At this point I have now been to two Search Engine Strategies Conferences and though I clearly felt much more comfortable attending the last one in New York, it was only because I had a better idea of what was going on because of attending SES London. I did have a slight advantage in attending SES, in that I was fortunate to attend the marketing conference with people I knew and who had been there themselves many times before. I knew no matter what I could always fall back on their experiences with the conference series for guidance if I had any questions.
To be honest, I am not sure what I would do if I had to attend one of these for the first time by myself. It can be overwhelming and it can swallow you whole. With that in mind I decided to develop an easy guide for anyone attending an SES conference for the first time. A beginner’s guide, so to speak.
Lets’ first look at what exactly SES is. Wikipedia defines SES as: Search Engine Strategies (SES) is a conference series focused on search engine marketing and search engine optimization. These events teach the ins-and-outs of search engine marketing from top experts in the field, along with information from the search engine companies themselves.
Bearing that in mind, I decided that now that I am a bit of a “seasoned veteran” of sorts that maybe I was now ready to impart some of my newly found wisdom for those who will be attending these conferences in the future. I know I haven’t got it all figured out yet but I think I’ve got the basics down.
- Keynotes: Do attend the Keynote, if for nothing else, the keynote sets the whole tone for the conference. I have experienced two different kinds. In London, Jeffrey Hayzlett entertained the crowd with stories of his time at Kodak with a great multimedia presentation. It set a light tone for the whole conference and you could see it in all the attendants. Because London is definitely smaller than most of the SES conferences, the atmosphere is different anyway. In New York we were treated to Duncan Watts and it was more of an informative keynote. It still had humor but the tone was different; we were there to learn. The one thing they had in common was the introduction by Mike Grehan. Mike can warm up a crowd like it’s nobody’s business and even though some of his jokes and stories are repeated, they are still very funny.
- Plan Ahead: Have a plan beforehand for which sessions you want to attend. This is primarily important because one of the great experiences of SES is the Expo Hall. This is where you get to talk to industry giants like Google, Symantec and Yahoo/Bing, but also get to learn about new innovations like the new search engine Blekko. It’s also good to leave time to network with people who may just be there for the day.
- Meet New People: Go to all the networking events. You don’t have to drink if you don’t wish to. Just go and mingle with people. Most of them don’t mind letting you pick their brain in conversations. Just remember to keep in light as these are get to know you session, not a free consultation of your product or website.
- Mingle & Meet During Lunch: Take the time during the hotel lunch gatherings to go from table to table. At dinner, try to eat with someone new everyday or at the very least invite someone different to eat with you. This is above all else a place where you can get together and share ideas. I can’t tell you how many people I’ve met who have either been willing to help me navigate the conference or just to give me advice.
- Don’t Sleep In: Attend the sessions! It is after all why you there in the first place. The conference staff does go through a lot of work to make sure we have the best of best in every one of those sessions. There’s always hidden gems and gold nuggets in different presentations that you can take back and share with other members of your team.
- Take a Deep Breath & Don’t Stress: There will be things at SES you will not be able to do if you have meetings or commitments, so rest assured not everybody gets to everything. There’s a lot of information jam packed into these 2-3 day conferences. It can be stressful thinking you have to remember it all and write down every note. Thankfully, most of the presentations are available for download & review right after the show, for attendees only- one less thing to stress about!
- White, Black or Grey? Do participate in White Hat/Black Hat party or session. It’s a fun way to view the participants of the conference donning Black or White cowboy hats based on their particular style of SEO tactics.
Last but not least be sure to thank and get to know your conference and support staff. They do a bang up job of making sure everything goes smoothly and as someone who has actually taken a look behind the scenes, I can tell you it is not a easy job. So a great big thank you to them for making us all feel comfortable at these conferences and allowing us to focus on why we are there in the first place. Without them there is no SES.