This post was originally written on September 9, 2016, as the BlackTruck team prepared to attend MozCon 2016. It has been updated to share leading into MozCon 2017.
Many search marketers can say it’s very easy to stay connected and keep your finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry without ever leaving your office. Social media provides us with a unique opportunity to connect with colleagues around the world, share information, and express frustrations to challenges that Big G and others throw our way. It’s also very easy to get complacent, falling into a routine of daily work, skimming blog posts, and speculating behind the keyboard.
I encourage you to stop. It’s time to step away from the keyboard and your screen for a moment and attend an event. There isn’t anything like being amongst your peers and listening to some of the most brilliant and passionate minds in search. For me, that event is MozCon, an event that is consistently on my calendar to attend.
As somewhat of a self-proclaimed extroverted introvert (look that up), attending events can pose certain challenges. Preparing to attend my fourth MozCon next week, I wanted to share some insights and give perspective on the things I have learned over the years.
1. Don’t Get Overwhelmed
If this is your first time attending MozCon, or any marketing event for that matter, try not to let yourself get too overwhelmed. There can be a lot to take in, but just remember the reason you’re there. The beauty behind MozCon is it’s single track – so you never have to feel like you’re missing out on subject matter. Find a spot, sit down, and listen.
2. Explore Seattle
If your schedule allows, take time to explore what Seattle has to offer. Nestled right on the Puget Sound, the Emerald City provides you with a good taste of the Pacific Northwest. Coming from the Midwest, I have found Seattle to be a super walkable and friendly city. Great food and drink can be found in every corridor. Favs on this end always include a stop at Bang Bang Cafe for killer breakfast burritos, and Serious Pie is totally worth the wait. By all means, walk around Pike Place Market. Go down early and watch how the market comes alive for the day.
This should just be a cardinal rule for any conference attendee. It’s an understatement to say Moz delivers during the day and into the night. Consuming massive amounts of information, and perhaps a few beverages at the end of the day, can leave attendees a touch fuzzy. Hydrate.
4. Attend Networking & Evening Events
Making connections is half of the fun and value at conferences. This can often be the most daunting task for many. At MozCon, it’s super easy to meet people and strike up conversations that don’t make you feel awkward like some after-hours cocktail event. Birds of a Feather tables are designated each morning at breakfast/lunch for those interested in connecting with peers to discuss specific niches. If you arrive early, there typically are various meetups happening. I attended one last year dubbed SoloCon, an unofficial event for those traveling solo. Super helpful, as we’re all there with the same problem: We don’t know anybody!
Events carry into the evening with the MozCrawl (pub crawl), Ignite speakers, and of course, the MozCon Party. These are ones that can leave you feeling challenged to meet others. My advice is try not to be too shy, and don’t take it so seriously. I have found this approach works for me.
I found the Ignite event to be a great time: Drinks and networking prior to listening to peers take the stage for 5-minute presentations on all things not related to search. After consuming content all day, it’s a nice break to just relax and hear about other people’s passions and experiences.
5. Take Notes
The first year I attended MozCon, I felt like I had to document everything each speaker said. What I learned from this experience was that I did not really take time to consume the content and listen. Understand that everyone has their own style, but don’t feel like you have to capture everything. I found it to be much more valuable to make sure I captured the top-level points and gems from each speaker. Obviously, if it’s a subject matter that really resonates with you, you’re more inclined to write more.
Also, when Marty W. takes the stage… don’t even try to keep up. Sit there, listen, and then afterward turn to the person next to you with a “WTF” look on your face.
6. Manage Your Workload to Stay Present
I get it, we’re all busy. I highly, highly encourage you shut it off during the conference. I try to plan well in advance and clear my schedule of any important calls or project demands for the week of MozCon. I often wonder if the work you are doing on-site is as valuable as the content you’re missing out on. I’m going out on a limb to say no, it is not.
Instead of focusing on work, I schedule a pretty crafty auto-response email that tells people where I am and what I’m doing. I check in daily, typically first thing in the morning, to ensure our team has what they need and answer any urgent questions, and then move forward. If there are any items that cannot be left alone, breaks in the action at MozCon allow for quick phone calls and check-ins as you see fit.
Even if it’s not MozCon, I hope these tips make your next marketing conference more valuable. If you are at MozCon and you see any of the BlackTruck Media + Marketing team walking around, be sure to say hello!