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The Marketing Conference Survival Guide

What should you bring to an SEO conference & how should you behave

Staying ahead of everyone else isn’t possible, but not being left behind should be one of your key aims if you work in digital. The secret is to listen to what the leaders (particularly the quiet ones) are talking about and ask yourself is this of use to me. Going to every single conference, after work meetup or breakfast event isn’t always possible, work gets in the way, but getting out to a few really helps.

The Conference kit list must haves

  • An A5 notebook (and pens, / pencils)
  • A powerbank (phone battery) 10,000mah
  •  Cash
  • Business Cards
  • Deodorant
  • Headache tablets (paracetomol, aspirin, whatever works)
  • Chewing gum (even if it is just to get rid of the taste of the awful conference coffee)
  • A small sports towel*

For any conference you go to, this is my recommended list of must haves, I have left off smart phone as well it goes without saying, however a phone that can be used as a wifi hotspot is always a plus if you need to do bit of work, never rely on conference wifi.

*Any “hitchikers guide to the galaxy fan” will know the importance of a towel, it does come in useful more often than I would care to admit, from people spilling coffee onto a laptop through to other

Conference Photography

Getting the best shots in a conference requires two key components, a good lens and a good flash a good eye and practice.

Where to stay (& more to the point finding where you booked)

For the big conferences, local hotel rooms book up fairly fast (at least the best cheaper places), it is worth checking out where other people are staying before booking if not there are a few key rules
Location, it should be close enough to the venues / after parties
Check the reviews on Trip Advisor
Typically, the aggregators are good but checkout direct pricing,
Personally I am a fan of Premier Inn and Holiday Inn Express although AirBNB has become increasingly popular, I like to be able to stumble in at 2am.

Google maps allows you to star your hotel and for even easier access allows you to create a navigation widget that you can put on your homescreen 

Where to eat (breakfast, lunch and dinner)

There are (potentially) thousands of people who are coming down to the event, many of whom you have been talking to and oddly enough they all need to eat, giving you an opportunity to catchup in an informal way, often there are some micro-meetups happening before, during and after so keep an eye on hashtags and call outs, typically I end up meeting up with ex-colleagues. I find a Wetherspoons pub breakfast a pretty good start to the day, reliable, good value and often the right location.

Conference behaviour

How to socialise at a conference

Socialising is so high on my recommendations, talking to the right people you learn more in a bar after the conference in a couple of hours than you would all day, people say far more in a one to few situation than they are allowed to on stage and often this is the best time to ask questions of speakers especially if you are in disagreement with what they said on stage, very few people will admit to on stage the greyer tactics that work but will chat a little more openly in a bar.

For many people conferences are a great opportunity to meet up with people who they haven’t seen in a long time, meetups are often planned so for new people you will feel that everyone knows everyone else, so for your first few conferences it helps to take a wingman, alternatively arrange a few casual meetups with people from Twitter, and invite to o meet for a quick pint.

Failing at a conference

Don’t be rude, these people are your future customers your potential next employer or someone who probably knows far more than they appear. I have seen people be quite rude at conference who are now trying to sell tools or services only to find that people have a long memory, they will remember if you are rude to you or someone else, everyone starts somewhere.

In the pub afterwards it can be a great time to build your business, promote your brand but a big no is to be the obvious salesman (unless you are buying drinks), don’t talk about your business too much and if every sentence starts with forced in ‘we’. Most people tend to get around to the so what do you / where do you work part of the conversation, often people already know.

At the conference

Twitter & #Everything isn’t always the best way to keep up, wifi, and phone connectivity at almost every event I have ever been to is awful but by making notes of key points in a notepad you can tweet them at a better point (you can pay more attention to the talk).

Highlight keypoints that you would like to try later, particularly something you can do, or should be planned in, or for further investigation – my personal success criteria for a conference is if I have at least 5 things that I would like to investigate or do.

Heard it all before? Nothing new? The question isn’t have you heard it before but are you doing it, is there something that has dropped off your list to do that maybe you haven’t done in a while but would like to do? There is so much now in technical SEO I don’t remember everything I should, every day.

Asking questions

Questions are great, but please do not try and say “I know something you don’t” or simply “you are wrong” – for many speakers this is one of their first talks and heckling, well it simply won’t help. Talk to them afterwards and they will often appreciate your experience or viewpoint. The best talks are cutting edge which unfortunately means that they have only tried it once or twice so give them a break if the evidence is weak. If the talk is 20m over lunch or break, there maybe people really, really desperate for the loo or to meet people for lunch, so keep your questions for online.

Speakers are often around afterwards and are typically passionate about what they are talking about so actually look forward to discussing the topic a little further.

Walking out of a talk

(This divides opinion on twitter) I try to avoid walking out of a talk unless
– It is an unconference
– It is a hidden excessive sales pitch
– It is an emergency
– It is a break between talks
– Over running and you need to leave

I once was looking forward to listening to one of the ‘celebs’ of blackhat SEO only to find after 20mins of a 40min talk it was the most boring sales pitch I had ever been to at a paid conference and whilst it might be a little rude I still think it is acceptable.

Anything I have missed? Leave a comment or drop me a tweet.
So which are the conferences that you are going to this year?

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