Getting the most out of a search conference

by Peter Young on October 31, 2008 · 0 comments

Further to my post last week regarding a busy week for many search marketeers, it seemed appropriate to follow it up with a beginners guide to getting the most out of whatever conference you are attending. Most conferences these day are not cheap affairs, so heres my guide to getting the most out of them.

Have a clear motive.

There is no point in attending any of these conferences without a clear objective. It doesn’t necessarily need to be the attendance of a key speaker, it could just as easily be:

  • New Business – This obviously depends on which conference you are attending however many of these conferences provide a wealth of new business ops whether they be:
    • Speed Dating sessions – For example Business NorthWest at the GMEX in Manchester is providing a number of speed dating sessions for potential new business or business partnerships
    • Interaction with key decision makers – This will depend on show to show however these events can be great for making contact with a key new business target – for example SES tends to more industry focussed, whereas AdTech/InternetWorld show often see a higher number of client types in attendance
    • Displays – Many of these conferences allow vendors to highlight their goods and services. Certainly the likes of InternetWorld can be a great place to get your suppliers into line – whether it be your 3rd party bid management tool, analytics or even recruitment.
  • on that note – Recruitment. SES and some of the other more focussed conferences and shows can be a great place for recruitment. Whilst this is sort of unwritten, there is no doubting it goes on – and it can be a good time for getting the foundations in place for potential collaboration at a later date. (Just look what happened to me ;) )
  • Learning – Probably why 90% of us go to manyof these conferences. If you learn one good thing from the conference it can often be worth the attendance fee alone. Certainly there are some conferences that are better than others, certainly I was very impressed by the level and tone of the presentations at SES in London this year and the SMX line up is looking very good too. On that note I would highly recommend the following speakers
    • Bryan Eisenberg – FutureNow Inc
    • Jon Myers – MediaVest Manchester
    • any of the ComScore/Hitwise stuff – Normally some good titbits in there
    • Kevin Ryan
    • Matt Cutts or any of the other Google lot tbh – Mylie at SES was very good
    • Dixon Jones (Receptional)
    • Dave Naylor – never seen him personally but many people seem to talk very highly in terms of speaking
    • Erica Schmidt – Isobar
    • ….and please feel free to suggest any others below….

Don’t just focus on what happens during the day.

Think Rob Kerry put this best in his post “The Search Engine Groupie”

The majority of conference pass paying punters that attend these events are purely there to learn; many unaware of what’s happening in the background. The quiet whispers of idea exchanges over pints of black gold, and games of business card top trumps. For beginners, Search Engine Strategies offers a valuable selection of sessions to learn more about search marketing. For those who have reached the next level up though, such an occasion is even more valuable.

Thousands of Black Hats, White Hats, PPC Pink Hats and “Suits” gather in one place to get drunk together and network. I’ve still learnt things at the sessions of each SES I’ve attended (such as Video Search SEO tips at SES Chicago); but casually discussing new ways to build links, harness social media and further our part in keeping Matt Cutts’ team busy (Black Hat SEO = Googler Job Security) is worth the price of a conference ticket alone.

At many of these conferences many of the attendees will often congregate in the same places, certainly SES London and Hilton are always synonymous – however I would add dont just go harrasing who ever it is you want to talk to – be focussed, brief and polite. Certainly you will knmow if they want to continue the conversation further.

Be Prepared

Maybe its just the Boy Scout in me coming to the fore, however it certainly helps to be prepared at the conferences. This will help you get the best out of the conference and help you reach whatever objectives you may have

  • Random attendance probably isn’t the best approach – knowing which speakers you want to see, when you want to see them is probably a better course of action, and will ensure your trip doesn’t end in disappointment.
  • If you can try and leave a days grace either side of the conference dates when booking a hotel and flight. The best networking events tend to be on the day before the conference and on the last day.
  • Check the forums and blogs regularly and well in advance. Each major conference event will usually have an official thread or even Twitter trail detailing what parties are happening and where.
  • Mingle with major and niche search engines in the expo hall, they may have an invitation-only party for existing and potential clients that you could attend – (thanks rob)
  • Enjoy it – These conferences are not all business.

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