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Ad-Tech begins tomorrow, which means that many of us will be sporting new t-shirts, koosh balls, and slightly fatter bellies (from the free dinners) when the week is through.

I’ve never paid for the Ad-Tech speaking sessions; I’m perfectly happy to wander the exhibit hall in the hopes that I find a company I’ve never heard of before. But I’ve been to enough Internet trade shows to be able to pass on some sage wisdom to those of you who actually paid to hear speakers. Here’s my advice on how to spend your time wisely:

1. Avoid “Agency” Sessions. When it comes to TV and magazine advertising, big agencies are worth listening to. When it comes to anything Internet marketing related, agencies have absolutely no clue what is going on. Expect to hear a lot of catchphrases and not a lot of actionable advice.

2. Avoid professional trade-show speakers. You know the type of person I’m talking about, the speaker that manages to show up on the bill at every trade show (often on multiple panels), and does a great job of promoting his/her agency/consulting company. These folks give the same speech over and over again, and I suspect that they spend so much time speaking that they don’t actually have time to ‘get their hands dirty’ and keep up-to-date with changes in the industry.

3. The lower the title, the better the speaker. When I was working for the Thomson Corporation (a 40,000 person company), I remember the day that the CEO of the company came to speak to our team. He gave a very impressive talk about changes in the global economy, trends in organizational behavior, some big building the company was building in Connecticut, and many other points that had no bearing on my daily life. The point is this: CEO and VPs are paid to think about the big issues; as a result, these folks generally have very little practical advice for how to optimize your campaigns, buy media, etc. Look for “manager” or “director” next to someone’s title as a sign of a good presentation.

4. Focus on today. People love to speculate on “what’s next.” Unfortunately, speculation doesn’t pay the bills. Spend your time in sessions with tips for what you can do today to grow your bottom line. Don’t waste your time listening to prognosticators telling you to put all your money and time into mobile-video-local-rss-podcast hybrids.

5. Some good sessions. OK, OK, enough of my kvetching. Here’s a few presentations that look like they could be useful:

Also, some exhibitors worth talking to:

  • Adteractive (of course)
  • Bruce Clay, Inc
  • comScore Networks
  • Google (if only for the schwag)
  • Marchex
  • Offermatica
  • Optimost
  • (If only to meet Jay Weintraub in person!)
  • The Search Agency (again, if only to meet Frank Lee in person!)
  • WebSideStory