We're now three weeks out to the start of Australian Partner Conference 2014. Many of you have already registered and I know are excited to get to the Gold Coast, but if you're not sure or simply haven't got around to registering yet, I thought I'd share some of the things I value (and I know partner value) about APC.

"I love APC, it's the best conference we go to all year..." Nick Sone, Ensyst

Over the past few weeks we've asked several of our partners what they get from APC. If you have 20 minutes, you can take a look at the results on our YouTube channel here. You'll hear from Ensyst, Breeze, UXC Eclipse and Hands-on Systems about what makes APC a worthwhile investment for them.

This will be my 5th APC since I joined Microsoft and in that time, through talking with many of you, there are three main themes that resonate.

The Networking

"A great opportunity to get our brand out there, talk to other partners..." John Munnelly, Hands-on Systems

APC is a great forum to network. Network with Microsoft. Network with other partners. Network with the industry. This year we'll have nearly 200 Microsoft staff attending covering all parts of our business. Pip Marlow and many of her senior leadership team will be there and I know they're going to spend their time meeting as many partners as possible. The product and marketing teams attend and present many of the sessions, outlining the key trends, marketing and go to market plans for the year ahead. But probably most importantly we'll have great representation across our sales teams - from Enterprise through to SMB - giving you a great opportunity to network with the people you'll be selling with through the year.

The relationships and friendships forged at APC - and at multiple APCs - are often the difference for partners who are able to really differentiate and engage with Microsoft sales teams and other partners to continue building profitable businesses. If you haven't included some of your key sales staff in your APC registrations yet then I'd encourage you to do so, it's the best way to turn strategy and ideas into great sales execution.

The Strategy

"It's a fun, social, networking [event], full of vision and strategy from Microsoft..." Nikki Page, Breeze

There's not doubt that our industry continues to change and that's the reason I love working at Microsoft. This year is no different and we're continuing to see major shifts in terms of mobility and, of course, our customers moving to cloud services. While I'd never claim we have all the answers, APC is the forum where we really work hard to outline our strategies for the year and how we see partners capturing the opportunity ahead. Frankly, it's also a great forum for the tough questions! You'll have access to many of the people from Australia and overseas who are deciding on investments and where we're betting this year so it's an opportunity to share and discuss your plans, thinking and strategy and get clarity. As one of our partners said, "APC helps us make Microsoft a strategic partner, not just another vendor".

The Speakers and Content

"It's a lot of fun - a work hard, play hard event"  Matt Calderwood, UXC Eclipse

We'll be publishing the full agenda for APC in the next few days so I'd encourage you to check back and take a look at the line up of speakers and great content we're lining up this year. Sure, there will be great technology but more than that we're building an agenda which helps answer the key question - "how do I profit from this?". We'll be joined by Stephen Elop who'll deliver the Vision Keynote on Wednesday morning and he's an amazing speaker who I'm sure will do a great job in articulating the Microsoft vision for the  year ahead. We'll have great sessions on how to exploit these trends - insights, tips, programs to help you capture the best opportunity this year. We've also put together a track on Business Leadership which will cover topics such as hiring and keeping great talent, negotiation skills, marketing and "The Challenger Sale". While networking is critical, make sure you arrive at APC with a clear session agenda to capture the great content on offer.
 

I should also mention the fun! We work hard at APC but there's lots of opportunity to let your hair down at the welcome dinner and APC party and really celebrate with your team and friends from Microsoft and other partners. All work and no play is no good for anyone and we'll make this year one to remember!

So, three things you tell us make APC a valuable business investment every year. Did I miss anything?

See you on the Gold Coast.

Phil.