After being lucky enough to have gotten to attend and speak at both Small Business Marketing Unleashed conferences, I can give three reasons why this conference is so amazing:
1 - A wonderful learning environment
2 - A ton of fun activities
3 - Zero egos
As with the first SBMU earlier this year in Houston, SBMU-Columbus was a complete blast. For two days, we covered the marketing spectrum, from email marketing, SEM/SEO, branding, viral marketing, and blogging/social media. What I really love is that we had every level of expertise as well, from experts to novices. So everyone learned something. Personally what I loved is that this wasn't like many conferences where you had social media/marketing 'experts' pontificating to each other, you got the chance to talk to business owners that are actually USING these tools. It's great to talk theory, but I love connecting with people that are using social media RIGHT NOW to grow their company.
And from a social media/blogging point of view, I was interested in seeing how the attitudes of the SBMU attendees to this one differed from the ones in Houston back in April. In Houston, I was honestly a bit surprised to find that everyone was curious about blogging. In Columbus, my Blogging for Business session was practically SRO. And the questions showed that the curiosity was moving toward 'how can I make this work for my business?' David Wallace has an excellent recap of my session at Search Engine Guide. In April it seemed that many knew that blogging was important, but not sure why. The attendees in Columbus were starting to figure out that blogs were important, and many had already launched their blogs and were starting to see results. Great signs indeed. Also another interesting tidbit; Jennifer Laycock said that roughly 40% of the attendees at SBMU, came from Twitter. And the conference seemed to be about twice as big as the first SBMU. I would suspect that the next SBMU in Spring of 2009 will sellout, based on how well-received this one seemed to be by attendees. Sidenote: At one time on Monday, the term 'SBMU' was the second most-popular term on Twitter.
As for the conference itself, Day One was organized around sessions that explained 'why this stuff is important', while Day Two was organized around workshops that explained 'here's how you get started using what we talked about on Day One'. And what I love about SBMU is that all the speakers attend each other's sessions/workshops. So I am doing a session on Blogging for Business, designed to help small businesses understand how blogs could benefit their business. So I am speaking to people that are new to these tools, but I also have bloggers such as CK, AmberCadabra, Jennifer Laycock, and BethHarte in attendance. So they help contribute to the content of the session as well.
And Robert and Jennifer, when organizing the event, put in plenty of chances for the attendees to network, and have fun. There were networking lunches both days, as well as a dinner on Day One. They also added a special Speed Networking event at the nearby COSI that wasn't officially part of SBMU, but many speakers and attendees were there, and proceeds benefited COSI. Of course, Monday night's dinner was a blast, with good food, good conversation, and an Aussie losing at Jenga! Bottom line is that SEG did a great job of creating an atmosphere that was fun for the attendees, and this just makes it that much easier for us to connect with each other, and that means we learn more.
Seriously guys, I keep going on and on (and on) about SBMU because it really is a wonderful event and I want to meet you at the next one, which is tentatively set for next Spring in Houston. For the price, it is an absolute steal. Everything about the event is positioned with small businesses in mind. It's inexpensive, it stresses learning and how-to, over speeches. Everyone is accessible, in fact all the speakers go out of their way to tell you to let them know if they can help you with anything. In fact, the reason why I haven't gotten this post up quicker, was because I have been furiously attempting to answer email questions from SBMU attendees. And I love doing it! The gang at Search Engine Guide did a stellar job with SBMU-Columbus, and I cannot wait for the next one! Those of you that I met this week, it was so glad to see you, and those of you that couldn't make it, go ahead and start planning on making the next one, trust me, it will be SUCH a huge benefit for your business!
BTW a huge pat on the back to Jason Falls, who spent last weekend at Blog World Expo, and couldn't attend SBMU. Finally, after seeing Beth Harte, AmberCadabra and myself constantly yammerin' on about how amazing SBMU would be, told us that if we would get a gang together and meet him for dinner, that he'd DRIVE from Louisville to Columbus to meet us on Tuesday night. So that's what he did, and we had a freakin' blast. Jason, David Alston, Amber, Beth, Sage Lewis, Wayne Smalls, CK and myself capped a wonderful 2 days by having an impromptu Tweetup in Columbus. And thanks to David for taking some great pics, here's his set for the Tweetup.
To everyone I met at SBMU, to Vicki, Robert, Rachel and Jennifer for organizing SBMU, and to Jason for driving freakin' 6 hours in one day to meet for our Tweetup, thank you. All of you made this week a truly great one for me. Let's do it all over again in April!
Flickr pics via DavidAlston, Sage Lewis, SmallBusinessSEM.com and jackiebaker330.