Yesterday I learned that a former colleague is attending his first SMX conference when he’ll travel to New York in October for SMX East 2013. Having attended a number of SMX conferences in the past as a speaker, attendee and member of the press – I wanted to share some tips with him to help him get the most from this impressive lineup and agenda.
So, in no particular order – here are my first time attendee tips for SMX conferences:
It may be too late in the game to have this apply to SMX East 2013, but booking early has some distinct advantages. Aside from saving up to $200 on registration, you can also get a jump on others and ensure that you can stay in the conference hotel. There are many meetups that will start (or end) there – which means you’ll have plenty of chances to make new friends, share a taxi, etc.
If you’re hammering out notes during a presentation or simply following the social conversations of the events in real time – battery life on your laptop or phone will become an issue at least once. Be prepared and help others out by packing a lightweight power strip that you can bring with you in your bag. It’s a great way to meet new friends, help others out and make sure you’re fully charged and ready to go at all times.
With 50+ sessions across nearly a dozen venues you’ll be on the go and walking frantically from place to place to make sure you’re on time and have a great seat. In the process you’ll encounter rooms with heating or AC issues, break a sweat or just need to get more comfortable. Be ready for it all with some lightweight layers to keep you comfortable and tuned in.
Everyone is pretty amped the first day but as the conference continues through the week it’s easy to feel tired, run down or mentally exhausted. Pack some snacks like almonds or trail mix and if it’s your thing – some caffeine. You need to be prepared to hear some great information at all times, so make sure your body and mind are ready to soak it all up.
Between hashtags and streams, Twitter, Google+ and Facebook action will be at an all time high. Subscribe to the feeds, get yourself out there and connect with others. In a large conference like SMX there are plenty of first timers and veterans willing to meet up and talk shop with others who express interest and passion in the industry.
As a speaker at a number of SMX events in the past I always wanted to know how I performed. Did I share enough information? Speak too quickly? Skip over key details? Attendees are provided with a number of ways to provide feedback… use them. It helps speakers to improve their presentations and it helps Third Door Media to run a better conference. The goal here is to have you attend more conferences in the future, so everyone wants to make sure as a first time attendee, your experience is a solid one.
The sessions in SMX conferences are often divided into a series of “tracks” including Boot Camp, SEO, Mobile, Paid Search, etc. It’s my advice to jump tracks and hit some varied sessions to make sure you’re getting fresh information all of the time. It’s quite common within a particular track to have exposure to the same recurring themes, tips or advice from speakers and panelists. That’s not a bad thing, but when you get back from the conference – everyone will want to learn about all of the things you took away from the event. Having more to share is an excellent way to make sure you’re covered to attend more events in the future.
If there are opportunities to ask questions, meet the speakers or you catch them in the hallways in between sessions – talk to them. Make an introduction. Be respectful of their time, but let them know that you were there, paying attention and interested in what they had to offer. It’s validating for the speakers and you’re much more likely to get some customized tips off the cuff from industry experts.
Collecting little tchotchkes was never my thing, but the SMX Expo Halls are swarming with people willing to give you free stuff in exchange for a little of your information. Bring some business cards, practice your “No, thank you…” but be on the lookout for software demos, free account access or takeaways that can help you to be a better search marketer.
Use the comments area below to help spread the love and show others how to make the most of SMX and similar Internet marketing conferences!
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