First answer, why are you attending an SEO conference?
I was asked by Monica Wright, “Why do you, as a pest control guy, come to SEO conferences?” It caught me off guard for a second. How do I sum that up? What do I get out of a SEO conference? Why attend SEO conferences? Understanding why you are there will help you determine what to do at a SEO conference.
For me, I attend conferences because I am a pest control guy and I don’t know everything about SEO. I don’t attend to prove that I am a SEO Guru. I often have questions that I want answered before I even buy my ticket. I typically have these questions written down and when I go I look to answer those questions. I attend conferences to learn and to get answers. Now that you know the why I attend here is the what to do when you get there.
Ask Your Questions
When someone is speaking at about something you don’t fully understand feel free to ask for clarification. Asking questions can ensure that you fully understand their position. If you have an objection don’t get in a head to head argument. Remember your goal is to learn. So don’t get caught in a pissing match. It is really simple, someone says something you don’t agree with, so you want to understand what evidence they have to believe that. You phrase your inquisitive question as “I heard that ___________ is bad and will cause the panda to attack, you don’t agree with that?”
If it is a speaker and the point is too controversial it is best not to make a public scene during a session. It may be better to simply ask for examples, “Do you have an example of ____________ helping you that you can share?” Or better yet, wait to ask those juicy questions after you’ve complimented them and wet their whistle at the after party. And if there isn’t a scheduled after or before party then make your own and invite them. Rule of thumb, 3 is the bare minimum requirement for a party.
Get to know people. Mingle both online and offline. Twitter is a fantastic conference mingling tool. You get to learn all kinds of stuff about people on Twitter. It’s good way of checking your list twice so that you can not just get to know people, but get to know the right people. Plus, if you are genuinely interested in what someone has said on twitter then you can easily start a conversation with “Great tweet about the Kung Fu Panda being a lazy fat bear that only kills kittens.”
If you are really methodical and organized about your mingling, then follow the conference twitter hash tag before you leave and make a list of people you want to meet. (Wow, SEOs are so geeky that we make to-do lists for being social.) Heck, you can even add notes to the meet-these-persons list as to why you were interested in meeting them. Take it one step further and you can add a SEO question for that person. Honestly, you are among friends. If there were an app for making a SEO-to-meet list and bump-info-swap check off then I would download it. Besides, no one has to know about your list making madness (unless you blog about it).
Clearly, there is a point when over planning and strict adherence to friend lists is taking the meet-and-mingle too serious. Some of coolest people I have met at SEO conferences where never on my radar prior to the conference. They just happen to be in a seat right next to me. So hint, start your mingling with the person in the seat to your right and to your left. Once you get that down try the seat behind you as well. I know as computer gadget crazed people we often forget to look up over our LCD screens, but the real world people are worth the neck strain.
Commit to Actionable Steps
The last thing is that once you have learned something from all the speakers and the super smart attendees that you mingled with, is that you need to make a list of actionable steps and commit to completing them. Those great insights will prove useless if they get trapped in the cob webs of your brain. Commit and do something. If all you can commit to writing a blog post about your SEO conference and giving shout outs to the great people you met then at least do that. In fact, your short list should be starting right now.
- Write down some SEO questions or struggles you are having.
- Identify 3 people you would like to meet and learn from.
- Commit to writing a blog post about your SEO conference.