Microsoft 365 Virtual Marathon is Community Togetherness, Big-Tent Diversity, and Inclusion

In March, I was meeting with a group working on a conference that was designed to be a Microsoft MTC led event for Modern Workplace. We had a great team and some awesome speakers. Michael Gannotti and I kicked off the keynote with special callouts to Microsoft Teams usage on the front lines with virtual rounding solution by Max Fritz and the awesome Microsoft templates on crisis management and communication templates and apps.

It definitely woke me up to the importance of solutions for customers around work from home, as well as Teams 101 and the needs for people struggling with getting SharePoint in work-from-home scenarios and folks battling with VPNs. It was on a call with the speakers that one of them said that there are so many cancelled events and yet very few are going virtual.

They were calling out the need for more virtual events. Yes, the community needs opportunities to communicate, collaborate and share and inspire. The events aren’t just for education. There’s a lot more about networking, sharing, bouncing ideas off each other, and otherwise hanging out and sharing ideas and creating friendships. The virtual MVP summit was a lot of fun. Despite the real need to connect with other experts, it was the virtual happy hours and hanging out on video calls that a lot of folks were appreciating.

The birth of the Microsoft 365 Virtual Conference

It was out of this atmosphere, along with the need to transform an event in California that we were planning, that the Microsoft 365 Virtual Marathon was born. We knew it was going to take a lot of work to make a successful virtual event, but we wanted to ensure that anyone in the world would be able to join. We did some math to figure out how many sessions we could do in a single Microsoft 365 tenant. According to our math at the time, we could do 15 sessions wide for 24 hours with 360 sessions.

“Why not go 36 hours so we could get two full days from the start and end with a SharePint?” we thought. It was out of that idea that the event was born. Since that time, we have been contacted by SharePoint Conference, gained alignment with Teams and Azure, and had conversations with both engineering and marketing teams at Microsoft to support more than a dozen sessions at the Microsoft 365 Virtual Marathon.

Global connections

The most significant point in my mind is when we embraced the global nature of the event and truly decided to reach out to our contacts around the world to support speakers from around the globe. In total, we expect to have over 10,000 attendees from 115+ countries, with sessions delivered in seven languages across 400 sessions from 330 speakers that come from 44 different countries.

The conversations with the Latin American Spanish speaking MVPs was familiar, and I knew they would be on board. Then it was French Canadiens and French Azure Office 365 community and ensuring French content from Lebanon to Tahiti and New Caledonia. German was a late addition. Our German speakers are very talented and most were willing to deliver their sessions in both English and German. Reaching out to contacts in places like India, Pakistan, Egypt, Dubai, Senegal, Nigeria, and South Africa was important. It’s not just about Western Europe but Eastern Europe, Africa from top to bottom. Asia, from Turkey to Japan.

It was conversations with the Japanese and Korean community leadership where I felt a special connection on how meaningful the event was to these communities. I had a very heartfelt conversation with the Japanese community lead who had shared that this was the first time they’d had such an engagement. While they could have their own event, it is absolutely meaningful to have a global event with foreign language tracks.

I was told that this is what inclusion and diversity feels like. I agree. We’ve tried to reach out to communities in every country in the world. I’m hoping to hear stories about the new Teams features that allow closed captions to be translated into local languages. I’m anxious to hear how our foreign language sessions are received.

Providing a space to gather while apart

While physical events have expo halls and community parties and gatherings, it takes a lot of special attention to even get close to mimicking those features. We’re working hard to provide VR community gatherings, video chat happy hours, and vendor rooms with an incredible raffle prizes that encourage attendees to visit the vendors and become aware of what this powerful ecosystem provides. The sponsor money raised is helping us provide marketing, raffle prize of Oculus Quest VR , and a 10% special fund provided to help families in the community of those impacted by COVID-19.

I’m excited to have Perficient on board as a Diamond sponsor. It’s so great to get the marketing and delivery teams energized and supporting the community with expert speakers. Perficient has been very busy helping companies in their digital transformation and has as well been working near the front lines in healthcare, supporting hospitals doctors and nurses with a healthcare bot, implementing crisis management solutions, and utilizing innovative communication portals and news portals to help hospitals keep their employees informed.

Emergency network troubleshooting with network performance and VPN overload has been just some of the challenges that Perficient has been involved in solving, in addition to Skype for Business to Teams transitions. In that space, we’ve been involved in multiple Teams Summits helping educate customers across the nation in their adoption, migration, and deployment strategies to move to Microsoft Teams.

What I’m looking forward to at the Microsoft 365 Virtual Marathon

Personally, I’m very excited about the Microsoft energy around Microsoft SharePoint Spaces and Microsoft Project Cortex. I see Project Cortex as AI for the masses, as well as a reboot of knowledge management and a doubling down on SharePoint as the best repository of corporate knowledge. It’s great to see the Microsoft content management strategy coming full circle and embracing a wholistic approach to knowledge management. Lots of work in the Power Platform integrates right into the Project Cortex platform as a horizontal service providing integrated knowledge solutions across SharePoint, Teams, Office, Outlook, Yammer, and more. You’ll find me diving into these topics in my sessions.

I set up the VR in our house early in lockdown. My son asked me for a vacation simulator. Brilliant! Since that moment, I’ve been trying to incorporate VR activities into my community outreach. Bill Baer’s SharePints have been so extremely popular he’s had hundreds of people joining a video call designed for a handful of people, but it’s been a riot! Our emphasis on VR and mixed reality support in the event serve as a mechanism to connect the community with support for watching the keynotes and providing a space to connect and network for those who have headsets. I’m hoping the Oculus Quest All-in-One VR giveaways can also be meaningful.

Here are the sessions you can expect from the Perficient delivery team:

You can register for the conference by following this link.


Perficient continually looks for ways to champion and challenge our workforce, encourage personal and professional growth, and celebrating our people-oriented culture. Work on interesting projects for some of the world’s most recognizable clients and enjoy life while doing so.

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About the Author

Joel Oleson is recognized as one of the world’s most connected Microsoft Community leaders. He is well traveled speaking and visiting communities in over 100 countries. He has been awarded Microsoft's highest recognition as Office Apps & Services MVP, Microsoft Regional Director awards, and multiple "Ship It" awards for Office and SharePoint from his time at Microsoft. Joel was the first dedicated SharePoint Admin and Architect for SharePoint Online. Joel is Director at Perficient in the Microsoft National Practice. Visit his technical blog at and travel blog at

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