John and I recently attended WebmasterWorld’s PubCon conference in Las Vegas, where I was also a speaker.
Conferences are often expensive – not only does it cost money to travel to the conference (hotel, flights, meals, conference registration, etc.) but there’s the even bigger cost of being out of the office. In a case like PubCon, a four-day conference with seven days of networking events, it’s very easy to let a week slip by without getting a lot of work done.
With this in mind, it’s important find ways to gain value, making up for the expenses and lost time of attending the conference.
There are four important areas that are full of value:
A good conference is jam packed full of awesome sessions with awesome speakers. PubCon was bigger than ever this year with SEVEN tracks to choose from at any given time. The opportunity to learn something new is endless. One of the best sessions I went to covered competitive analysis – know what your competitors are up to and how they’re utilizing online marketing. The information I learned from this session will help my company spend our marketing dollars wisely and I’ve also learned new ways to help our clients with their competitive analysis as well.
The panelists from SEO Design and Organic Site Structure at PubCon Las Vegas 2009.
The easiest way to see a return on investment from a conference is by landing a sale. This is limiting though, and really only applicable to agencies, not in-house folks or affiliates. Also, it’s hard to get your name out there unless you’re a speaker or exhibitor. However, there are ways to do it, and that’s through networking.
Some people believe that the real value of a conference is in the networking. And I have to admit, I’m in that group. Networking can be as simple as sitting down at a lunch table with people you don’t know and as complex as partying at an official conference event and bonding with those that survive into the wee hours of the morning. It’s very, very important to attend as many networking events as possible. It is at these events that the tips really start to flow – especially after one or two drinks. And once you’ve met even one new person, chances are they will introduce you to a few more people. And those people will introduce you to even more people. And eventually you’ll be standing next to Matt Cutts of Google trying to convince him to put a shot of vodka in that orange juice.
You never know who you might meet – so get out there and introduce yourself to as many people as you can. And don’t just take info – make sure to spread your knowledge around too.
Lyndsay Walker, Matt Cutts, Kate Morris
In no time, you’ll find that you’ve built relationships with some of the people you met while networking. It used to be that you’d meet someone at a conference and forget about them by time the next year rolls around and you end up starting all over. But with social media, there’s no reason for that to happen.
When you get home from a conference, take all the business cards you collected and start following up. Add those people to LinkedIn, follow them on Twitter. Keep in touch with them. Eventually you’ll find that you’re most looking forward to reconnecting with your friends at these conferences. And it is absolutely worth it to take the time to nurture a relationship. You’ll find that you have reliable contacts when you’re stuck on an issue, or in need of a particular product or service. And they’ll remember the same about you.
Maintaining your relationships means you can ask your friends to wear your new company's t-shirt, like Kate Morris did at SMX Advanced 2009.
Lots of people will take a conference and make a vacation out of it. Some bring their spouses, some come a few days early or stay a few days late. Especially in the case of Las Vegas, a hot tourist destination, you can get a vacation for way cheaper since you’re already there.
Hanging out with the band members of the Blue Man Group show at PubCon 2007.
Next time you’re planning your budget and are wondering if attending a conference is doable, remember all these different ways you can bring home value. Chances are, you’ll come home rejuvenated, inspired, and maybe even relaxed.
Hope to see you all at PubCon Las Vegas 2010 – November 8-12, 2010!