Consider this scenario: you're a hardworking entrepreneurial marketer living in a small town and trying to make it big. You never had quite enough money for a fancy education, but you're keen on learning the latest and greatest in creative marketing to excel and get ahead. Where should you go to learn the tricks of the trade on a limited budget?
My name is Conor and I'm what you might call a self-made marketer. In the spring of 2017, my business was in a slump and I was doing whatever I could to leverage my creative content to boost market share. Though my efforts paid off in the short term, I realized they weren't enough to keep up with the competition, who were employing new, sophisticated techniques that I was unaware of. My business was stagnating and I needed some outside help.
So I decided to attend some creative marketing conferences. I started my search for the perfect conference that would deliver the most bang for my buck. Looking online, I realized there are dozens on dozens of such conferences to choose from each year. I looked for those hosted by industry personalities I looked up to. For me, price and location are important factors. Because I'm on a budget, I couldn't afford a overly exclusive conference, but I wanted to maximize what I could get at a price I could afford. That meant I needed an all-in experience for $2,500 or less, including hotel and airfare.
After a tedious amount of time searching, I came upon a marketing conference on the use of creative marketing and promotion to engage existing customers, acquire new ones, and enhance brand recall. I found the conference not from a Google search, but from a journey into marketing hashtags on Twitter, that led me to Convention Nation. You can’t search by price or by reputation on Google. I was fortunate that I was looking for a specific speaker--Paul Gottsegen-- someone who I've long admired for his marketing savvy and successful campaign track record from his years at Infosys and then Mindtree.
The conference was on May 10th and it began at 9 a.m. in the morning. I had to get to the AC Hotel (a Marriott brand that I am loyal to because of their exceptional customer service, good price, and hassle-free experience) in San Jose, California the night before. I flew out to the local San Jose airport and arrived at the hotel at around 5 o'clock in the evening. I had some spare time on my hands, so I decided to explore a couple of nearby places in this beautiful, hilly city.
I was feeling hungry, so I took a 25-minute trip to the Milan Italian restaurant for an early dinner at around 6:30 that evening. The people in San Jose are nice and the whole environment is quite welcoming to outsiders. I spent some time chatting with a couple of people who were in the city for other conferences in addition to some locals from the area. Being in the San Jose hillsides this week was lucky, since there weren’t fires burning close by.
The locals- Annie, Matt, and Joe-- were happy to tell me all about their home city over drinks, including their love for the San Jose sun, extended summer season, the clean streets, and the bustling Silicon Valley industry. It was a positive experience and I must say that San Jose has much to recommend it.
When traveling to and in California, it is always best to have a car of your own, as not all locations are accessible via public transit. Transit between cities is possible on the Caltrain system, but I strongly recommend simply renting a car at the airport for the duration of your stay. Alternatively, if you don't plan on doing too much travel, there are many Uber and Lyft cars in the Bay Area that you can order using the respective apps. It all depends how much travel you plan on doing and the distances you need to travel.
The next morning, I attended the conference. From the start, I could tell this was a very well operated event. The ticket booking was easy-- I booked online and checked in using a ticket app on my phone. I received my badge at the registration desk, got my swag bag, and headed inside. Everything was seamless and efficient.
As the conference began and the room started to fill, I was happy to enjoy the complimentary coffee provided to us conference goers. The team began their presentations and asked us how we liked the city. Every now and then between presentations, the team would talk to us casually, breaking up the more informative content and keeping the audience engaged.
Since the conference boasted a packed, all-day schedule, the personalized interaction was strategic and worked effectively to keep us alert and prevent boredom. It also broke the ice and helped us feel more comfortable with each other and the speakers. After all, a major part of any conference is the networking. And marketing conference organizers know this better than anyone. I felt that the speakers made us feel included, mentored us, and asked provocative questions to make the whole experience a productive, two-way street. This is an element I think every great conference experience ought to include.
The conference provided exceptional content. The presentations contained useful and actionable statistics, analytics, and facts. The interactive nature facilitated networking and casual discussion between conference goers and experts. I definitely learned a lot from this experience that I can use every day in my work for my company.
I learned that one reason my business was stagnating is because I was too focused on chasing trends instead of researching my clients and what works for them. Interestingly, this epiphany was the result not just of the presentations in the conference, but also the conversations I had with other attendees over coffee and pastries. I was able to apply this understanding by surveying my own customers and re-calibrating my strategies---to great effect.
You need to communicate. Talk. Listen. This is what creative marketing is all about.
This seminar definitely changed my strategy, but also my life in some big ways. I had never been to California before the conference, and I think the immersive experience in a different location helped me understand things from a different perspective. I'm happy my first big conference went so well, and I look forward to attending a similar event again.