, fun and with lots of varied content and subjects. There was lots of learning going on and tons of knowledge being shared, and, above all, it was inspiring, just as its name suggests.

The event included very important issues regarding a more inclusive culture and sustainable growth, high-performance scenarios, the new way of doing business, how to put together attractive pitches in a pandemic world, yoga for peace of mind, digital marketing, transforming education for the new normal, the role of women during times of crisis, effective, inclusive and cross-generational leadership, suppliers who respect diversity and ethics, how to be perceived as reliable by our customers, how to be a role model for the community, minorities, virtual zoo tours, how to be a successful ISV partner and startups, among many others.

We also enjoyed the inevitable issues we normally discuss because they refer to the latest, most innovative technology that drives us and will continue to drive us in the future, such as Microsoft 365, Azure, Power Apps, Power Automate, Dynamics 365, Teams, Power BI, HoloLens, Artificial Intelligence, Edge and many others I can’t remember at this moment. Inspire also touched on how to continue the relationship between Microsoft and its Partners, such as Co-sell, SMB, Marketing, Go to Market and MPN, to name a few.

And, of course, we mustn’t forget the two keynotes on Tuesday and Wednesday, with top-notch speakers Judson Althoff, Nick Parker, Gavriella Schuster, Satya Nadella and Brad Smith. The over-the-top stages with lots of lights, sounds, artists, breakfasts and ice cream to beat the heat were replaced by interesting videos about practical cases, with many speakers using a backdrop that made it look like they were presenting their talk in beautiful locations. A myriad of subjects were covered, including Microsoft’s role in the world, innovation, partner relations, achievements, opportunities for the future, partnership strategies, priorities for the 2021 fiscal year (which started in July), digital transformation and how we can reimagine future opportunities in the “new normal”.

In short, it was a great, inspiring event, where, in my opinion, Teams stole the show thanks to its intensive use as an innovative tool to communicate hundreds or even thousands of people, something that had already begun when the pandemic arrived, forcing us to speed up our roadmap from 2-year goals to a four-month delivery in order to support remote working, online elementary, secondary and college education, online sales and many other activities that shifted from warm, person-to-person contact to a strictly digital relationship in a matter of weeks.

As always, there simply wasn’t enough time to attend more sessions, but they are all available on-demand for anyone who would like to see or we-watch them.

What are the takeaways from this Inspire 2020?

Well, besides all of the above, the Partners gained clarity of what the priorities are for this fiscal year and where we should focus our efforts. These priorities are remote work, business continuity, security and migration to the cloud. The event also showed the unbreakable bond that exists between business and society, always aiming at inclusion and respect for diversity, our customers’ trust, the fundamental rights of every citizen and sustainability.

We have great opportunities for this new fiscal year, and it’s up to each and every one of us to leverage those opportunities and make them come true through professional, disciplined, ethical, respective, inclusive work that adds value to our society.

Now we can actually use that hackneyed line, “welcome to the future”, because post-pandemic life has thrust us into a new world, with new challenges, and the Inspire event has shown us the path to take on this enormous undertaking.