X Marks the Spot: The New World of Conferences
I’m in the midst of the “flight experience.”
In other words, I’m on an American Airlines plane, heading back to Arizona after two weeks of conferences, family time, and other random stuff. Some women like to review food and fashion. I like to review events, tech, and business travel. OK, I’m a geek.
After my quasi-rant against the large, impersonal business gathering I was thrilled to discover that terrific multi-day events are still alive and well. CONEX, the “content experience” from Uberflip was damned close to perfect.
If organizers are going to use the X (as in Xperience) in their event names, they need to think about how they’ll deliver. And Uperflip succeeded
From the location (Toronto, an uber-cool and uber-techy city and home to Uberflip) to the venue (a music school, which combined the old and the new) to the speakers (high-quality and super-entertaining professionals) to the intimate “sponsor area” (just the right size to be able to shop new parts of a tech stack) to the after-hours gatherings (which were intimate enough to navigate easily and didn’t try too hard to be xperiential), I was xstatic most of the time. My laptop died at one point and the wonderful people at the welcome desk even helped me navigate my way to a reputable computer repair shop in Canada. The conference hotel — the Kimpton St. George — was xcellent.
But back to the conference. Some of the highlights:
- It was just the right size — probably about 800 people — large enough to find surprises over three days but small enough to navigate easily and see familiar faces. The organizers brought the perfect group together — content marketers, content generators, and companies that produce technologies that enable the sharing (and monetization) of great content. I was with my tribe.
- C-level executives were welcoming and accessible. Randy Frisch and Yoav Schwartz, Uperflip’s co-founders, were omnipresent and welcomed and chatted with attendees at the after-parties. We were treated as valued guests and not just ticket-buyers and sponsors. I also met Bryan Wade, CEO of Sigstr. You have to love a C-level executive who proudly does “booth duty,” just so he can hear firsthand what customers and prospects are saying. The Sendoso team never fails to rock a conference — although I have enough logo-ed socks right now to last a lifetime. I’m a brand ambassador for the company and even if I weren’t I’d be impressed by how they hire and train their conference staff.
- The presentations were entertaining and enlightening. Way too many to list, but connect with me on LinkedIn for some of the highlights. They even had a DJ to add a little sparkle and oomph and Puffingston’s presentations impressed even the most seasoned and cynical of conference-goers. No deadly PPTs here! We heard from a professional stuntman about risk-taking and the last day featured James Veitch, a comedian who was truly LOL funny. Plus, his gig dealt with bad e-mails and customer service — which the audience knew all-too-well. I love conference entertainers who know a little about the crowd they’re performing for.
In short, I came away feeling educated, energized and inspired — and with some great new colleagues. I decided I never want to jump off a mountain in a wingsuit, but I’ll be back to CONEX for sure next year!
I also did a quick “fly-by” at the new summer martech conference — B2BSMX — at the new Encore Hotel outside of Boston. The X, in that case, stands for Exchange, although the Experience was great — albeit way too short. If you only have 12 hours to spend at a conference:
- Go the opening night cocktail party and walk the exhibit hall (quickly) and be sure you talk to industry leaders. I spent time with Andrew Gaffney, Jeff Pedowitz, Debbie Qaqish, and my client Jaime Romero from MRP — Account-Based Marketing (ABM) leaders that have the boldness to sport fuchsia as their corporate color.
- Download the event app and follow all the social media posts, so you can see what you may have missed. If I’m ever pressed for time again, I’ll do a better job of pre-planning, so people who may want to meet with me can set up time.
- Treat the entire hotel (especially for hotel-based events) as if it’s the conference area. You never know who you might meet in restaurants, bars, coffee shops, and elevators. If someone is wearing a name tag, say hi and chat.
The other key lesson from my conference experience is that when you’re in an unfamiliar city, mobile-local search is key — especially when your laptop dies, your flight is canceled, or you’re simply searching for “poutine near me.” It’s not just the live moments that matter — it’s those that happen on your phone too! Tune into this webinar (which I’m moderating) on September 5th to learn more about it.
P.S. Want me to attend and review YOUR events? Or check out an event to see if it’s the right fit for your company to attend? You know where to find me!
P.P.S. More coverage of my journey to come…including a critique of travel customer service and hotel bathrooms.