Our Marketing Director, Hillary Read, asked me to write a post about my experience at the Bend WebCAM Search Conference. In thinking about my experience, it would be hard for me to avoid writing obvious clichés such as:
Bend is a great town! #duh
The Conference was great! #duh
I had a great time socializing. #duh
Imparting such knowledge wouldn’t give any lasting value to our readership. Instead, please allow me to use my blogging soapbox to make the following general statement:
You can have a small market search conference experience that can equal or exceed the SMX / SES experience for a fraction of the cost.
Throughout the year, conferences like Bend WebCam, SEMpdx’s SearchFest in Portland (full disclosure: I’m a SEMpdx Board Member), my friend Marty Weintraub’s Conference in Duluth, and many others flourish throughout the country out of the major SES / SMX / Pubcon spotlight. When you attend one of these events, you could end up paying ¼ to 1/3rd the ticket price of a major conference plus much lower hotel and food costs. These events tend to draw many of the same speakers that speak at larger conferences plus some other speakers who are as good as the major conference speakers but aren’t as well known. The networking at these conferences is frequently better since having a smaller house plus a much more casual atmosphere means the opportunity to meet and associate with others is frequently superior. Because these conferences draw more regionally, it’s far more likely that you’ll actually be able to establish personal and business relationships with the people that you meet.
A “Mid-Major” conference actually is a great “gateway” experience for search conference newbies. It will allow you to get a comfortable feel for the experience without being thrown into a big “Meet Market”. Because a large number of attendees are locals or near-locals, the cadence will be much more relaxed. It will feel like a much more traditional networking event and lack some of the cliquish aspects of the more major conferences.
The number one newbie search conference tip I would give is to follow closely and interact with all the conference chatter on Twitter especially if you’re not well known in our industry. Before the conference, make sure you follow the official Twitter account as well as all the conference speakers. During the conference, make it a point to tweet from each session you attend. Tweet the information nuggets you find valuable, RT other attendees, and engage with anyone and everyone about the conference. You’ll pickup social media followers and you’ll get better known by other search marketers. You will also find your conference experience to be infinitely enriched as you cease to be a spectator and instead, become a participant.
I’ve been told that at least a few people in search marketing follow me in social media…which, combined with following my own advice that I just imparted to you, allows me to be a shameless attention whore at some of the conferences I attend :.)