"Tell him…
you know, it's a– it's a think-piece…
about a mid-level band…
struggling with their own limitations…
in the, you know, harsh face of stardom."
…Almost Famous

Jeff Tweedy

Jeff Tweedy

I recently attended the Bend WebCAM conferece for the first time as one of their official live bloggers. It was a terrific experience that I knew I needed to write about…however, it took me a while to figure out how to best convey the very positive experience of a small search marketing conference to you all. Then, as I reflected on attending the most excellent James concert in Portland, it occurred to me that comparing the Bend experience to SES / SMX / Pubcon was very much comparing seeing a band in a club versus an arena.

Large-Scale Arena SEO vs Intimate Club Setting

I continue to go see excellent bands play in arenas despite loathing most aspects of the experience (cost of tickets, distance from the stage, poor quality of the sound).

Many artists I feel connected to don’t play clubs anymore… so it’s either the arena or nothing and because the quality of music overcomes all the other aspects of the experience, I go.

In contrast, club shows are superior in most every possible way provided that the caliber of band you are seeing meets your entertainment expectations.

I have similar feelings about attending the larger search marketing conferences…my feeling aren’t quite as extreme since I do have a lot of friends to hang out with and with the social media aspect of the show, you’re never actually alone unless you wish to be alone. But, many of the facilities are substandard and if there is someone you wish to meet that you don’t already know, good luck to you unless you catch them at the bar.

Bend WebCAM

The Bend WebCAM had between 200-250 attendees and was spread over Downtown Bend (which can be crossed by walking about 8 blocks). Really awesome breakfast bagels were provided by a local merchant. Speakers were driven to and from the airport by conference organizers. All presenters were real accessible and none were mobbed after their talks. Facilities were quite comfortable and hotels (and conference admission) were relatively cheap.

What amazed me is this was the only conference that I’ve attended where I felt totally relaxed…the atmosphere was that mellow. Furthermore, the information presented was every bit as good (if not better) than the big conference presentations (which tend to give lots of name speakers 12-15 minute slots). I´m not sure where the trend began (Blueglass?), but conference organizer Mark Knowles gave each speaker 1 hour and let them run with their topic…with most excellent results.

There are an increasingly large number of search marketing conferences now competing for attendee dollars. For a conference newbie, attending a large show (especially if you’re not well known in the industry) is an incredibly daunting experience.

Start with a smaller, more intimate show and then "graduate" to a bigger show if you find the experience worthwhile. And remember, frequently the best learning takes place in the bar after the sessions are over.

BTW, we have a wonderful “moderate-sized” SEO conference we run in Portland each year…

Ryan Adams

Ryan Adams