The Future of Search Conferences: Smaller Is Better
I called my wife from Houston this past Monday afternoon and left a quick message on her voicemail: “If you’re going to come to a search conference again next year, you should probably come to this one.”
The “this one” I was referring to was Small Business Marketing Unleashed 2008, the first of what I think is going to become a very successful conference series. SBMU took a different approach to putting on a conference, and I think they nailed it.
What Was Different
Size: Attendance was purposely limited to a small number. Now, my gut feeling is that Robert, Jennifer, and the Search Engine Guide crew would’ve loved a bigger turnout than they had this time, but even
if when the show grows next year, it’ll still be the smallest search conference option around.
Solo Sessions: Unlike the bigger conferences with panels of 3-4 people, SBMU had one speaker per session. Going in, I was afraid this wouldn’t work. (Who wants to listen to me, or anyone else, for 90 minutes straight?) But with a great lineup of speakers (myself notwithstanding), this was the smartest thing they did. It’s one thing to be able to hear someone like Debra Mastaler talk for 15 minutes at a big conference; but hearing her go solo for a full session was terrific. When you get a smart person and make ‘em talk for an hour or more, you can’t help but get great information.
This combination of small size and high intelligence (among the speakers and attendees) made for some great discussion. The sessions that Wendy Piersall and Mack Collier did both had terrific, open discussion. Not your regular two-way Q&A, but real group conversation that benefited everyone.
I think it was Matt Bailey who said it best: The big conferences are like dump truck education — you pull up and they just pour as much stuff into your brain as possible, hoping some of it sticks. SBMU took a different approach, and it paid off. The small business owners who were there just spent the best $1,000 of their business lives.
Will really went over the top with his praise for the Local Search Workshop I did on Tuesday (thanks Will!), but I have to say that I’ve never felt better after a presentation than after that one. Who knew talking about the same thing for 90 minutes could be so fun?
I’ve finished uploading SBMU pictures to Flickr: Here’s the full set. Just 32 pix, so you can look through them pretty quickly.
Thank you to Robert, Jennifer, Vickie, Rachel, and everyone who put SBMU together. And thanks for inviting me to be part of it.