After SXSW, Blogger Social and now Small Business Marketing Unleashed, I am seriously getting spoiled on great conferences. I told Jennifer on Tuesday that I don't think I will be able to find a more 'fun' event than Blogger Social, and that I don't think I'll be able to top the quality of the sessions at Small Business Marketing Unleashed.
And it wasn't just the sessions, it was that EVERY speaker was great. I saw two of Jennifer's presentations, and where Jen excels is that she is able to take ideas that are no doubt complex to small business owners, and reduce them to terms that anyone can understand. And guys, during one session she literally spent 15 mins walking the attendees through the proper way to pitch a blogger. It was absolutely perfect!
On Day One I saw Wendy Piersall present on building a community, and what I loved about her session was that you could just see how excited she got as she talked about her community. It was great to see her passion for people, and she also evangelized several people that I am friends and fans of, including everyone at Dell, Pistachio, and Shel Israel. She also mentioned how Pistachio was using Twitter to grow her business, which I thought was a great point that resonated with an audience that came in skeptical of Twitter (though that changed after we all evangelized the site for 3 days!).
Later that day I saw Matt Bailey speak on website analytics. Now I have to admit that almost everything Matt was saying was flying completely over my head (Spiders? Cookies, persistant and session, wha the hell?!?). But Matt was such a good speaker that he held my attention. And about halfway through his session, I noticed that the other attendees started putting 'STAR TREK!' on Twitter. They wanted to start chanting it and I had absolutely no idea what they were talking about. Then Matt suddenly mentioned 'The Red Shirt Phenomenon' on Star Trek. And he pointed out how Red Shirts almost always die on Star Trek, UNLESS Kirk also encounters a green female alien, in which case their survival rate shoots up to over 80%. It was hilarious and perfectly drove home his point to know what is happening with your website's analytics, and more importantly, what affects it. BTW Matt has an excellent post on Twitter from the speaker's point of view up at his blog.
Tuesday brought the first hard choice of the conference; Do I attend Jennifer's Viral Marketing Workshop, or Sage Lewis' Creating a Community workshop. I opted for Jen's Viral Marketing Workshop, and was totally rewarded with a great session. And again, this was where Jen took the time to literally hold the audience's hand and walk them through how to properly pitch a blogger. Pure gold. But during her session, I could hear loud cheering coming from Sage's session and everyone on Twitter was going crazy talking about how infectious Sage's energy was. And this was the only 'complaint' I heard about Small Business Marketing Unleashed; that there were too many great sessions, and not enough time to see them all.
And finally, there was my session on Blogging for Business. I was a bit worried about my presentation because I knew that the audience would want to see how they could use blogs to grow their business, but I also knew that the point I wanted to drive home was that it wasn't about making money, it was about making connections with your readers and customers. The money will be a byproduct, but the focus HAS to be on the readers.
I knew my message would either miss the mark and tick off the crowd, or it would resonate and excite the audience. I wasn't sure how it had gone, till I saw this tweet from Li, who live-blogged the session:
Mission accomplished. That was exactly what I told the audience, that I *wanted* them to be excited because I was excited for them! They suddenly have all these amazing tools that allow them to connect with their customers and develop relationships. And that's the focus, it's not about the tools, but the connections and conversations that these tools help facilitate.
And perhaps my favorite part of the session was the Q&A portion. After I made a point during my session to say that you have to approach your blog as a place where you co-create content with your readers, the audience helped co-create the value of the session with some amazing questions and feedback. Several people in the audience such as Jen and Erica O'Grady helped bring up excellent points that reinforced points that either myself or someone in the audience had made. The community co-created the value of the session, just like you do here.
Small Business Marketing Unleashed was Search Engine Guide's first conference, and I have to say, it was a home run. I honestly heard not one negative comment about the conference. And it was also great how the speakers went to all the sessions and contributed from the audience, which made the sessions even better. Everyone had fun, everyone learned a ton, and everyone walked away happy. Jen and Robert and everyone at SEG can hold their heads high on a job well done, and I am honored that they allowed me to participate!
Pics via Flickr users storyspinn and Jennifer Laycock
Tags:The Viral Garden, Marketing