Throughout the year, there’s lots of SEO and digital marketing events, seminars, summits and conferences taking place. Whether you’re planning to attend your first SEO event in 2019 or your tenth, it’s always good to think about the ways you can maximize your time at these gatherings. After all, you’re only there for a few days, maybe even less.
In order to get the very most out these experiences, I’ve compiled this list of my golden rules that I encourage you to look at. I speak and attend a good majority of these events around the year. Thus, I have a lot of first-hand experience with attending SEO seminars and knowing how to make the most out of networking events.
Rule #1: Prepare For Some Serious Networking
There’s lots of great talks and discussions occurring at these events. You can learn a lot! But, the underlying value of attending an SEO conference or digital marketing summit can really be the networking. If you aren’t meeting new connections, you’re not using your time at these events wisely.
I really can’t overstate how crucial the networking side of these events are. You should come fully equipped with a new deck of business cards. Before you leave for your SEO or digital marketing event, it’s also a good idea to spend some time updating your LinkedIn page or personal website.
If you’ve gotten behind on your content updates, you should try and publish a post or two before you attend your event. Not only will this help your site or LinkedIn profile page seem very active, but it will also give the potential connections that you meet something fresh to talk to you about.
It’s also a great idea to post about the event on social media, in terms of what you hope to learn, which talk you’re most excited for and so on.
Rule #2: Plan Your Agenda For Each Day
A LOT goes on at an SEO conference. There’s tons of discussions, instructional sessions, Q&A’s, networking events, and so on. You’re not going to be able to attend everything. (Trust me, I’ve tried.)
Now that I’m a seasoned veteran at these conferences, I know that having a daily plan is one of the ultimate keys to success for attending (and surviving) a digital marketing event. When you plan out your day’s activities, you’ll be much less stressed and won’t find yourself racing around the event like a lunatic trying to decide on which session to attend next.
So, before you head out to the convention center or conference space each morning, take a look at all of the events occuring that day and make a schedule of which you’ll attend that day.
This is not easy. There will undoubtedly be two, perhaps even three, events slotted during the same time period. You’re going to have to make tough decisions about which you attend. One tactic to get around this is to do a little digging and see if the speaker(s) plan to record or live stream the event. You may be able to watch this stream later on or check out their deck later that day on Slideshare.
Rule #3: Don’t Leave A Session Early!
When there’s two overlapping events that you really want to attend, it can be really enticing to want to leave one event early and race over to the next. From my personal experience, nine out of ten times when you leave a session early, you miss out on the most valuable information.
It really is best to stick through a whole session and get all of the insights from that one speaker or panel. This affords you the opportunity to hear everything they have to say. Plus, most sessions end with a Q&A, which gives you and the other audience members the chance to interact with the speakers and ask your questions.
Sometimes, the Q&A round yields some of the best conversations. And, you may even get the opportunity to meet the speakers and receive more personalized insights to solve your team’s top SEO and digital marketing issues.
And, talking from experience as a speaker myself, when a lot of people are leaving early or joining late, it disrupts the flow of the session, both for the people on stage and the audience members trying to listen.
Rule #4: There Are No “Stupid” Questions!
The topic of Q&A sessions brings us to rule #4 of attending SEO events: don’t be afraid to ask your questions because there is no such thing as a stupid or silly one. I can’t stress this point enough because some of the best questions that I’ve ever received have come from people that approached me after a talk because they were too worried to pose their question during the Q&A.
I understand their apprehensions, though. You’re surrounded by a room full of colleagues, industry leaders, and perhaps even some competitors. The last thing you want to do is to come across as un-knowledgeable or incompetent in their eyes. Nor do you want to feel like you’re wasting everyone’s time by asking a silly question.
The truth is, however, that everyone is there to get answers to their questions and acquire insights to bring back to their team — yourself included. You do not want to miss out on this opportunity and have an undervalued experience at the event because you didn’t get your question(s) answered.
And, there is undoubtedly at least one audience member with the same question. So, don’t be shy and please do ask, ask, ask!
Rule #5: Attend Sessions You Don’t Specialize In
This rule took me a few events to really get right. You want to attend talks that are in your realm of expertise and specialty, but these sessions also have the highest chance of being the most boring for you.
Speaking from experience, it is far too easy to find yourself sitting through an hour (or longer) of material and learning no new information because you played it too safe with your chosen sessions.
The goal is to find the talks and discussions that will expand your existing understanding of topics by adding new information and dimensions that you didn’t have before. I recommend making a serious effort to stretch your comfort zone and attend some discussions on topics you’re less knowledgeable of. These will definitely yield the greatest amount of new discoveries to bring back to your team once the event is over.
Of course, you can also go the opposite way with this and step too far out of your comfort zone and land yourself in a talk that is just way over your head. You have to find the middle of the pool, where you aren’t quite in the shallows anymore, but the water isn’t over your head.
Rule #6: Attend Networking Events Inside And Outside The Event
We’ve already touched a little bit on networking. It is a crucial part of attending these events. If you aren’t making new connections and contacts, then you aren’t fully participating in the experience. It’s as simple as that!
Most SEO and digital marketing events will have networking luncheons, dinners and other meetings set up for you to attend. These are tremendous opportunities to meet new people and share ideas. You should absolutely attend as many of these gatherings as possible.
That said, don’t be afraid to also look at participating in networking opportunities outside of the conference. Sometimes, the best connections are made when you arrange to have lunch, dinner or even just a coffee with people you’ve met at the event.
This creates a more one-on-one dialogue that isn’t disrupted by the bustling surroundings of the convention itself.
Rule #7: Google Docs Is Your Best Friend
By the end of any event, even if you only attend for an afternoon, you’re going to make a lot of new connections and absorb a lot of information. Keeping all of this stuff organized can be hellish, especially as you bounce from session to session, or from person to person.
Google Docs is my favorite tool for staying organized at a digital marketing event or SEO seminar and keeping all of my notes in one place. It’s easy to access and write down quick notes, even if you’re using a tablet or smartphone. Then, you can quickly share the information with your team members that are busy attending other sessions or back at your office.
It’s also a great tool to use when collaborating with your new contacts that you’ve connected with at the event, whether you’re planning an after-event gathering or just comparing notes on a talk you’ve both participated in.
As I’ve said, SEO events are incredibly valuable experiences. The potential to meet new connections, collaborate with others in your field and learn new industry insights that can directly impact your past, present and future projects is unmatched by any other strategy.
However, attending an SEO event or digital marketing conference can also be very stressful, especially if it is your first time taking part in one of these types of experiences.
If you stick to my 7 golden rules, I can assure you that you’ll feel less anxious about attending these pressure-filled conferences and much more prepared to tackle each day’s events.
By the close of the seminar, you’ll have a full list of new contacts and a bunch of new discoveries to return to the office with.
I hope to see you out there!