Earlier this week I attended the Digital Summit in Phoenix. It was two days of keynotes, breakout sessions, great insight, and warm(ish) weather. Below are some highlights and ideas around creating a plan of attack for attending your next conference.
First of all: Wow, Phoenix is awesome. And I’m not just saying that because I left the polar vortex that seems to be lingering over Chicago. The city has a gorgeous landscape that seems to be almost completely surrounded by mountains (might not fit some people’s definition), a burgeoning and fun downtown, and the city is organized really well. Really, it was super easy to get around. If you haven’t been, it’s worth a trip. Also, did you know it’s now the 5th biggest city in the US?
Going in with a plan
I always go into these conferences with a few goals. First, I like to learn as much as I possibly can. This is a fine balance between going to breakout sessions covering a topic new to you and sessions where you think you might be closer to expert level. It’s always refreshing listening to a speaker covering a topic you feel confident about and learning practical and actionable tactics you can take with you.
Second, come away with actionable projects and ideas. Whether this is for a specific client campaign or internally within your organization. It’s easy to sit down in some of these breakout sessions and just kind of go with the flow while you take notes. This is why you need a bit of a plan. Do some research into each of the sessions and jot down 2-3 clients or campaigns that it might be most relevant for.
Lastly, and this isn’t really a goal, but leave work at the door. Yes, emergencies might come up, we all have those. But attending these conferences can be expensive and if you’re working the whole time, then it just defeats the purpose. Put your OOO email up, make sure your team has coverage, and make use of your time!
Review and highlights
An extra $100 bought me an upgraded ticket to the AM Workshop/Masterclass that was well worth it. I had a choice between 3 different 4 hour sessions. I chose “Moving Prospects Through the Customer Journey With a Solid Content and Digital Marketing Strategy.” We’ve got some amazing creative folks at Envisionit, but as someone focused mainly towards paid search, I don’t get to work with them as much as I’d like. It was hugely useful getting to see the other side of this and just how specific you can tier content related to where each customer is in their journey.
“Digital Reputation Management and Social Media” was one of the breakout sessions worth highlighting. I had never given much thought to best practices for policing social media within a large corporate company, but there were some killer recommendations. One of which I really liked: having any department or office that wants a social profile contribute, even a little, to software and tech used to run and evaluate performance. Others included training requirements and an escalation plan in case things get out of hand.
There were few areas that could use improvement and none that were really unexpected. I always going to roll my eyes when some of these breakout sessions get a bit “salesy.” It never got bad enough that I would completely rule out bringing one of the speakers back though.
The other area is the same thing you see in articles across industry news sites and littered throughout LinkedIn, a session themed around something that just isn’t as powerful or as much of a headline as the speaker says. A few of the sessions focused on voice search, which is obviously something every marketer is keeping an eye on, but the fact that less than 2% of voice enabled device owners have used it to actually make a purchase was of course never broached. Some topics seem to get inflated simply to justify having a breakout session.
The lunchtime keynote was the highlight of the entire conference. Not surprisingly Scott Dikkers, founder of The Onion, gave a hilarious hour-long presentation on how to build a brand with “outrageous marketing.” He told some hilarious stories, ones that would probably lead to lawsuits at other companies, of how they marketed (knowingly or not) as their most “outrageous self.” These were funny, but he gave plenty of examples that those of us working at companies with an HR department can use too. The perfect example was Walgreens and how outrageously convenient they aim to be. Convenience is their mission and they will literally move their locations one storefront over to a corner because corners are apparently more convenient. The point was, take your mission and goals to the max. Take what you do and do it the best.
So, Digital Summit Phoenix, mission accomplished. Getting to a conference, even once a year, pays off by more than just coming away with actionable insights. You leave with at least a little bit refreshed (if your plane isn’t delayed because you’re heading back to terrible weather) and hopefully excited to push your clients forward or move your own brand in a new direction.