Guest post by Jemima Herman, Worldwide Partner Conference lead for the Microsoft US Partner Team.

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Last month, we did our second Worldwide Partner Conference planning site visit to the lovely city of Toronto. Each time I visit I am more impressed. This time, our core team—including me, Todd Nelmes in PR, and Peg McNicol in Events—was joined by our Worldwide WPC field leads, partners from the WPC Partner Advisory Council, local Canadian partners, and our WPC business operations team.

Our agenda was packed, as we needed to tackle every aspect of the U.S. experience, from planning the U.S. Party to meeting local leaders to fine-tuning the setup for the U.S. Lounge, so it was good to have Todd and Peg there as well as the other WPC teams, and we made great progress. Here are some memorable trip highlights.

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Wandering through the venue for the U.S. Party.

While I can't say too much about this yet, I am very excited about the amazing and convenient location we've decided on for the U.S. Party. There are a few more details to be finalized, and we’ll tell you more about this soon.  

Visiting the U.S. hotels.

I spent a whole day visiting the four hotels that are specifically designated for U.S. attendees: the Sheraton, the Hilton, the Hyatt, and the Grand Hotel. All four have excellent meeting facilities, living rooms, 24-hour gyms, pools, mini-kitchens, and wonderful restaurants. And three of them (Hilton, Hyatt, and Grand Hotel) have just undergone some impressive renovations. Feb2012_Toronto_GrandHotelThe photo at right is of the Grand Hotel’s lobby, and it’s really beautiful.

Helping create ways for U.S. partners to connect with each other easily is a big priority for me, so I'm really pleased about having these four U.S. partner hotels. Heads up, though. These hotels are only available during the early bird registration period and have limited capacity, so if you want to be in one of them, book early.

Dining with the embassy leaders.

We had the good fortune of attending an embassies luncheon while we were in Toronto. It was full of representatives of countries from all around the world.

At the luncheon, I was able to sit with some of the U.S. embassy staff, and I asked them about ways they might be able to help enhance the Conference experience for our partners. We brainstormed a bit and came up with some promising ideas—I can’t wait to share them with you.

Eating pig ears.

I found a couple of restaurants with truly delicious food this trip. Julie Lafleur (Microsoft Canada WPC Business Manager) and I ate at an Italian place off King Street called Buca. It was gorgeous, and the food was incredible. We tentatively ordered and ate the pig ears, and I am pleased to report that they are divine. My other favorite meal was at Spice Route on King Street. It's like a cross between a night club and a dim sum restaurant, with Asian fusion food and a cool, funky space. Yum.

And helping ensure that everything is shaping up well for WPC 2012.

Microsoft is generating huge interest and excitement in Toronto and across Canada, which we were happy to see. I came home feeling confident about how everything is shaping up, and since then, we’ve done a lot more work here in Seattle, and you’ll start to hear details about the U.S. Party, U.S. Lounge, and the U.S. keynote and sessions that will take place on Thursday, right here on the blog.

I hope you’re as excited for Worldwide Partner Conference as I am, and that I will see you in July. Join the US WPC Community, and follow my WPC 2012 blog posts at http://aka.ms/uswpc12blog to stay informed and connected to all of the US activities we’re planning. It’s going to be great!

US WPC Community at http://aka.ms/usatwpc

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