How to Get the Most Out of A4uExpo & Reap the Benefits
I am attending the A4UExpo this week and am very excited. However, the last time I attended a conference I forgot my business cards and I promised myself this would never happen again (slowly putting cards into bag now) Every conference I attend I always think of something extra that will benefit me the next time I attend a conference. So please feel free to share any advice or tips you have on how to get the most out of a conference.
Attending a search conference can be a very valuable experience; it can also be a very memorable one. Note: consuming copious amounts of free alcohol will affect memory.
1. Read the conference agenda thoroughly. Try to select the sessions that you have a keen interest in and will most likely to improve your skills.
2. If you have been talking to people online or have been following certain industry figures blogs without ever meeting them then make a point of knowing what they look like. You will be surprised how many people share advice and information online but have never met outside of the virtual world.
3. Attending a conference can be an excellent opportunity to establish new and develop existing relationships. By having a wider network you are boosting your knowledge sharing opportunities and 'phone a friend' options.
4. Remember it is not only fellow professionals within your industry that attend search conferences. It is often the case that before a business actively seeks to employ a search marketing company they will attend events such as the upcoming a4uexpo London 2009. They will like to get a general feel of the potential benefits an online marketing campaign can offer. This is an amazing opportunity to network, be the first point of contact and to exchange details with prospective clientele.
5. Don't be afraid to start conversations - always introduce yourself if given the opportunity. You are all in the same boat and share more common interests than you may think so don't be shy. If it helps here are some SEO Jokes to break the ice or start with the tried and tested lines "is this your first conference?", "What was your favourite session today?" or "What market do you mainly focus on?"
6. Don't overly pitch people - let the conversation grow naturally. Desperation is a real conversation killer and it smells bad too. A conference should be seen as a method to make contacts not sign contracts.
7. The after party which contains the secret quest of every search marketing professional - Free Beer. You should utilise this opportunity to have fun but also feel comfortable enough to ask questions. Coincidently here is a drinker's guide to hangover cures to help you through the next day's sessions.
8. Never, Never, Never forget your business cards. If you have made the effort of attending a conference and actively set about networking then you want them to be able to remember that fine young gentleman or lady in the future (that would be you).
9. Take notes on the back of business cards - You will ultimately forget conversations no matter how great and insightful they were at the time. For future reference take notes on the back of cards highlighting what was discussed and how you might work together.
10. Bring a SWAG bag to fill with all the free items and products from the exhibition stalls. You often find many exhibitors willing to give out free stuff to promote their product or service but be warned only part with your details on two conditions; you are offered a whole treasure trove of goodies or you are actually interested in the product or service. I was once hounded for weeks by a sales rep who I gave my details to because I felt I had to after taking a cup warmer. Damn that cup warmer.
11. Working within the dynamic search industry you will know that you are constantly learning new techniques, so what better way than to sit back and listen to highly experienced and knowledgeable speakers. Debates often arise and many questions can also be asked and answered. It is like a forum but in REAL time, amazing huh?
12. It is not always the high profile search marketers that have the best tips. Don't spend all your time trying to harass the session speakers as it is often the case that other more quiet individuals have just as much experience and knowledge. So pull up a stool crack open the Werther's Originals and soak up as much information as you can.
13. Make it a point to hug a black hat. Although you may not employ black hat techniques it is always very useful to know what they know just to keep you aware of new techniques. They also have some very good ideas outside of the box which can often be tweaked to fit into an online strategy. Some tips on black-hat spotting include; corner hangouts, soft whispers, and secret handshakes.
14. Not only do you learn from conferences they also inspire future ideas. Surprisingly you may learn more at the bar as it often acts as fuel for the mouth of many search professionals. This information can turn out to be just as valuable as what you get in the sessions.
15. A chance to obtain competitor research and trade secrets - If you have passed your stalking grade 1 badge you will undeniably run into employees from competing firms. When you do be friendly and ask lots of questions. Smile, be sociable and engaging. Remember how important it is to be a great listener; this will be important as scribbling annotations into a notepad is not the most subtle of methods.
I hope these tips and tricks act as a good resource but the number one tip would be - don't be shy - it's good to talk.
Those of you who are not going you can follow any updates on Twitter via the trending topics hash-tag #a4uexpo or I will be commenting on Twitter so feel free to follow me @sammurray I will endeavour to answer any questions you have about the sessions (well the ones I attend) :0)
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