The Future of Search Conferences: Smaller Is Better

Filed in Conferences/Educ. by Matt McGee on April 25, 2008 10 Comments

Local Search WorkshopI 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.

Other Coverage

Scott Allen: Small Business Marketing Unleashed – An Essential Conference for Small Business Owners

Will Scott: Local SEO (Local Search) at Small Business Marketing Unleashed

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?

The WebProNews gang did a 5-minute interview with me on Monday — we covered both the SEO Success Pyramid and the Local Search Workshop. If you’d like to watch, here it is:

Final Notes

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.

Comments (10)

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  1. willscott says:

    Hey Matt, Maybe your slide deck was the creation of Marchex’s marketing department but the clarity of your presentation made me think about what makes a good blogger / presenter.

    A steady, well organized progression of easily digestible chunks of information.

    Don’t get me wrong, I learned a lot more than just that but it gave me a pretty god lens to critically assess my own work.

    Thanks again for your competence and your company!

  2. davidmihm says:

    Damn. I read Will’s write-up a couple days ago. Now I am REALLY p*ssed I missed this conference after reading yours :) You are absolutely right–to hear great speakers like yourself go for 90 minutes sounds risky for the speakers but is great for the audience!!

    I have heard nothing but good things about this conference & will definitely be in attendance next year. For $1000 you can’t beat it.

  3. Matt McGee says:

    Thx for the kind words again, Will. I was glad to see you in there, and I think your veteran experience (ahem) added a ton to the local search discussions we had. (BTW, I do my own PPT presentations.)

    David – awesome. Looking FWD to seeing you there. I think you’ll love it.

  4. willscott says:

    If I didn’t know any better I’d think you were calling me old :)

  5. Miriam says:

    Wonderful job, Matt.
    It sounds like this was a HUGE success.
    Congratulations to you and all of the other presenters.
    Miriam

  6. thejenn says:

    Matt,

    Thanks so much for your kind words. They mean a lot. We worked hard on this show, but it was really the speakers and the attendees and the way they all opened up that made it so amazing.

    I never could have dreamed the show would go over as well as it did. It has fully convinced me that we’ll be limiting any future show to 100 attendees plus staff/speakers/press. I think if we go over 125, we’d lose some of the magic that came with such a small group.

    If there’s high demand, we’ll just have to do them more often. ;)

  7. RobertClough says:

    Thank you so much for the review and for your contributions to making it a successful event. And I expect to see your wife next year. :-)

  8. Matt McGee says:

    Jenn / Robert – you’re welcome. Hats off to you and the gang for a great show. Already looking FWD to the next one.

    Miriam – thank you. :-)

  9. AnitaC says:

    Definitely recommend this event. Would love to see more sponsors step up and then offer this twice a year. Next April is too long to wait!

    I enjoyed meeting you Matt, and enjoyed your talk.

    Anita

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