Biz Tips: What I want to get out of my first marketing conference

Biz Tips: What I want to get out of my first marketing conference


What I want to get out of my first marketing conference

Planning my goals for #HeroConf

Photo by Daniele Riggi on Unsplash

It has now been about six and a half years since I had my career change from academic science. The majority of my working days since have been spent as a marketer, first in content and SEO, then into PPC, attribution modelling and analytics across a range of channels. However, this article isn’t about my background. It’s about how, after several years in the industry, I’m about to attend my first marketing conference. And, if I’m honest with myself, at the point when I registered, I wasn’t exactly sure what I was hoping to get out of it.

As a scientist, I went to — and presented at — quite a lot of conferences and I usually knew what I wanted to come home with, but this seems a bit bit different. At a scientific conference, there are usually large poster sessions that give more people a chance to present their work. This not only allows more people to feel as though they are an ‘active’ participant in the conference, but also provides an excellent environment for meeting new people and building new professional relationships.

For adventures from the marketing/data science junction, follow Chris on Twitter.

Without a forum like this, will it be harder to initiate conversations? Will the fact that attendees will be private sector rather than academic limit their ability to talk freely about their work and the techniques they use?

And what about the talks themselves? I consider myself a very data-driven marketer and, looking at the schedule, there doesn’t seem to be that much in the way of presentations that are going to improve my R coding, advance my statistical skills, or give me a new list of APIs to query to augment my datasets.

But then, why should there be? Ultimately, this is a PPC conference, while there are a few talks about machine learning (of course), it’s unlikely to be the sort of conference that has in-depth sessions on advanced data manipulation with dplyr or how to code an automated reporting stack using Python.

I had been feeling that I would end up as a mindless consumer of the presentations, simply sitting at my desk and making a few notes, hopefully finding a couple of good nuggets that I could write down and take home to my own desk. But that’s not really the most empowered way to go take advantage of this opportunity, is it?

Why was I approaching this in such a passive way? It’s not how I usually behave. I think the answer was in the goals, or lack thereof. When I started an experiment at the lab bench, I was actively testing a hypothesis; when I stepped onto the rugby pitch, I knew exactly what my goals were; when I start a marketing campaign or the analysis of a dataset, I know what I want to achieve. Why should this be any different?

On that basis, I took a few moments to think about what I wanted to take away from this conference, and put together a short, realistic set of goals: the five things I want to take home from HeroConf:

1- Learn three new things

Just three. Not too few, but a realistic number. These could be anything, from someone in a similar vertical achieving results on a network we’ve not thought about using, to a feature hidden deep inside Google Ads that, as yet, has remained untouched.

The only stipulation with these three new things is that they have to be actionable. If I want what I’ve learned to count as one of the three, it needs to be something I can take home and, if not put into practice, then discuss with the team and come up with a list of defined reasons as to why it’s not right for us at this time.

2- Meet one new person

As much a personal motivation as it is a professional one. I’ve never been the most socially outgoing of people, so networking doesn’t come naturally to me. That’s one of the things that was so great about poster presentation sessions, they provided a natural way to start talking to someone.

So, whether it’s someone sat next to me during a session or — if I’m really pushing myself! — someone at the social evening who also looks like they’re on their own, I’ll say hello and have a chat. Who knows what techniques I might learn or what sort of perspective on what I’m doing they might have?

3- Take back two things I can apply in my own work

This one looks a bit like the learn three new things task, and it sort of is, but this one is more about me, and it’s perhaps less prescriptive and more philosophical.

This one doesn’t have to be about learning anything new, it simply be that, with a couple of days away from the office after six months into my new position, I get a chance to think about what I’m doing, my approach and my workflows, and reflect about how I can do it better. It might be something someone says in a talk, it might come up in conversation, or it might just pop into my head on the train on the way home, but it will make me think, and improve what I do or how I do it.

4- Find out what other marketers want to do with data

I like working with data, and I am pretty passionate in, where possible, using data to make decisions. Earlier this year, I started writing a package for R to develop a suite of easy-to-use functions to help marketers gain insight into their data. The project has been on a bit of a hiatus as I try to find out more about the types of data analysis work marketers want to do.

With so many PPC marketers in one room, HeroConf is the ideal opportunity to speak to some marketers who work with the same sort of datasets as I do, find out their backgrounds and see what they’d want in a new data analytics product.

Inform the product — can you spare a couple of minutes to help inform a new data-analytics product for marketers?

5- Come away feeling inspired to submit a talk for next year

I’ve given a couple of data-in-marketing talks in the past year, and I’ve enjoyed both of them. Two very different audience, the first a lecture hall full of marketing undergraduates, the second a lecture hall full of R-experts. I wasn’t mercilessly heckled throughout and, not only did I enjoy the experiences, I always find I learn quite a bit in the process of putting a talk together.

So, I want to get enough out of this conference and feel suitably inspired and motivated to go back next year as a speaker. I think I can put together a talk on marketing data science that is accessible, thought-provoking and actionable, and hopefully educate myself in the process, whether that’s from writing the presentation in the first place, or being forced to really think about things in response to a question.

Ready for #HeroConf2018

Now that I have a short list of realistically achievable objectives, I’m feeling a lot more prepared for the conference; I know what I’m there to do. My giving myself a list of tasks, I’ve turned my role from a passive consumer of information, to an active participant in the conference.

Well alright, I think I’m about ready to go now.

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