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A Newbie’s First Time At Pubcon

Over the past couple years, I have notice somewhat of a “holy migration” for search marketers to a few select conferences around the world. Each time I get the itch to be part of it. But until this past week, I just sat on the sidelines and watched the live blog + twitter stream from my office, in my underwear, alone.

This time around, I decided to take the plunge, and I bought a pass to Pubcon very last minute. This is my story, and why I will be a conference regular….if my wallet can sustain it!

1. The Issue

Some people are lucky enough to have bosses who pay for you to go to conferences. A majority of marketers are in the situation that if they are going to go, they are going to pay. Pricing can range on conferences, but the big dogs pass prices can be over the $1000 mark (not including hotel, flight, “good” food, transport, and medicine of some sort (explained later).  You might get the super-early-bird-who-got-the-worm-while-it-was-still-underground-special, but still you are going to be paying big bucks. This has been the deterrent for me, and probably most others who don’t hit the major conference network. Luckily, due to some last minute decision making, a nudge from a friend, an extremely large project that came on board, and the fact that my son was sick, I decided to pay the price and go to Pubcon Las Vegas.

2. The Experience

The magic of conferences don’t take place in a session, panel, or keynote that I have followed closely on twitter from times past. The real experience is in a hallway at registration, at a lunch table after long lines, in a stretch limousine on the strip, and in a lounge at 2 a.m. It’s the conversations and friendships made that makes these experiences priceless. Here are a few examples…

3. Lunch with Arnie Kuenn

Pubcon had some tables set up with certain discussions and I happened to run into Arnie of talking about link building. It wasn’t in front of a live blog/tweeting audience so the conversation could be much more detailed, opinionated and ultimately more beneficial.

4. Waiting endlessly in the food line with Jon Henshaw of Raven tools.

One good thing came out of long lines and that was a chance to bump shoulders with Jon and listen to his advice about not giving up in failed ventures and go until something sticks. That something for him is a toolset that I use, and happened to be the mega sponsor of Pubcon. He was extremely down to earth and the conversation ultimately lead to lunch with Been Cook, and Oliver Amar. Both funny dudes that were responsible for me missing a couple of sessions for much better conversation.

5.  Limo and a dinner with Dave Synder, Greg Boser, and Joanna Batten.

This was by far the highlight of the trip. Dave ran somewhat of a competition on his blog to meet new conference goers. We were picked up in a limo and went to Cafe Martorano’s at the Rio for meetballs. While the food was excellent, I can not craft a word in the english language that describes how cool it was to get advice, and hear stories from a couple of  the search industry’s most respected. Greg talked alot about the beginning days in search, and how everyone shot emails around helping each other learn and bouncing ideas off eachother. It reminded me so much of the local search industry it’s not even funny. Dave talked about product launch do’s and dont’s and with their recent public beta of Copypress for content creation and I think he has a good idea or two about it.

6. Hanging with the crew.

Danille Cumone of who was the first person I met at Pubcon, a fellow meatball dinner, and an all around awesome rep did a great job of getting a group of newbie’s together and making dinner plans and late night lounge talk. There was a nice little group of us that had a lot in common, and a lot not, that had a blast talking until the wee hours of the morning every single night.

7. The Learning

There were some great sessions, when I say great…I mean how in the hell do you get those quality people on the stage at the same time great. But, most importantly I learned that a conference is about connections. It is about veterans not being exclusive and paying forward time, knowledge, and friendship to the next generation and to each other. It is about trying to figure out if people look like there twitter handles, and having one thing in common for the course of a few days….a laugh.