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by Andrew Isidoro on 27th March 2013
SEO conferences are great places to learn, network and make new friends, which is why Andrew Isidoro has put together this look at what makes SEO conferences so fantastic.
It’s that time of year again where the web’s best and brightest digital marketers come out and play. Spring has sprung (apparently), and for the humble SEO that means one thing: it’s conference season.
The tweeters among us will have already seen the #SMX hashtag go wild recently as SMX West kicks things off across the pond, but some have a little longer to wait with IonSearch and BrightonSEO doing their thing in the UK in April and SMX London, among others, not starting until even later. No matter where you’re based or what your interests, however, with great industry insights, unbeatable networking and a generous helping of after-show festivities, the conference scene is certainly alluring.
For many it’s a great experience but for some, especially those not used to attending, it can be a little disappointing to not come away with a head bursting with new ideas and a set of new industry friends. To help, below are a few tips for getting the most out of an SEO conference:
1. Plan for crowds
It doesn’t matter if you’re popping down to Brighton or taking a long haul flight to SMX, early hotel booking is a must! Even smaller conferences can get pretty busy so don’t take this advice too lightly. Big conferences tend to attract big crowds, which can also make parking painful. If you need it, make sure you’ve planned your public transport route as taxis may be hard to find.
Thanks to @KelvinNewman for the photo
If I could go back in time and tell my pre-conference self one thing, it’d be that SEOs love a tea and coffee break, and the queues for food and drink at peak times can become unholy.
I learnt this lesson last March at BrightonSEO. Never before have I been as disheartened by the sight of a bar as the conference refreshments area was totally impenetrable through the wall of people.
Leave as soon as a talk finishes to beat the starving masses, before the wait on a quick caffeine fix requires you by law to take up citizenship.
2. Chillax a little
On my first conference outing, I stumbled into a small diner with a few others that sold cheap beer and epic hotdogs while playing Tom & Jerry on huge plasma TVs. There are not many people who can say they’ve partied “Hanna-Barbera Style”.
All I’m saying is that conferences are weird and wonderful places with things happening everywhere. Make sure you fully embrace whatever is going on and just go with the flow. You’ll be meeting lots of new faces, so don’t be afraid to wander off out of your comfort zone.
3. Be social
You may be forgiven for thinking that conferences are pretty cliquey, but in most cases it’s not that someone is ignoring you, it’s simply that they’ve never spoken to you before. Communicating with them in advance is a very good idea. Get in touch with other attendees via social media or drop a well thought-out comment on their blog to get onto their radar and to ease an introduction. Lanyrd and EventBrite make it really easy to see who’s in attendance and who they are on Twitter.
Get involved with the hashtag too – there are so many little side stories that happen via social media that it’s always a good idea to keep track of it all in this way.
Credit: Silicon Beach Training
There is no greater example of this that the infamous BrightonSEO Moth which persistently attacked Koozai’s own Sam Noble during her presentation. Okay, maybe not the best example to show your boss, but any excuse to highlight a parody Twitter account has to be taken!
4. Know your conference and audience
Before you rush off to start “networking”, have a think about the type of people that are going to be attending. Not all conferences were created equal and there are a few subtle differences.
As an industry we’re quite lucky to have a good mix of presentation styles ranging from professional to personal while others are just downright mad. I mean, could you imagine a stuffy financial or legal conference doing this:
If you are unsure, just check the previous attendees. There is always a helpful person who puts together an attendance list on Twitter. Have a looksee at who’s going; is it mainly agency or in-house? Being an agency bod myself, rocking up at an in-house dominated conference can be a godsend when looking for new business.
It’s great to leave something tangible with someone you’ve been talking to so remember your business cards. They are much more convenient than trying to remember a twitter handle (especially when no-one can spell it – e.g. @andrew_isidoro). Add your Twitter handle or LinkedIn URL to your card so that people can put a face to your name once the conference is over and connect digitally too.
5. Think about your kit
Choose your tech kit wisely. Unless you’re part of the conference team, you probably don’t need your digital SLR camera. No-one needs high-definition pictures of PowerPoint slides.
Ditch the laptop and grab a tablet or netbook. They are great for battery life and so much more portable than traditional laptops. Most conferences are famous for their inability to cope with more than 10 people on Wi-Fi at once, so consider taking a 3G dongle to cope with the large periods of internet blackout.
Or, and I know this may sound strange: just use paper. Apparently shops do still sell notebooks and you’ll always have the added bonus that the trusty ballpoint pen doesn’t run out of batteries.
6. Get – and return – attention
Have your own personal elevator pitch. It’s difficult enough meeting a lot of new people as it is, so a succinct explanation of who you are takes the pressure off during the initial conversations.
One of my biggest pet peeves is being “that person”. The person that constantly scans the crowds for better networking candidates. The person that is so self-obsessed that they only talk about their business and accomplishments and thoughts.
Have you ever seen that happen? Yeah. I beg you, please don’t be that person.
So there we have it, a nice and easy guide to surviving (and getting the most out of) an SEO conference. What have you learnt that makes a difference? Do you have more advice for conference goers? You should leave a comment below!
The views expressed in this post are those of the author so may not represent those of the Koozai team.