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A conversation on the way to Microsoft Inspire 2018

Richard Thomson & Morgan Winter
When we heard 3Sharp’s Richard Thomson and Morgan Winter were headed to Microsoft Inspire 2018, we knew we needed to have a conversation with them! Richard’s expertise in supporting large-scale keynotes, and Morgan’s ability to navigate social interactions on the expo floor make these two 3Sharp rock stars.

What do you do at 3Sharp?

Richard Thomson

My title recently changed to Manager, but I started out as a Solutions Consultant and also spent time as an Account Manager.

Morgan Winter

My official title is Tech Lead, which means I write Demos for 3Sharp. I'm also a part of our Marketing and Go Teams, helping support events and demos.

Have you ever attended Microsoft Inspire?

“No! I’ve been to many large company conferences, but this is my first Microsoft conference! In fact, I’ve attended a conference in the same space where Inspire is being hosted this year. It will be really interesting to note the differences in setup and flow.”
Morgan Winter

What will you be doing this year?

“I will be supporting the Corenote, which is similar to a Keynote, but it spans both Inspire and Ready. The Keynote will be given by Satya Nadella, and Julia White will be the demo presenter. I’ll be supporting both of them, as well as engineering from the Microsoft side, the production company, and any other support staff.
“One of my focuses at Inspire will represent our marketing team. I’m looking forward to meeting our partners, walking the floor, and handing out swag. The two goals I’ve set for myself in regards to marketing are - show our customers we are there to support them, even if we aren’t running their demo (this year), and I want to meet those partners who are struggling with their demo and show them just how 3Sharp can help them.
I’m also shadowing the keynote for Microsoft Teams, and am so excited to get the backstage experience so that I can support in a greater capacity in the future – much like what Richard does. I’ve worked booths for over three years, and know what it is like to be in front of a small crowd of people. But supporting a keynote that is on this large of a scale – that is being televised and live streamed to so many people – it’s such a grand scale that you can’t help but be excited!”
Morgan Winter

Richard, what is something unique that you feel Morgan will bring to Inspire?

“You know what’s great about Morgan? I know that if I put her in front of a customer she is going to be knowledgeable and act like a pro. She has a dynamic skill set and a vast array of experience that makes it possible for her to interface easily with customers – or to fix a last-minute tech issue backstage.”

Okay, Morgan, your turn...

“The moment Richard steps into a room, everyone gets comfortable because they know everything is handled. He knows more than half the people in the room because he has been doing this for so long.” 

Richard, you obviously know how to handle high-stress situations. How do you do it?

“There is a lot of pressure when there is an in-person audience of 10K+ and you’re streaming to over fifty thousand attendees. The main thing to keep in mind is your demeanor. Treat your problems as solvable. If you take one step in front of the other, put the event together one piece at a time, it will be a lot easier to manage the stress and workload.
I was in the Army and that gave me a lot of perspectives. When you look at the bigger picture you realize that this event is not the end of the world. Do what you can now to make it a success, and look back on it later to learn how to improve next time.”

Richard, I know you've attended in the past. What is one of your favorite memories from a past Inspire?

“Back when Inspire was called the World Wide Partners Conference (WPC) I was supporting a keynote given by Catherine Boeger. It was right after Julia White transitioned from the Office Org over to the Cloud and Enterprise Org, and Catherine came in to replace her. Anyone who knows Julia knows that Catherine had some big shoes to fill – so the pressure was definitely on to help Catherine shine. It was a somewhat complicated demo, requiring several machines and a strict schedule of when things needed to be done.
In the demo world, we believe in redundancy for everything. Redundancy in Demo Machines, redundancy in environments, redundancy in networks – everything needs a backup. Well, a few minutes before the keynote was about to begin I went up onstage to plug in Catherine’s cell phone – and the power to the whole stage went out! Plugging in that phone broke the camels back and a fuse had blown. Of course, the one thing there that wasn’t redundant was the power to the stage. At that moment I knew it was important for me to look calm, collected, and in charge. The person going on stage does not need me to add any extra stress to their plate. The problem was quickly and quietly fixed, and in the end, we totally nailed it! Catherine was confident and did an excellent job presenting. The experience boosted my confidence in the caliber of support I can provide, and it boosted our customer’s confidence in 3Sharp.

Can you describe the value of the service 3Sharp provides to our customers during a keynote?

“Our customers are smart and capable people; What we are doing is not always something they are not able to do. But, when we support their demo by managing the technology backstage, prepping their demo, completing the pre-demo setup, and managing any unexpected issues – we enable our customer to focus on what is most important to them; delivering a great message and demo to the audience.”
“3Sharp is made up of technical experts who are able to troubleshoot and figure out how things work. Our understanding of the reality of how the technology works, including the pitfalls and benefits of tech, allows us to make recommendations to our customers that not only enhance the content of their demos but also ensures the live keynote is a roaring success.”
Morgan Winter

Do you two have any advice for people attending Microsoft Inspire?

“Be ready to talk to a lot of people. Have some icebreakers ready to go so that you can spark valuable conversations and expand your network.”
Morgan Winter
“Pace yourself. It’s a marathon, not a sprint. Conferences are exhausting and you are going to talk to a lot of people. If you aren’t an extrovert now, you will be after Inspire! Oh, and make sure to wear comfortable shoes.”
“Don’t worry, I have conference-friendly high heels packed and ready to go.”
Morgan Winter

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