Thoughts on Conferences (Marketing Profs B2B and generic)

Alan Belniakbusiness, General, Marketing2 Comments

Marketing Profs B2B hashtag

I attended the Marketing Profs B2B forum this week in Boston.  It was a good event, and it was the first time I attended.  I was fortunate enough to sit on a panel and share some of what I know with a (hopefully) engaged crowd.  I got to attend a few other sessions, listen to some key note presentations (more on that later), and network a bit.

Below are some thoughts about the event.  They are a mix of thoughts from this specific event, as well as some thoughts about events in general.  I purposely mixed them together.

  • Tools – There was a nice focus on tools at these sessions, including,  backtype, tweetbeeps, listorious, and others.  In my presentation alone, I covered a dozen or so.  I like this because often when talking about social media (and I’m guilty of this, on occasion), the conversation is focused on the philosophy and such, and not so much on the tactics and tools.
  • Hand washing after the bathroom – Whatever you do at home is your own thing.  But when you’re at a conference with 500+ people, at least pretend you care.  These might be the same people that you network with later on or even try to work with for business.  Everyone notices who does and who doesn’t wash their hands when they leave the bathroom.  Do you really want that to be part of the first impression someone forms of you?
  • Business cards – I can’t say it much better than Chris Brogan does here.  I’ll borrow one line, but go take five minutes and read the whole post.  I got a few cards (unsolicited).  It was fine.  The odd thing is that I’m not in the business that many others were/are.  So it was weird for me to get pseduo-‘pitched-to’.
  • Conversations in hallways – Great that you found a person with whom to connect.  Even greater that it launched you into a discussion.  But have the sense to not carry on that conversation, standing in the otherwise-moving coffee line.  Or, in the middle of a high-traffic area.  Be aware of your surroundings.  Everyone else is trying to do something, too.  Move to the side, and land that meeting.
  • ‘Echo chamber’ of what we’re talking about – I struggle with this one.  I love getting together with marketers to talk about challenges, air grievances, help solve problems, etc.  Sometimes, though, I hear much of the same offered up as suggestions.  Which makes me think…. If I’m hearing these same suggestions over and over again, doesn’t that mean  that others are, too?  And if we are, are we – collectively – doing something about it?  Or is this merely a session of platitudes?
  • Link to site for downloading content – Here’s the link to download the slide content.  I’m not sure if you need to be a Marketing Profs member or not.  I didn’t go through the trouble of deleting the cookie on my machine to find out.
  • Internet access should be ubiquitous – Not much to say about this.  If it were a conference of morticians, maybe not (who knows, though – I’m not a mortician).  This was a conference for marketers, with a huge amount of digital, online, and mobile marketing discussed.  Readily abundant wireless access should have been present.  Bake it into the price, I don’t care.  But it should just be there, like water, coffee, and electricity.  Which leads me to…
  • Charging Stations – Hats off to the Marketing Profs folks.  Simple power strips in key locations (tables!) made staying juiced pretty easy.  My only request: get those power strips that also have USB connections, too, so that mobile devices and such can be powered up.  Otherwise, also a great opportunity to network a bit.
  • Hand sanitizing stations – Not a function of Marketing Profs, but more so of the venue (though I guess Marketing Profs could have brought their own mobile ones).  I’m not a germ-a-phobe, germ freak, or anything like that.  But see my point above about the bathrooms, and the fact that there were 500 +/- people there.  It’s nice to have options to stay not sick.
  • Print handouts on demand – A nice touch.  I like this approach, because I didn’t see stacks of paper in the trash or recycle bin.  Plus, I may have only wanted a few  handout sessions.  This also cut down on costs, I presume.  I thought their tag line was a bit disingenuous – something along the lines of “help us keep our commitment to going green and…”.  The phrase ‘going green’ has lost meaning.  Here’s my supposition: Marketing Profs probably did this to save money and time, and a byproduct was that it harmed the environment less.  All good things.  But to lead with “we’re going green” is specious at best.
  • Speaker name tents (with social media IDs,if applicable) – It would have been nice to have name tag tents in front of the speakers, in big bold text.  Also, if the speaker provided, a Twitter ID.  After all, the Twitter hashtag for the event (#mpb2b) was promoted heavily – why not promote the names and hashtags of the speakers?
  • “It’s not about the technology” – This was one of the more resounding themes I heard relating to social media, and it made me smile.  i think too often, people get hung up on how to respond, when to respond, what format, how much to say, how little to say, on Twitter or LinkedIn, DM or private….  Look at it as if it were a face-to-face meeting.  How would you respond?  That’s your best guide.  I wrote about this very topic about a year ago.
  • Social media as a trumpet – One of my co-panelists used this analogy in her talk. “Social media is like a trumpet.  Used right, it can produce melodious tones.  Used incorrectly ” (like her son, just learning to play) “and it can sound a little harsh.”  What I loved about this was that the audience knew exactly what she meant.  And that’s the power of a good analogy, and a good delivery.  Use this more to get good points across.
  • Nix the crappy give-aways – A pen that lights up?  C’mon – who cares?  Break the cycle – do something useful, or offer something of value.  I missed it, and regret it now, but Christopher Penn, in his weekly Marketing Over Coffee podcast (stop what you are doing now and go subscribe) indicated that Marketo had some really nice handouts.  So nice that they got pimped on this podcast.  Do people talk (positively) about lightup pens?  Nope.  I can’t even remember the name of the company that was on the light-up pen.  But I will always remember that Marketo produced very cool handouts, and if I see them at a show again, I will beeline it to their booth.
  • Offer value – In the middle of my talk, I added in something on a whim that I hadn’t thought about when I drafted the content.  I reviewed a spreadsheet on the screen, and – on a whim – I said “if any of you want a copy of this, find me on Twitter” (I made my own name tent) “or give me a business card afterward and I’ll e-mail it to you.”  Above, you read my take on business cards.  And also above, you read that I’m not in the same position as most others at this event.  Between Twitter and business cards and LinkedIn, I sent out that spreadsheet twelve times.  That’s twelve leads!  My secret (that’s sarcasm): I offered something of value.
  • Mitch Joel – By far, the highlight of the event.  I follow Mitch on Twitter, read his blog, and listen to the SPOS podcast.  I’ve heard about his public speaking, but never witnessed it.  Mitch owned that room.  His style was fresh and engaging, he was (still is, I presume) funny, and offered great insights.  Marketing Profs gets a huge A+ from me for getting Mitch to speak, and Mitch gets a big thanks from me for providing 30+ minutes of great content.

Did you attend the Marketing Profs B2B forum?  What dod you think?  What did I miss?  Or – what did I leave out for general conference gripes, points of interest, etc.?

image source: #mpb2b on Flickr

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