Looking back at SMX London
I'm writing this column sitting on the veranda of a French chalet in the south East of France. It's been quite the week and I'm relaxing and overthinking the past SMX London. Again it was a good show, with a lot of inspiration coming from the people present at the event.
On Searchcowboys we will be posting more about the different sessions at SMX in the next couple of days. Some posts were ready but when I was going to put them online my laptop went dead and didn't come alive anymore. Therefore you will have to wait for some more content about the event, but don't worry, that will come! Just have to get my laptop back to live ;).
In the meanwhile I thought I'd share my thoughts on the show with you. Having been there as speaker, press and visitor all at once I think I can give you a good look at what went on in London.
Let me start of by complimenting Chris Shermans and Matthew Finlays teams. They have managed to put up a show which in my opinion was a better show than last year. A show that passed without any major problems, something that can't be said for all events.
Let's begin at the beginning: the show opened with keynote speaker Brian Featherstonehaugh. It was a gamble which Chris Sherman took. But the gamble worked out fine. Featherstonehaugh is not a search-person. So we would have to wait and see if he would be able to grab the full attention of a room filled with SEO's and people wanting to hear about search. Well, he managed to do so. Featherstonehaugh was able to do a great presentation in which he covered both the history of marketing as the future of search.
As any good keynote Featherstonehaugh stirred up the conversation by claiming that search is not on the agenda of the CMO's and that we had to get it there by pitching search as research to the CMO's. Not everybody (me included) agreed with him on that, but he did have a point that it's not on the agenda and that we have to get it on the agenda. In my opinion though you don't do that by pitching it as research, but by 'teaching' those around the CMO. That are the people who make the CMO's agenda after all...
The two day conference was supposed to have three tracks running. Just one and a half week before the event the organization decided to cut one track. It was said to be done because they wanted a more advanced SMX. I think it also had something to do with the downfall in visitors this
year, no doubt because of the economic recession. I was a little bit sad because one of my two presentations got cancelled because of this and it was the most fun one that got cancelled.
Either way the show did turn out to be more advanced than other years. A good way of measuring that was the Twitter stream. As ever we at Searchcowboys tried to give updates on what went on. But we were not alone. Several SEO's gave updates on Twitter. If you read them all back you will see that most of them agreed on the fact that the level was high. Off course there are always speakers who either don't live up to their reputation or just aren't natural speakers. But in general it was a good set of speakers this year.
So who did I like? Off course Featherstonehaugh showed that a top executive must be a good speaker, but there were more who were able to draw my attention. Looking at the 'regular' crowd off course Mikkel deMib was again able to get humor in his presentations while giving some great tips, as did Will Critchlow and our own cowboy Jon Myers.
There were also some 'new' faces, at least for me. I had never seen Kerstin Baker (@Bakerash) or Kate Morris speak and I was pleasantly surprised by not only their knowledge but also the way they were able to present that knowledge. The other cowboys also put down a good presentation Heini van Bergen showed us some good tools and Lisa Ditlefsen was right on her best place while doing the site-clinic panel.
An important aspect of every event is the networking part. The organisation this year was smart to switch the rooms around and have the main hall as a networking area. This worked out better than last year and was a good move. The signs on the lunch table indicating what kind of table you were sitting at ("consultants", "acquisition" etcetera) didn't work out the way it should I think, the idea though was good.
The London SEO drinks are always a good networking opportunity. Though this wasn't organized by SMX it does add something to the show. Being with other SEO's mixed with alcohol always makes a good evening.
So was it all great? No critics what so ever? No, it wasn't all great. It would have been surprising if it was. The cutting back of one track was announced fairly late, but the most annoying thing was there as it was last year: the wifi. Though the connection was strong enough we had to pay the hotel 20 pounds a day to be online. A ridicilously high price for 16 hours on the web. I pay less per month at home. I was told that the hotel doesn't want to change their prices but internet access should ALWAYS be complementary on an event like this. The second (minor) thing was the food. That I wasn't really excited with what they served could just as well have been my taste, but the amount of food served was pretty low. The way the catering made sure you only got to take two small cakes for desert could have been a scene of a MrBean movie. It was just too stupid to make an argument about it.
The question did arise though if two shows of the size SMX / SES can succeed alongside each other in times of crisis. Looking at the turn up and the reasons why people did not attend (money) you are temped to say no. But one mistake the SMX organisation made was that it had pulled the event back to May as apposed to November last year. Though the weather is better, the agenda of events is more crowded. This resulting in people making choices. Which event do we go to and which don't we. With SMX being one of the last in the row I suspect it lost a number of visitors compared to when it would have been organized in November.
In summary, content wise the show was good with the couple of expections there are on every show, but Chris Sherman can be happy about the line up he presented. And the content is, together with the networking aspect, the primary reason people attend conferences. So SMX London is definitly worth being around a lot longer!
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