7 Tips for Getting The Most Out of Your Marketing Conference

Marketing Conference
As a Platinum Partner agency, our team at PCR has long been familiar with the concept of HubSpot’s annual Inbound Conference. A few of us had been to the Bost
on event last year and office chatter had provided the rest of us with a hazy vision of what to expect as our eight person staff ventured from Jacksonville up the east coast for Inbound 2014.

During the conference, our team assumed that we would would gain valuable insight into the future of inbound marketing practices, take note from a handful of HubSpot success stories, and witness some killer keynotes. We did not, however, expect a full-blown marketing production with over 10,000 registered attendees and a breeding ground for networking with renowned influencers across multiple industries.

Each of our team members attended different strategizing sessions, took away unique information and refined personal vision for their role at PCR. By the end of Inbound, our notebooks were full of newfound wisdom and fresh perspective on the horizon of digital content. After getting back to the daily company grind, we held an hour-long session of note sharing, voicing our most impactful takeaways, and discussing ways to better prepare for future conferences, wherever they may be. As a collaborative team, we find it crucial to discuss ways of improving our opportunities as marketers and strategists, and maximizing Inbound was no exception. Here are our most significant insights and collective ideas for optimizing your conference experience.  


Strategize your session opportunities.

Two weeks prior to our departure to Boston, the PCR team set aside a few hours to meet and comb through the entirety of the Inbound 2014 agenda. As a small staff, we were able to go through the lineup of speakers and help one another in forming our ideal schedules. We read the descriptions of each session and worked collectively to determine which would offer the most value to each person’s role in the company. We utilized the Inbound app and Google Apps as tools to visualize our upcoming days at the Boston Convention and Exhibition Center. We noted the importance of maximizing our time efficiently and packing as much punch into our time as possible.


Consider the speaker over the session title.

HubSpot and the speakers did a phenomenal job of titling their sessions with marketing in mind. Who wouldn’t be intrigued by titles like “The Dark Art of Autonomy” and “How To Talk So People Will Listen”? While catchy topics and intriguing discussion summaries were more than enough to get our team’s attention, we all agreed that, when it comes to selecting one session over another, the secret lies in the speaker. After reflecting on our trip, we noted the value of researching our prospective session speakers ahead of time and getting to know the style of their content and company values. A five sentence intro on the Inbound Session Agenda may paint a foundational picture of what key points to expect, but checking out the speaker’s website and portfolio of work can offer a world of insight into who you’ll be listening to for an hour-long Bold Talk.


Set networking goals.

For three days, Inbound was not only host to countless industry professionals and authorities on the content marketing conversation, but home to some of the most influential and powerful people in business. Our CEO makes a personal goal of leaving each conference with two to three meaningful connections. Again, the conference atmosphere is a social networking paradise. Go to happy hour, have meaningful discussions with leaders whose ideas you resonate with, and step outside of your comfort zone. While it can be intimidating to walk up to a C-Suite exec and offer a handshake, a brief encounter and exchange of contact info could drastically influence the success of your career opportunities.


Keep an open mind.

Chances are pretty good that not every session on your agenda will evoke awestruck inspiration a la Simon Sinek. Not all industry leaders are natural-born orators and not all topics are as appealing in practice as they are on paper. When attempting to sit through forty-five minutes of a talk that you have already deemed irrelevant to your expertise, its difficult to leave taking away anything but hunger for lunch. Even if a speaker ends up straying from your preconceived expectations, try to view each talk with open-mindedness. While you may not identify with the logistics behind optimizing your SEO, perhaps someone on your staff would find value in it. Be sure to pay attention and attempt to make note of something you didn’t know beforehand.


Keep clear of distractions.

In a room of three hundred audience members, you can bet that the ferocious sound of typing isn’t because everyone is transcribing the speaker’s every word. We’re all professional people with job titles, responsibilities and emails that must be answered, but like most things, there’s a time and a place. Keeping your laptop clear of distractions is easier said than done, but updating statuses and corresponding with clients will ultimately direct your attention away from the valuable insight of your session speaker. Our team agreed that good old fashion pen and paper will always win the notetaking war, keeping focus on the discussion and away from disturbances.


Stay keen through the Q & A.

Even if you aren’t exactly speaker’s pet, staying engaged during this portion of each session can offer great benefits toward your conference takeaways. While it may not be the most suitable opportunity for networking (again, go to happy hour to reel in the big fish), Q & A allows you to hear responses to questions you may not have even known you had. The audience members who feel confident enough to address the speaker typically offer thought provoking insight into the corresponding session topic. It’s a good opportunity to absorb information that wasn’t directly pinpointed during the presentation and to ask questions with your own company values, problems, and strengths in mind.


Explore, enjoy, and take a load off.

Marketing conferences are long. They are thought provoking, filled with talented perspectives, and bursting with opportunities, but are also mentally draining. Utilize your free time as a means to explore your surroundings and disconnect from pressure. As a Jacksonville-based company, over half of our team had never been to the Boston area and were eager to explore a new city together. Dine at the city’s most proclaimed eateries, take in local culture, and grab a few craft cocktails as a way to wrap up your mind-wracking days. If your company is lucky enough to bring multiple team members, use your free time as a way to connect with your co-workers. Conference time is a perfect outlet to grow professionally and embrace the future of inbound practices, but there is equal value in working on team building and developing company culture outside of the office. 


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