SMX Advanced Conference Recap: Seattle, 2008

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Saturday, June 07, 2008

SMX Advanced Conference Recap: Seattle, 2008I am happy to report that I was fortunate enough to attend the 2-day SMX Advanced conference this past week – a conference dedicated to search marketing professionals. The conference was held in Seattle, and I had an absolute blast taking in the sights, and catching up with a few of my colleagues. All in all, it was a great conference.

SMX Advanced Conference Recap: Seattle, 2008

I am happy to report that I was fortunate enough to attend the 2-day SMX Advanced conference this past week – a conference dedicated to search marketing professionals. The conference was held in Seattle, and I had an absolute blast taking in the sights, and catching up with a few of my colleagues. All in all, it was a great conference.

The following are a few notes and recap points that I'd like to share:

Day 1 Notes

Day 1 offered the perfect mixture of quality presentations, solid information, laughs, and networking opportunities. My day started with a quick trip to the registration area to pick up my access badge, conference guide, and freebies (a 2008 SMX Advanced Pin and an officially branded SMX backpack). I followed registration up with a pit stop at the continental breakfast for a cup of tea and pastries, and then claimed my seat for the morning keynote presentation.

Keynote: Kevin Johnson, Microsoft

To my surprise, I found the keynote to be an excellent Q&A discussion regarding Microsoft's Live Search, and the company's intent to eventually beat out Google, the very heavily trenched-in king of search, in the years to come. In fact just thinking about the possibility of this all happening makes me giggle with disbelief, as I'm sure it does you.

To think that Microsoft, a company with a current industry market share of just 9% - 10% of all Internet searches, will some day rule supreme in an industry where their biggest competitor already has them beat by margins of over 60% market share and is synonymous world-wide with the word "search", is just not likely going to happen. However, in that exact same breath I must also say that I for one would never bet against it either. To me, Microsoft is a lot like the New York Yankees. As much as you hate them, they're still a team to fear and no matter how badly they play you should never bet against them. That's Microsoft.

As one would expect after recent weeks, the topic of Microsoft buying Yahoo! did come up during the interview, but was quickly addressed and tossed aside. Kevin did comment stating that the idea of buying Yahoo! was a strategy for gaining market share and relevant search technologies that would allow them to further compete with Google, but it is something that didn't happen and so they've moved forward. After chatting with my friend Dustin Woodard in between sessions, we both feel that even though it appears that Microsoft is moving forward, that there is still some behind the scenes dealings going on - but, then again, what the hell do we know?

The topic of "brand confusion" also came up - referring to how frequently Microsoft changes the name of their search platform. First it was MSN, then Microsoft Live, and now it appears to be Windows Live Search. Kevin mentioned that this was not a new topic of discussion for them, and that it is something their marketing department will be addressing in due time.

Other highlights from the keynote include the mentioning of Microsoft's new operating system, IE8 beta. Kevin went on to say that he is really excited about the browser and firmly believes that it is an overall better browser than Firefox.

SMX Advanced Conference Recap: Seattle, 2008

Conference Feedback

Allow me to start by saying that I have always felt a little uneasy when it comes to SMX using an adjective as subjective as the word "Advanced" to describe this conference. My reasoning is quite simple. The word "advanced" insinuates a level of complexity that is without a doubt going to vary, in some cases drastically, from every search marketer that attends. It is these very simple inconsistencies that bother me most. When I talk to the marketer seated to the left of me, his or her goals for attending as well as their knowledge of our industry will almost always differ from mine as well as the person seated on my right. Therefore, where SMX Advanced might be advanced to some, it poses the potential problem of not being advanced for all.

So, was SMX Advanced advanced? Yes! I very much enjoyed the conference. The conversations, as well as the speaker presentations were at a distinctively higher level than other search conferences I've attended in the past. SMX Advanced provided an atmosphere where veteran search marketers could learn, share ideas, and even interact with others as proficient in the industry as they are. I was very pleased with how the conference was scheduled (location, time of year, times of sessions and breaks, etc.), and I very much enjoyed the smaller, close-knit atmosphere that was instilled upon us.

Additional Positive Feedback:

  • Offered Great Networking Opportunities
  • A Great Location within Seattle
  • A Growing Expo Hall
  • Hot Plate Lunches
  • New and Faster Q&A Abilities

Additional Suggestion

The only negative feedback that I have to offer regarding the 2008 SMX Advanced conference is that I felt that too many speakers relied heavily on reading their PowerPoint presentations to deliver their content, instead of their public speaking skills. Granted, some material does in fact have to be visual, but certainly not all of it. And the fact that these presentations (essentially the meat and potatoes of this entire conference) will now be made available online and for free completely cheapens the whole thing. Attendees should be asking themselves; aside from the networking opportunities why in the hell did I even bother attending? To have someone read the PowerPoints to me? We could have all stayed home, saved our company a few C notes, and downloaded the presentations free of charge. We would have learned a majority of the information and at the same time saved both time and money.

My suggestion to the SMX crew is to find another way to provide attendees with the same value that you were with offering "slideshow" information online, but without making potential attendees question whether or not to attend or simply borrow the login details from someone who did. The value of your conference lies within your speaker's presentations... and essentially you're giving them out for free. Where's the value in that.

If interested, I've published more 2008 SMX Advanced Conference Photos on Flickr.

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