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Old 03-19-2008   #1
Discovery
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Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Finally a conference is within driving distance of the home office, happens to be SMX long beach.

Unfortunately the theme is Social Marketing. Even still I took a look at the agenda and then the cost. $1400 for 2 days of learning about link bait, social bookmarking and how to write a wiki? Sure I get to meet a few people who brag about meeting Cutts or standing next to Yang at SES or that their social site for 3 legged dogs is the next big Google killer. But $1400 for that? Then there are the pitch men with business cards spilling out of their pockets. Add on top of that travel expenses, hotel, food/drink and you could lay out an easy 2G's.

2Gs for 10 PowerPoint presentations?

Now at an SES I kind of get it, MUCH bigger with more potential for certain businesses to meet key people, do deals and perhaps learn something at a bloviated speech.

But events like SMX, Google and Yahoo seminars wanting top dollar for a PowerPoint show and cocktail reception seems ridiculous to me.

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Old 03-20-2008   #2
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Unless you want to learn about social media marketing, why would you come to SMX Social Media period? Just because it is within driving distance makes no sense.

As for the cost, it's not out of line with any conference you might attend and I can assure you, the content is excellent. That's why we are the only series that offers a credit-back guarantee on our shows. And by the way, for SMX West, no one asked for that. So dismissing our stuff as being somehow 10 worthless PowerPoints. Not either fair nor true.

If you're looking for a big show just to network, hey, do SES, SMX, Pubcon or whatever. But if you're a pro, not interested in the show sessions, that's still a lot to spend just to network. That's why we're also the only series that offers a lowercost networking pass for folks like you.

In short, guess I wish if you're going to dismiss our conference series, it's nicer if you've actually attended one to speak with such authority about it
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Old 03-20-2008   #3
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Danny you always find my posts that partly knock your endeavors. Sorry about that; I'm certainly not trying to single you out. It just so happened that the email invite to SMX is what triggered this post about the costs of conferences in general.

I tried to write my post carefully. If you look at the chronology I was trying to say:

I was notified about a nearby conference - SMX long beach.
It turns out it is about Social Marketing.
Then out of curiosity I looked up the price. Shocked.
My post was about the cost and the motive for people to attend such events.
I was not actively seeking out a conference to go to.

So I'll be bold, confrontational and direct. I think these are the main reasons people go to conferences:

It's paid for by their company, so no loss on them if its a dud.
It's a social event and a free vacation for them.
They love the parties, booth goodies and free cocktails.
Socially they have a great time.
They learn a few new tid-bits to take back to the boss and say it was a stellar conference, have to go again next year, put it in the budget.

For the SMB owners who pay out of their own pocket to go I bet a great deal of them are going to network, find new business contacts and so on. Which is a valid reason to attend.

I didn’t say that your 10 PowerPoint presentations were worthless.
I have not been to an SMX event so perhaps unfairly I’m lumping your conference in with past experiences.
I was trying to put the number of presentations in context with the price. Each can decide if that price is worth it to them.

A straight correlation is $2000/10 sessions = 200/session.
From my experience of NON SMX events - about 50% of the content is basic, boring and nothing active SEMs haven’t learned and used already. So for other events the cost per session could be far higher.

The bottom line in my view is that the conference price is to pay to socialize far more than it is to learn new things. I’m looking to learn first, make contacts second and if I have a fun time then that’s just a bonus. Perhaps SMX has it right it is all about social marketing after all.

I know I just lost any hope of an invite to the CJ fest, my social ranking is low, but I suppose I'm not looking to be popular, just searching for answers on touchy topics.

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Old 03-21-2008   #4
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Well, the cost of conferences has long been debated. Some people just think they're not worth the expense. That's a decision each person has to make, and it's going to vary from conference to conference. That's one reason why when you said:

Quote:
Now at an SES I kind of get it, MUCH bigger with more potential for certain businesses to meet key people, do deals and perhaps learn something at a bloviated speech.
You bet, my ears pick up to think hmm, why are you saying this when you've not been to an SMX show, and why would you say it about a topic-specific event. There's no basis of comparison.

Let me step back a bit to explain more. Vets in the space often would come to SES when I was doing it and say things like "well, I got a tidbit here and there." SES, of course, it largely a general purpose conferences series and has been that way for some time. There's the travel show, the local show, but most people focus on the big shows that cover all aspects.

Me, as a conference programmer, I don't want some vet spending over $1,000 to pick up a tidbit. That's a lot of money, and to hear that they can afford but really just come for the occasionally tidbit or networking, well, you don't feel you're doing your job well.

When we started SMX, the first show was SMX Advanced. That's happening again in June. It was specifically designed for the search marketing vet so they weren't just getting tidbits but entire sessions full of information they could actually use. We got great reviews, and we think that show filled a big gap in the conference space. It's definitely not 50% "basic, boring" content.

Now the issue about the conference price as something you pay to socialize? Well understood, believe me. That's why for most of our events, including the SMX West show that just happened, we had a networking pass. That was $299 to let you go to all the lunches (and network with people there) as well as all the social events. We thought it was an excellent way for the search marketing vet that wanted to network but didn't think the general purpose content was compelling enough to take part in the show. And I heard from a number of people that the pass worked perfectly for that -- they really appreciated it being offered.

SMX Social Media doesn't have that networking pass option because it's too small and specialized a show to offer it.

Anyway, I hope that explains things a bit more. Like I said, there's always going to be a search vet who thinks conference fees are too high, but we've tried to address that both with a show specifically for vets and a pass option for general purpose shows. For the non-vet, we think the fees we charge provide excellent value for the content that's delivered, not to mention the overall experience (trust me, actual lunches that aren't in boxes are not cheap).
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Old 03-21-2008   #5
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Thanks for the well thought out response Danny.

Your points are well taken. I have been told recently by sources I trust that the advanced SMX show was truly for advanced marketers and was well worth the money. I guess however; once burned twice shy.. actually its been more than once, hence my strong reaction to seeing a "high" price tag. This comes off sounding like I'm a know it all, I'm not, but I have sat through far too many ho hum presentations from self proclaimed experts. During which I keep thinking good gracious I paid good money and spent valuable time to be here?.

So I like that you have taken your experiences with what works and what doesn’t and created a best of breed conference.

The bottom line is that each business owner had better look at the reasons they or their team members are attending conferences. And who is behind that conference. What return are they truly getting out of it. Can they get the same result simply from online research and collaboration? Are there more focused SEM groups locally to meet in person and exchange marketing ideas with?

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Old 03-22-2008   #6
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Interesting thread.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Discovery View Post
So I like that you have taken your experiences with what works and what doesn’t and created a best of breed conference.
For experienced SEMs, SMX Advanced is definitely worth the money. I can personally vouch for that!

Quote:
Originally Posted by Discovery View Post
The bottom line is that each business owner had better look at the reasons they or their team members are attending conferences.... Are there more focused SEM groups locally to meet in person and exchange marketing ideas with?
The lack of local SEM groups (or even individuals) in my area is one reason I like to attend conferences. While forums are great for learning and networking, they have their limits and cannot come close to a face-to-face event. Some of the best and most valuable networking I've done has been during breakfast or lunch at SEM conferences. I've been lucky enough to dine with some of the premier names in the SEM industry, and count many of them as friends as a result. You can't put a price on that.

While I agree it gets costly to attend multiple conferences every year, and not every conference is going to be worth the money, it does pay to attend those that are appropriate for your level of experience and your area of specialization (SEO, PPC, social media, etc.).

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Old 03-24-2008   #7
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Remember, he most important thing to do before attending conferences is to plan ahead. Setup meetings you wish to have in person at the conference and contact these people before you go.

If you have your work/business objectives set in advance the conference will more than pay for itself.

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Old 03-25-2008   #8
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Interesting thread - it is concerning that the local SEMPO and regional SEM meet-ups have not been mentioned. There were a few meet -ups in the San Diego area last year, not sure what is planned for this year however Dana Todd may know (I have invited her to comment on this thread - she lives in the San Diego area and is a SEMPO board member). If networking is what you are looking for these meet ups are a great start and the cost is right (free to a few dollars depending on meet-up).

As for conference and expositions - you have quite a few to chose from and yes, Search Engine Strategies is the largest of them all (full disclosure, I am the VP of Marketing for SES). In terms of differentiation (other than size of event) SES is the place to be if you are looking for clients to grow your business (in addition to education on the best tips, tactics and strategies) as SES is still where you find representatives from the major brands.

(Apologies for the late reply, I was a bit distracted this past week with SES NY - day 1, 2, 3, and 4 news coverage round up here)
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Old 03-25-2008   #9
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Thanks for the info Lafmm,

I will focus more on the local marketing meetings here in San Diego. I know there are a lot of talented marketers in this area that I definately would like to meet.

As an aside, Yahoo did a training session here last year for free. Sure, they did a little bit of the Rah Rah Yahoo thing, but they also provided a great deal of detailed information and straight forward "you had better be doing this..." points about using their platform. Not 101 kind of stuff. At the end of the day just about everyone I talked to said they were very pleasantly suprised about the event and learned a great deal. (I think they had had similar experiences as mine in the past)Perhaps with an intimate audience of about 30 full time local SEMS in the room you get detailed real world advice/input/conversations that you can take away and use immediately.

Google and MSN could learn from this successful event. It sounds like SMX advance seeks to replicate this type of event. But not for free, which is understood.

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Old 03-25-2008   #10
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Re: Conference Fees - I dont get it

First of all, I just *had* to correct the typo in "fee's" cuz it was driving me nuts :-)

SEMPO has had a Local Working Group program for several years, and it's starting to build a lot of momentum as we find passionate pockets of search marketers worldwide. We have quite a few Working Groups outside of the US (Japan was the first, I believe, and we have about a dozen others), and now we even have a few that are in regional US groups (Arizona was the first in the US, with 6 more slated to come onboard this year). I'm sure Chris Boggs has the exact numbers (I'm pulling this off the top of my head), so I'll invite him to drop by and finish the report.

All you need to start a group on your area is 5 SEMPO members and a working plan that supports the main initiatives of the organization and its mission. Once the Board approves the Working Group, a budget is granted and the Group is expected to function in accordance to a set of specific guidelines.

We'd love to see local support grow, and we are glad that people are finding SEMPO to be one way of getting to know their neighbors in Search.

I must say though, that I love going to the national conferences, because I get exposure to quite a few more minds and talents than just my local pond. I always feel that it's my responsibility to take advantage of the situation, and ask as many questions as I can to ensure that I'm making my *own* learning experience.

Would love to see you ALL join SEMPO!
Best,
Dana Todd
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Old 03-25-2008   #11
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Hi Dana,

Thanks to you too for the information. I was aware of SEMPO but not the local effort. I think its best for me to just go to local meetups that don't involve too much formal set up. Within minutes on meetup.com I joined two groups and found two meetings to go to within the next week.

Then again.. you are in San Diego as well... Have you set up a local group?

Cheers,

Discovery
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Old 03-25-2008   #12
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

SEMPO local was set up specifically for the very reason that not everybody can afford to attend the big search conferences. The two groups up and running now are New York and Arizona. There are plans in place to launch the following groups in 2008.
Atlanta
Chicago
Dallas / Fort Worth
Miami / Fort Lauderdale
San Diego
San Francisco
Seattle

Discovery if you want to be involved in the local San Diego group all help is greatfully accepted. In Arizona we have had great success with running events. We meet once a month and once a quarter we have an educational event. The last educational event we had speakers from Google with 112 people in attendance. The attendees were not just SEO's/SEM's either but some of the top local business names. Some of our most popular events is where the members get together and just network, usually one member will talk on a subject then its open questions and exchange of ideas. The feedback has been very positive and we have been running at minimal cost as local companies are happy to donate meeting space, drinks and food.

I personally love the search conferences and I recall 4 years ago going to SES New York and not knowing a single person. I got very involved in SEMPO and I volunteered on the booth each show. I got to know a lot of people this way and just went to some shows to network. I have been to both SMX and SES and both are first class professional offerings. SMX has much more of an industry feel and the networking is great. I did now know about the networking pass that's a good idea. I do business at SES and have closed some of our best clients particularly at the New York show. The networking at SES is also outstanding and last week's show was probably the best ever, mainly because I made an effort to attend as many events as possible. It is going to take me a month to recover but it was worth it. It depends on what you are looking for.
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Old 03-28-2008   #13
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Thanks Fion

Sure, I would be glad to participate in some local meetings here in San Diego.

I think I may be looking for knowledge in all the wrong places.
I dont go to conferences looking for business, nor business contacts, or really for networking. What I do go for is to learn about real hands on day to day operational techniques and strategies from my peers. The nitty gritty reality of search marketing if you will. Sure this can come from some "networking" or "social" events. But I would like to have these meetings occur around a computer and not a bar. So local groups are probably the best way to achieve this.

PM me with any additional info about local events.

Regards

Discovery
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Old 03-28-2008   #14
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Re: Conference Fee's - I dont get it

Discovery, that is exactly what we do at our events. We pick topics then choose somebody to present then open up to sharing of ideas and best pratices. Our team share with others and we all learn from each other. For example, last event we did online reputation management and this month we are doing video optimizaion. We build in at least an hour where people just mingle and talk about whatever they want. The feedback so far is that it is very valuable in the very way your describe above. We rarely go to bars, its normally at a training room or a member's office.
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