How do you network if you're in a crowd of strangers and you're not particularly good at it anyway? I'm sure that's a question that the organizers of the Microsoft Convergence conference for their accounting system customers thought long and hard about.
I have to hand it to them for being innovative. Not only did they hold the conference in New Orleans, which is still recovering from the effects of hurricane Katrina, but they also asked attendees to volunteer on a Habitat for Humanity project creating houses for people who couldn't otherwise afford one. What better way to get to know someone than to be swinging a hammer right next to them?
The volunteers wheeled sand into place to improve the drainage, as well as framing a new house in a project dedicated to New Orleans musicians.
Microsoft also throws an awesome party. There were Mardi Gras revelers throwing beads, clowns on stilts, dueling pianos, a rock band and all the cajun food you could possibly want. For the more serious minded, a tour of the aquarium was included. Watching the divers feed broccoli to the sting rays was fascinating, as well as being a very good use of broccoli!
A software tool developed for the event allows all attendees to create their own profile and arrange meetings with other attendees. Using it, I discovered that one of our customers also uses Dynamics NAV and is interested in talking to other users of the inventory system. I don't think I would have found out that information any other way.
Reaching out to other Dynamics users has been rewarding for me. Comparing notes with someone who has faced the same issues can save a lot of time, not to mention consulting dollars. Microsoft actively supports the user groups AXUG, GPUG, CRMUG and NAVUG.