SEO Conference Tips and Tricks

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Since I’m shortly getting ready to head off to pubcon – I thought I’d put together a quick resource on tips and tricks for those newer to the show.

The number one tip would be – don’t be shy – talk to people, and talk to LOTS of people. There are few opportunities to discuss all your pressing questions about SEO/SEM with people that ACTUALLY might know the answers. Everyone at the show will be as excited as you to talk about work for longer than 10 minutes without their listener’s eye’s glazing over. Here’s some tips, tricks, and resources, and best practices on understanding conference etiquette.
18 Tips for attending a conference –

1. Always start conversations – always introduce yourself if given the opportunity. Don’t be afraid to say something stupid – it’s better than saying nothing at all. Jim has a good list of conversation starters.

2. Wear Your Namebadge– It’s difficult to remember names without meeting someone repeatedly – and while it personally embarasses me when I don’t remember people by name after meeting them a few times – after a few days of great information – names are probably the first thing to leak out my ear.

3. Sidle in on conversations – apologize to be sure it is okay and introduce yourself – wait until the conversation lulls to ask your questions. Don’t be overly pushy if a small group of people is in an intense conversation – you can always approach them if you see them later. It’s okay to introduce yourself a few times.

4. Don’t try to overly pitch people – you’ll reek of desperation – you’re here to make contacts and prospects – not get someone to sign the contract (well maybe – but don’t be the pushy salesguy). There’s no better way to get ostracized from a conversation. It’s the only time I’ve truly seen rudeness at a pubcon show. Don’t spam people with business cards or handouts.

5. Don’t tell people overly specific information about other people’s sites and ideas – unless you don’t want those people to tell you something ever again. Learn to give sweeping generalizations as examples to get a point across. Respect a certain level of confidentiality even though you’re having drinks with friends – they could be competitors of your other friends.

6. Take a small notepad for important notes – you THINK you’lll remember them, but you’re gonna be more bombarded by information than you ever thought possible. Mix in a few cocktails and sleep deprivation, and you’ll just be happy to remember your name and how to speak by the third day.

7. Sit down at a few different tables and introduce yourself to a group at lunch. It’s amazing who you can meet sometimes over a crappy box lunch. Be sure to get into some conversations outside your comfort zone and areas of expertise.

8. Spend a little time researching new products and services in the exhibition hall. Have good questions for the vendors – and don’t waste their time with BS like “show me your product” if you never intend to use it (okay maybe just a little if they have cool swag). You know how to research online – you can do that later. Find out why they are unique.

9. Take notes on the back of business cards – You WILL forget your conversations no matter how great they were at the time. Take notes on the back of cards about what you discussed and how you might work together.

10. Enjoy the speakers – but catch them later in the day to ask questions that are specific to YOU. Ask general questions in the sessions that will benefit EVERYONE. Also – don’t go to the sessions you already know everything about. If you do mainly SEO – sit in on some PPC or shopping feed sessions. You’ll generally get inspiration in the areas you HAVEN’T thought much about.

11. Take a list of your most pressing marketing questions and ask several people. The more good opinions you get – the better position you are to form your own. Don’t take any answers as FACT. Even the smartest minds in the business have their areas of expertise – and best guesses can often be wrong.

12. Don’t hang out with your work crew – split up and compare notes later. It’s also intimidating to other people to talk with a group of people that knows each other well, and you’ll have less people approach you.

13. Find a group for dinner – it’s a nice bonding experience. Order appetizers and drinks because you’ll likely split the bill evenly unless you want to be a huge pain in the ass to your server.

14. Don’t be pushy about what people do – there are lots of competitors in the same place – and some have a need to be more guarded with their information. On the flipside – don’t tell EVERYONE your businessplan step by step. Even good people can sometimes “borrow” a great idea or two – don’t tell people something you may regret.

15. PLEASE don’t even THINK about blogging what you hear in the bar – Don’t blog any conversations without explicitly asking the person first (if you ever want anyone to trust you again). If you DO blog something even remotely close to what you heard – let them look over your draft. Always assume that anything outside what is said on the podium is off limits unless you specifically ask for permission to publish. There’s no better way to ensure you won’t learn any of the “good stuff” than by being a blabbly blogger.

16. Don’t try to buy Matt Cutts a drink, and don’t hound the poor guy. Matt is a great guy – but do you REALLY think you’re the first person to try to get him liquored up and ask him about the algo? Pretty sure he’s secure enough to handle peer pressure on that front. If you have an important relevant question that you MUST ask – ask him and give the guy a break. There are also plenty of other google engineers that will answer you’re questions, that you’ll more likely get a little face time with. Don’t think they’re going to tell you their algorithm, or break any secrets to you – just enjoy some mutual interest conversation about search or emerging technology.

17. Create the biggest bar tab you possibly can – and the ROI will still likely be incredible.

18. Ask Oilman about his post pubcon recovery remedies – he’s been to more pubcon’s than anyone but Brett – and you don’t want to be out of work sick when you return. Conferences can be rough on the body. I recommend vitamin C-blast, lots of water, and about a day of straight sleep upon return home

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Todd Malicoat aka Stuntdubl made his first horrible looking website full of animated .gifs in 1997, and after fours years of failure and experimentation ended up in the world of SEO and internet marketing in early 2001. He is currently an independent marketing consultant from the SEO school of thought. Todd earned a bachelors of business adminstration from Northwood University in 2003 while running an web design and consulting firm Meta4creations, LLC. Todd is a speaker at both Webmasterworld and Search Engine Strategies conferences.

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  • http://www.phoenixmr.com Rich

    I guess one of the problems with SEO is people are guarded about discussing tactics they have spent years perfecting

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