Imagine this… you’ve spent weeks planning and organizing to attend and speak at the PubCon search/social media marketing conference. Moments before Brett Tabke is about to introduce you as the morning keynote speaker, you reach into your pocket to grab a breath mint, only to realize you’ve forgotten them in your other suit jacket. Not having a mint isn’t the end of the world, but still your mouth becomes suddenly dry, as you remember that suit jacket also holds the USB stick containing your slide presentation. Good thing you uploaded your talk to the PubCon website weeks ago, or did you?
I don’t suspect you’d go as far as to forget your keynote presentation, but even the most savvy search engine optimization and social media professional has likely forgotten an item or two at home, that had they remembered, could have made their conference experience more enjoyable. If you asked them, they would likely share what they’ve learned with you, on how to get the most out an event like PubCon. Not only on what essentials to bring, but how to successfully go about meeting others. With that mindset, I created this guide as a resource for those attending PubCon, with the hope that your time networking, will be both productive and successful.
A few years back, I posted on 5 PubCon Badge Essentials, which included items such as business cards, vitamins and gum. While the name tags have changed, I’d still consider most of the items as essentials today. Packing plenty of chewing gum and/or breath mints is a great strategy. You won’t go wrong bringing enough to share with all the people you’ll meet.
Get to Registration Early – The obvious benefit is that you’ll avoid registration lines, but I’d like to share some of the non-obvious benefits as well. Early in the day is a great time to introduce yourself to conference organizers, say your thank you’s to those putting on the event (especially if you’re speaking), volunteer yourself should they require assistance, get first pickings at breakfast, and have time to plan your day. Also not so obvious is that keynote speakers are often times early and available (I have found this to be true in conferences across multiple industries), providing you an opportunity to introduce yourself before the crowds arrive.
Optimize Your Immune System – If you’re attending a PubCon event during cold and flu season, there is a strong likelihood you’re going to come in contact with plenty of people that have just gotten over a case of influenza, or are just beginning to show early symptoms of a common cold or flu.
Chances are you’re going to be out late, may likely not get enough sleep, and are going to be consuming more caffeinated and alcoholic beverages than you are accustomed to. Compounding that is the hotel/conference air-conditioning, changes in weather, airline travel, and the not so nutritious conference continental breakfast (sugar+carbs+fat).
Pretty much everyone’s immune system is going to be slightly compromised, so why not take the necessary steps to ensure the best outcome? If you’re wearing a jacket and layers, you can always remove something if the conference room gets too hot. If they’re pumping in the frigid A/C, and you’re not dressed for it, you’re off for a bad start.
Between the time you read this and conference time, the best thing you can do is get plenty of sleep, practice your best nutrition habits, increase your vitamin intake, keep your alcohol/caffeine consumption minimized, and do whatever you can to stay healthy.
With the airline travel, hopping in and out of cabs, and people you’ll be shaking hands with, washing your hands with soap and hot water goes a long way. Hand sanitizers are your second best option. Lots of us travel to conferences by plane, so we are restricted to the amounts of fluids we can carry, but quite a few local supermarkets and pharmacies carry 4 ounce or less sanitizers. It’s also not unlikely to find sanitation stations (antibacterial hand wipes) in both the conference center and the hotel lobby.
Perhaps you may think I’m a bit excessive on being healthy and staying healthy, but trust me, a week after PubCon, you don’t want to be in the group that’s tweeting about the post-conference plague. The week after the conference should be your most productive, and if you can avoid it, don’t sabotage your opportunities by getting sick.
Charge It! – This one is simple yet essential; plug in all your electronic devices before going to bed, and bring your phone/laptop charger to the event. Even if your device holds a charge all day, you could well be helping out a PubCon buddy that isn’t so fortunate. At PubCon (and after parties), smart phones and laptops are used heavily, so bring them along, and bring them fully charged.
Make Yourself Useful – This moves away from the what to remember to bring for yourself category and into the what you can do for others category. Extra breath mints, hand sanitizer, iPhone and Android chargers, power strips, and even WiFi cards, can make you a superstar amongst your friends (and those soon to be). If you live in the area and are going to be driving to PubCon, you can really take this opportunity to task.
If you live in the conference area, you may even consider using your own vehicle to get a few people to and from the conference center, since hotels aren’t always nearby. Build on that by offering a ride to after-hours events, and sometimes most importantly, getting people back to the hotel after hours. Obviously, if this is the case, you’ll want to stay sober. Nothing wrong with being a designated conference driver.
One of the non-obvious reasons this is also important, is that so many of us spend time communicating with each other online, but we spend little time face-to-face. Being a friend in the real world can go a long way in cementing relationships, which may result in your next big client opportunity, next new job in the field, or reciprocity at another event.
Taxi Please! – (aka put some reciprocity in the bank) If you’re from out of town and/or prefer to be drinking, you can still assist others in getting around (and get yourself there too). This next tip was also something I discovered while attending PubCon events.
Consider sharing a taxi as a great way to get a few minutes with someone you may want to know better, or a friend you want to catch up with. I’m not suggesting you stand around waiting for persons who you want to meet to arrive before grabbing a cab, but if the opportunity presents itself to grab a cab as a group, take it. My philosophy is the persons you got in the cab with are those who you want to meet anyways, so you can’t go wrong.
While heading to the hotel, conference center, or after-hours network event, attendees are going to introduce themselves. In a professional and polite way, make sure that everyone in the cab knows your name and what you do before you arrive at your destination. When the taxi arrives at the destination, pick up the cab fare. Most people are not going to forget that you did so.
Whether you are speaking at PubCon or simply attending, don’t be shy for the camera. Over the years, I’ve noticed many attendees transform from the T-shirt wearing webmaster crowd of the early 2000s, to well-dressed business professionals representing some of the largest and most successful SEO/Social Media firms the world now knows.
I have discovered (mostly by accident) that well taken, professional looking photos of PubCon speakers and attendees, are more likely to appear in blog posts, be used as twitter avatars and social media profile photos, and I’ve even seen them appear on the pages of CNN.
To those that have made use of my photography, many thanks for the links, which brings me to the next topic in this PubCon Guide…
Buy Drinks Not Links – The last time I checked, the head of Google’s Web Spam department, Matt Cutts, prefers drinking some sort of clear carbonated corn syrupy beverage (possibly referred to as Sprite), but he has also clearly stated that he prefers people don’t offer him gifts, so I wouldn’t present him mass bottles of soda and cookies.
Like Matt, not everyone drinks alcohol, but at search conferences we are not limited to alcohol, since plenty of people enjoy caffeinated beverages as well. Buying coffee drinks for conference goers might actually be a more affordable alternative for you, plus conference goers are more likely to be sober, and may actually remember that you bought them a drink.
Take for example Michael Gray, you’d make his day if you brought him a Pepsi Throwback or even Red Bull. Bring Kate Morris a Mint Mocha Creme Frappachino and watch her smile. For Carolyn Shelby, an Iced Venti 2 Sweet’N Low Americano, will brighten her day. BTW, all 3 are PubCon Speakers.
Be On Twitter – I almost forgot this tip, and it’s super important for PubCon goers. Typically, the hashtag used will be #pubcon, but check the official PubCon Conference Blog and listen to presenters for alternatives. I’ll be speaking on the panels… Real World Secrets of Local Search, State of Local Search, and Interactive Site Reviews : Local Targetting Focus. I’m on twitter frequently, and you can follow me @chiropractic.
See you at PubCon!