The first marketing conference I ever attended outside a city I resided in was Lawyernomics in Seattle, a conference focused solely on marketing and internal operations for law firms. I loved being surrounded by hundreds of lawyers and marketers eager to get an edge for their firms, feverishly typing notes when speakers hinted at the next slide in the presentation really being the “biggest discovery of the year so far.”
Since then I’ve attended plenty of other conferences, including SMX, Ungagged and MozCon. Each time I attend one, there’s typically some dilemma I face that I hope to gain clarity on by the time the conference concludes: How am I going to get my office locations on Google Maps? What’s the easiest way to build hundreds of citations automatically? What systems can I create from some of the most reliable automation software out there?
Marketing conferences accomplish different goals for different people. Business owners, marketing directors, consultants and office managers all find wisdom from unrelated speakers and topics. The best way to answer whether a marketing conference is worth it is to identify a handful of pros and cons that arose from the conferences I have attended and for you to decide how much weight each one carries.
Con: They’re relatively expensive.
I say that conferences are “relatively expensive” because alternative marketing mastermind groups are almost like retreats with a few dozen people and a handful of gurus and experts, and can run in the thousands. And while the conference attempts to cover absolutely everything you need under its roof, like breakfast/lunch and snacks in between, you’ll be footing your own dinner and any lodging for the duration of the conference.
Most conferences I’ve attended have been in the $800 to $1,200 range (and usually after using a promo code). Though much of the information you’ll pick up could be considered “invaluable,” I believe that there are times when conference costs are needlessly inflated. I’ve been to conferences that have had copious high-end snacks and drinks provided around the clock, and one that had an absolutely ridiculous flash mob in the middle of its networking happy hour. I think that some conference organizers promote to the concept of “we’ll have a beautiful venue exclusively to ourselves with unlimited food and drink for three hours” as a further selling point to attract participants.
Con: There’s plenty of self-importance.
Speakers tend to have a bad habit of talking about how great they are. Nearly every other speaker I’ve seen has not been able to simply review marketing case studies and go through their deck. The faults of others’ marketing acumens are often identified to levitate the stature of the speaker. Awards and accomplishments needlessly aggrandize when their presence on the stage is enough to precede them; I personally take it that they’re there for a reason already.
There was a speaker I saw recently who was setting up a potentially interesting story about how he became the head of SEO for a big company, which was in turn squandered by immediately meandering into how she was “the chosen one” to correct all the awful SEO practices that had been in place. Unfortunately, this idea overwhelmed the remainder of the presentation that was supposed to be about using SEO to grow your business.