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How do you optimize your attendance at search conferences? Whether you're a big company or solo consultant, knowing how to maximize the time you spend at a search conference can be the difference between great ROI and zero ROI. In this week's "Discussion of the Week," we want to hear some of your best tips for friends and peers attending search conferences. The floor is open!
Comments10 Comments  


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from MattMcGee 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Sessions: If it's your first time at a conference, pick sessions that fit your primary interests. At future conferences, though, you might want to attend sessions that are out of your comfort zone to expand your overall knowledge base. When unsure about what sessions to attend, pick the one with the best speaker(s).

Also, be sure to read the entire session description so you know what to expect. It's frustrating to attend a session expecting to hear about one aspect of SEO (or Twitter or whatever), but the actual focus of the session is on something slightly different. Don't attend a session solely on the title -- read the details.

Networking: Be prepared with interesting things to say and questions to ask. Don't talk about yourself too much. If there are certain people you want to meet, know something about them that you can talk about when you meet them.

There's so much more, but I'll stop there for now.

Avatar Moderator
from nickfb76 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 1

I have not been to many events but the few I have always offer great value.  I think Matt hits the nail on the head when he states that you should fully understand the sessions your attending.  Also, going to sessions/conferences that aren't your strong suit is solid advice.  In fact, I met Matt at a local university event and lets just say my 'local skills' aren't the best.  Not only did I get to learn more but I got to first hand meet Matt, David Mihm and some of the other great speakers at the event. Which brings me to my next point.


While I did send a couple twitter messages to some of the speakers I didn't go out and introduce myself to them.  Matt had actually walked straight up to me and said he remembered my twitter profile image and we chatted for a few minutes before everything started.  Who knows, that could have even played a role in being selected as an editor here on SPHINN!

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from JulieJoyce 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I think networking with people at a conference is one of the absolute best ways to learn. I've learned more having a drink with someone than I have by looking at slides and listening to a lecture, even though of course that's valuable and necessary. Also remember that most people love to answer questions but don't abuse it.

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from toddmintz 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I would actually focus on getting to see the best speakers (proving the content is somewhat relevant to you).   Exceptional speakers like Rand Fishkin and Marty Weintraub transcend the topics they are talking about and since you can always read liveblogging and tweets of the sessions you miss, I would urge you to see the most memorable presentations.

Also, wear good walking shoes :.)

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from ajkohn2001 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 1

Here are my tips.


Bring a powerstrip (you'll make friends), and extension cord and an extra laptop battery just in case. Sure the wi-fi can be a nightmare at these places but having your laptop up and running is critical for taking notes and digesting the conference in a social way.


Conference air seems just about as bad as airplane air - recycled and dry. Not to mention you're probably a bit worse for wear from the drinking you did the night before. So keep hydrated.

Speak Up

Like Nick says, go up and say hello to speakers. They're just people. Frankly, this is hard for me, not because I'm awestruck (I'm not), but because I'm a natural introvert. But if you're going to be at a conference, step it up and put yourself out there.

Be Smart

I just said you should speak up, but now I'm going to tell you to shut-up if you don't have something interesting to say. Do not simply go up and get in line to get a picture with Matt Cutts. And please don't drone on about the ultra-specific example from your personal site. If you don't have anything of substance to say, just introduce yourself, pay them a compliment and then move along.

Business Cards

Make sure you have enough business cards and don't be shy about handing them out and trading them with other folks. Go the extra mile and go through them afterwards and send an email follow-up. (I'm not nearly aggressive enough here and should take my own advice.)


Go to the evening events and mingle. Don't just hang out with your friends or the people you know. Get uncomfortable (or maybe that's just me) and meet new people. Be the social butterfly. (Again, I suck at this. If you see me at an event and I'm in one place for too long, feel free to come up and tell me to move along.)

At the end of the day, I think the conferences are about the people you meet and the conversations you have outside of the sessions. The sessions can be good too, particularly if you choose the 'right' ones for you, but the information traded outside of the sessions is what really makes these conferences tick IMO.

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from Jill 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I agree with much of what has been said above. Here's a couple more don'ts:

Don't be surprised if you hear conflicting advice from the speakers (especially in our industry). It doesn't necessarily mean that one person is right while another is wrong (although it might). It may just mean that what worked for one person didn't for another. Use your own judgement as to how the information might apply to your particular situation and go from there.

Don't ask the same question in every panel you go to. If you do, you'll be "that guy/gal." There's at least one at every conference!

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from Realicity 2778 Days ago #
Votes: 1

@ajkohn2001 had some very good things.  I'd just add to look out for the person who looks like they are attending solo and say hi.  I've found solos to be some of the nicest people to talk to and have some fascinating topics to talk about.

Also, plan to get enough sleep.  You don't want to oversleep and miss sessions or run yourself thin and not be able to attend after events.

from Tiggerito 2777 Days ago #
Votes: 0

I've been currently thinking of attending some conferences like the upcoming one in Hawaii while I'm looping the world in the next few months.

I follow conferences online and some like the current SMX Advanced provide some great insights, but is it worth attending over just following online?

What more do I get for being there than what gets deceminated almost instantly?

I'm a one man business so all those pennies count! Can I justify the cost for a picture of me with a guy in a robot costume!!!

from BasvdBeld 2777 Days ago #
Votes: 0

Good tips!

One I always give first time attendees is make a list of questions they would like to get answered at the conferences. Then Google on the topics around that question and see which of the speakers is most likely to answer your questions. (For example if you are looking for information on international search the biggest chance you have on getting your questions answered is if Andy Atkins Kruger is speaking). Then go to that session and if your question is not answered, ask the question in the Q&A or step up to the speaker after the talk.

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