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Saturday, January 12, 2008

Conference Circuit: The Big, the Small, the Tiny, and the Wacky

In the search marketing industry, face-to-face events seem to abound. If you're a bit lost, here's the beginnings of a rough working guide to the next 4-5 months in the field and what to expect.

The Big:

  • SMX West is the next major search engine marketing event in the North American landscape. It's particularly notable because it's the first "big" (as in - comprehensive, multi-day, non-niche) search tradeshow in the series begun by Danny Sullivan and his partners at Third Door Media. As you might expect, they're going all out, including keynotes covering the all-important future of search topics. I'm pleased to be speaking on the ins and outs of user-generated content (a topic I first proposed and spoke on at SES San Jose in August 2007), and a newly-titled (clever one guys) session called Decrypting Quality Scores. This stuff doesn't get any easier for marketers, and so I expect the quality score session to be as jam-packed as all those link-baiting and Matt Cutts tea leaves sessions ever were. :)
  • Prior to that, SES London is coming up fast, and will pack the Business Design Centre in Islington to the gills. This cutting-edge program has been hammered out by first-time SES London Conference Chair Mike Grehan, and SES Programming Director, Kevin Ryan, and the advisory team. It will be an interesting decision facing Incisive Media for 2009 - return to the Docklands, where space is abundant but folks need to burn an hour in transit to London proper if they want to sightsee, or figure out another venue that is big enough to handle the ever-growing Euro & UK search marketing hordes? (Have they built a Four Seasons on the Isle of Skye yet?)
  • SES New York. Man, it seems like only yesterday I was at that one! But if you're considering going, jump all over it now - the Platinum Passport early bird special (if you register by Jan. 15) saves you a big chunk of change.
  • SES Toronto is coming up in mid-June. I have to call it "big" - it's what you do in Toronto, which by now considers itself "big". However, I may have to drop my goal of having attendance at Toronto exceed London's. The UK and Europe market tend to gravitate around SES London, whereas Toronto attracts a North American audience in competition with three other major SES dates during the year, and dozens of other midsized shows. It's essentially the "can't miss" search conference for Canadians, and the "what a great idea" conference for anyone in North America or around the world who missed SES New York and want to come for something similar and a great party in June in this part of the world. If I have any goal for SES Toronto 2008 (other than refreshing the content to be cutting-edge, as with last year), it's to convince more folks from farther afield in Canada and elsewhere to make the trip for all this one has to offer. My research showed a high percentage of attendees are the "90-minute driving distance" type - with no small number of ambitious "five hours from Cleveland" road-trippers. What is this - do people no longer like to fly? Anyway, fortunately for my Scandinavian friends, the fly-or-drive decision is made for them by an ocean. See you in June!
  • Sorry. With all the yakking in the above point, I forgot to update you on the speaker pitch schedule for Toronto. It seems like June's a long way off, but it isn't so far away now. I'm taking all informal questions and conversations into account now as we mutually plot to organize and make universally accessible all the world's money, or whatever we do... but new session pitches won't be solicited on the SES speaker info blog until mid-February, after we've recovered from London. The pitch window for open, available sessions will stay up for several weeks in March.

The Small (but Proud):

  • A new mini-conference brand has been launched by the SMX /Third Door folks, to coincide with the first event of its type in Israel: Sphinncon. Did I read right? Tickets are $50? It appears that this will be pitched primarily as a networking event so those with parallel interests can meet up and socialize. I can't get enough of these events because of how darn efficient they are. In putting SES Toronto together I'm always thinking about how we can arrange additional events like this for post-show or pre-show.
  • SES Paris is just days away, and my colleague, Page Zero's Mona Elesseily, is en route as we speak. Word has it she'll be speaking in French! J'en suis fier! Recently, reading my own book in French has been a great way to come up to speed on all of those extremely specialized terms we bandy about in our industry, like augmenter son taux de conversion (don't quote me on that). Another Canadian SEM, Richard Zwicky of Enquisite, appears to have been asked to moderate no fewer than five panels! Think it's a bit hard to find leading SEM experts from North America, who can cover the latest topics in the field, who also speak French? Good luck everyone!

The Tiny:

  • Recently a few of us here in Toronto recently got together to talk SEM over some pints. (I'm betting you might have events like this in your area - a great way to overcome the isolation of the digital toil without having to present anything or prepare anything.) The age of the sponsored or association-based meetup: "out" for 2008? "In" is heavy informality but high quality networking. Yesterday I found myself plotting the next one already with local friend Mike McDerment of FreshBooks (his main career prior to launching a startup was in search marketing, hence his continued interest), we've already set a date, place, and time - Bow and Arrow pub at Yonge & Davisville, 6:30 p.m., Thursday January 31st. If you're utterly knee deep in the search marketing biz, and don't have body odor, drop in! (You're allowed to drink cranberry juice and soda instead of beer. Other than the no-stench policy, we're pretty open-minded.) I cannot link in any way to the highly informal event's "page," as there isn't one. Nor do I see fit to give link love to a pub. So Freshbooks gets it. Did I mention Mike co-organizes the mesh conference? Thanks go out to everyone who attended the first Greater Toronto SEM Social in November, hope to see you again along with anyone else stumbling across this post! But special thanks go to Brendan Kerin of Siteposition for the effort he put in to make this a success instead of our usual talking about it but not doing it.
The Wacky:

The "wacky" usually gets posted online in the forms of compromising videos or photos after one of the above events, so resign yourself now to being found out as a wild, party animal even if you spend most of your days in sessions. You don't even control your personal brand, sometimes. Sad, but true. Don't let the paparazzi get you down! Be flattered that they care.

I'm sure there's a lot more going on, but that's my nickel's worth.

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