It’s easy to get hooked on search conferences. For me, there’s no better way to learn so much about search in the course of a couple of days: what’s working, what’s not working, and what others in the industry are experiencing. The networking opportunities at conferences are priceless—where else do you have access to so many experts in one place, especially if you don’t live in the Bay area?
As an in-house marketer, I’m fortunate to have a company that recognizes the value in sending me to conferences. To help ensure that my company sends me to the next conference, my goal at each one is positive ROI—to get more out of the conference than my company spent to send me there. For me this comes in the form of new ideas and strategies. From a recent conference I brought back 36 to-do items, ranging from launching a new marketing initiative to implementing a small change on a subdomain.
With SMX Advanced kicking off tomorrow, I thought I’d offer some tips to help get the most out of your next conference, plan ahead, make the most of your time, and follow up after the event.
Before the conference
Before the conference, start a running list of goals, both general and specific. My conference goals generally fall into these categories:
- Specific search questions or problems to resolve
- Better ways to do certain search tasks
- New search marketing initiatives that could benefit my company
- Search topics that I want to learn more about
Based on your goals, plan which sessions to attend. Print out the online agenda and mark your first and second choice sessions in each time slot. Consider your goals for the conference, the session topics, and speakers for each session. This advanced planning keeps you from having to make as many schedule decisions when you get to the conference, which frees up more time for networking.
Before you leave for the conference, review your goals and agenda with your manager. This demonstrates a professional and strategic approach to the trip, and helps give your manager confidence that you’ll be focused on work while you’re there.
Bring your agenda and list of goals to the conference—you may need them for reference to help stay on track.
At the conference
Every minute you’re at the conference, be aware of the opportunities around you and make the most of them. Go to the conference sessions. Attend the networking events. Talk with other marketers. Learn about their search marketing experiences and share some of yours. Learn new approaches or get confirmation that you’re on the right track.
Great ideas can present themselves at any time when you’re at a conference. At a recent conference I attended a panel about a marketing initiative that I wasn’t sure made sense for my company. After the session, I ended up sitting with one of the panelists for lunch. We discussed it, and I came away with an implementation plan (one of my best-ever conference lunches).
You’ll probably come across several new ideas at a conference. As you hear new ideas, jot them down. For me, it works best to bring one notebook dedicated to action items, and a separate notebook for all other notes. Writing down the ideas makes it easier to organize them when I get back to the office, and helps ensure I don’t overlook any ideas.
After the conference
Soon after you return to the office, organize and prioritize your ideas into a to-do list. If the list is long, I might assign each item a category from 1 to 3, where 1 is most important and 3 is least important. Then I prioritize all the 1′s, all the 2′s, and all the 3′s.
If your to-do list contains a new marketing initiative, develop a brief project plan that includes goals, observations, and options for the project.
Present your to-do list and project plans to your manager. This communicates to your manager the value that you got out of the conference, enables a chance to get buy-in on the ideas, and helps get your manager involved the process.
I haven’t implemented all 36 items on my recent conference to-do list, but I’ve implemented many of them and look forward to adding to the list at the next conference.
See you at SMX Advanced!
Opinions expressed in the article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Search Engine Land.