3 Ways to Learn at Conferences Beyond the Sessions


Each year, online marketers from around the world descend on Seattle for a 2-day, intensive conference and networking event called SMXAdvanced. SMX, which stands for Search Marketing Expo, is the industry’s leading educational event filled with sessions focused on different levels of expertise. The Seattle event targets seasoned online marketers who are hoping to take their skills to the next level by attending sessions hosted by industry leaders such as Rand Fishkin, Danny Sullivan, Bruce Clay, and more. This week marked the 5th year Killer Infographics has attended the conference, but as a strategic decision to take full advantage of SMX’s plentiful networking opportunities, we opted to spend the most of our time getting to know some of the industry’s top online marketing companies.

Whether you’re a leading Fortune 500 company or a startup, networking is a very important aspect of new business prospects. Here are 3 tips to help you get the most out of any conference.

1. Attend pre- and post-conference networking events. SMXAdvanced focused a lot on networking this year, with a full lineup of events planned the night before the conference started and more networking events planned for the rest of the week following the last session. When attending a conference, take advantage of these opportunities to get to know other people in your industry or complementary businesses. Through sharing your experiences you’ll gain valuable insight into shared challenges.

2. Visit the expo hall more than once. A lot of people tend to avoid the expo hall at conferences for fear of getting sold on a service they don’t have any budget for. This is a missed opportunity because the expo hall is the easiest place to have targeted conversations. It’s the only place at a conference where you can identify companies you want to speak with and have an open line of communication from the beginning. By spending a few hours at the expo hall this year we were able to visit with our clients at Bing, learn about Yahoo’s newest advertising tools, speak one-on-one with Bruce Clay, get tours of multiple competitive analytics platforms, and more.

3. Wear your company shirt everywhere you go. SMXAdvanced does a good job of making name tags large enough to read, but only when standing a few feet away. At most conferences, name tags are even smaller. With such large crowds, it’s important to let people know who you are and what you do in the most efficient way possible. By wearing your company logo on your shirt, people can spot you in a crowd and strike up a conversation more easily. There were several times during SMXAdvanced when people would do a double take while passing by. Often, the next words out of their mouths would be “We need infographics!”

Although we missed the sessions, by engaging with attendees we still had the opportunity to learn about the biggest announcements from the event, identify great tools to help us improve our services, and connect with industry leaders.



Amy Balliett

Author Amy Balliett

A Cleveland native, Amy Balliett moved to Seattle in 2004 to take in the scenes of the Pacific Northwest for “a few years.” Now with permanent roots in the city, she still prides herself on her Cleveland roots and rustbelt work ethic. She owned her first company, a candy store and ice cream parlor, at the age of 17 before heading off for college. She subsequently built a successful career in SEO and marketing, and has headed up SEO at several companies. In 2009, she partnered with Nick Grant to build lead-gen-based websites, but in the fall of 2010, the business pivoted to an entirely new model: infographic design. In the years since, as CEO of Killer Infographics she has helped the company become an industry leader, driving visual communication campaigns for nonprofits and Fortune500 clients including Microsoft, Boeing, Adobe, Nikon, Starbucks, the National Endowment for the Arts, the United Nations, and more.

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