15 tips for a successful PubCon conference

PubCon speakerPubCon is one of my favorite conference series ever.

It’s not just the speakers (always top-notch) or the vibe (always fun.) PubCon is a great combination of smart people, talented speakers and excellent content – much of which you won’t find anywhere else.

And it’s coming up in less than two weeks. Are you ready?

If you’re new to PubCon, you’ll find your “survival guide” below. I’ve compiled this list after 4 years of speaking at PubCon (and 10+ years of speaking at other search engine industry conferences.) If you follow these 15 tips, you’ll have a fun, profitable time.

Before the show:

  1. Try to finish up as much work as you can before hitting the plane. You may have every intention of working a “normal” day while you attend conference sessions. It won’t happen. Really, it won’t. You’ll be pulled in 100 different directions and on “conference time.”
  2. Send emails to people you want to meet and introduce yourself. Even if you can’t set up a formal appointment time, you can at least get on their radar – and then introduce yourself when you see the opportunity.
  3. Check out the PubCon blog for the latest and greatest. You’ll learn about speakers, sessions, special discounts…and yes, the networking parties.
  4. Make plans to see your friends. Chances are, you’ll find your best buddies at the show, at the hotel bar or at one of the networking parties. But if it’s really, really important to see someone, make plans to meet them at a certain time. I don’t know how many times I’ll say “I’ll see you there” – and then I barely catch a glimpse of them during the show.
  5. Check out the #pubcon Tweets on Twitter – especially if you’re a PubCon newbie. You’ll learn about the speakers, the conference-goers and the after-conference activities. Plus, Twitter is an easy way to meet folks if you’re shy – and keep up with them during the show. Once you hit Vegas, you’ll already have a group of people to roll with.

At the show:

  1. Don’t be afraid to introduce yourself to the speakers and ask questions. The speakers are PubCon are nice, approachable and friendly. Most of the time, they’re happy to answer whatever question you have. Having said that…
  2. Don’t ask a speaker to provide free SEO consulting. Yes, the speakers love sharing their knowledge – and we’re happy to answer your questions on stage or after the panels. However, please don’t ask for free, in-depth help that you’d normally pay for under the guise of  “Could you spare 30 minutes to look at my site and just give me a few pointers.” And for goodness sake, please don’t follow us into the bathroom and try to hand us your business card under the stall (yes, it’s happened – to multiple people, multiple times.) Thank you. We appreciate it.
  3. Don’t be one of those “room-service people.” Sure, you’re exhausted after a full day of PubCon. And yes, curling up in bed and ordering room service sounds cozy. Just know that a huge amount of networking takes place in the bars and at the clubs. The more people you meet, the more opportunities you have to network – and that won’t happen in the privacy of your hotel room.
  4. By the same token – pace yourself at the parties. A huge newbie mistake is partying so hard during the first night that the rest of the conference is a hungover blur. Remember, you’re there to learn – not party (I know, I know.) If nothing else, remember to eat a good dinner and that water is your friend. Drink a lot of it. It’s better for you than vodka.
  5. Go to sessions you wouldn’t normally attend.  If you’re an organic SEO person, hit some PPC sessions. If you don’t know anything about contextual advertising, check out a session. You never know what you’ll learn – or who you’ll meet – that can help with a future gig.

After the show:

  1. Be aware of what @josephmorin calls the PCB’s (the post-conference blues.) It’s always a weird feeling after spending a whirlwind few days in Vegas to come home and be partner, parent and all-around “normal” person again. You may get a little depressed. It’s OK. We all do.
  2. If a speaker gave you a tip that rocked your SEM world, let him or her know. Speakers love to know when they’ve helped someone (otherwise, we wouldn’t be speaking!). A short “Thanks for the tip on X” is fantastic feedback. And besides, you’ll make their day.
  3. When you follow up by email, mention something that will jog the other person’s memory like, “We were discussing how to implement linkbait strategies for ecommerce sites.” Conference-goers meet so many people during PubCon that it’s often hard to keep everyone straight – so memory-cues like that are crucial. Personalized emails encourage conversation ore than generic “nice meeting you” emails – and you’ll be more apt to receive a response.
  4. Upload and tag pictures with care. It’s more than “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” It’s showing respect for your colleagues…even if they just happened to get in the shot and you don’t know who they are. Some photos look more compromising than what was happening in real life, and you don’t want to mess with someone’s job (or their relationship) because you thought a certain picture was funny. And sometimes, the folks in the picture are doing exactly what it looks like – but really, is that something you need to post? When in doubt, ask the folks in the pic if it’s OK to post or leave it out entirely.  Better safe than sorry.
  5. Implement all your great ideas! PubCon is great for trading strategies with new friends, learning about the latest SEM information and discovering what works and what doesn’t. But conferences don’t help you if you don’t put those great ideas into action.

I’ll see you there! I’ll be moderating the “SEO and Viral Tactics on a Shoestring Budget” on November 11th and “Optimizing Your Site for Contextual Ads” on November 12th.  I’ll also be discussing “Real World Winning Tactics for Content Creation” on November 12th.  And if you want to reach me before the show, just zip a Tweet to @heatherlloyd. It will be great to “meet” you!

And if you have your own PubCon conference tip – please share it below!