1. Wear comfortable shoes. I know, I know, this sounds suspiciously like the classic advice, "Wear sunscreen." But you don't need to wear sunscreen inside the Business Design Centre in Islington or the Hilton New York. But you do need to wear comfortable shoes. The photo to the left shows Mona Elesseily, Director of Marketing Strategy at Page Zero Media, comparing her comfortable shoes with mine at SES New York 2008. And at some point during your first SES conference, you'll be glad that you're wearing comfortable shoes, too.
2. Prepare a battle plan. Winston Churchill once said, "Plans are of little importance, but planning is essential." So, study the conference agendia for SES London or the conference agenda for SES New York and prepare your plan of attack. Yes, yes, you can change your plans after to get to the event. But, you will make smarter choices if you know the terrain. For example, you might plan to attend all of the sessions in the Search Fundamentals track. But you might meet one of the speakers during the networking lunch in the expo hall and decide to sit in on his or her session instead.
3. Look for red ribbons. It's easy to spot the speakers at SES. They will be wearing red ribbons on their name badge. Though it's been said many times and many ways, you can't buy your way into an SES speaking role. So, you can ask speakers questions and expect to get past the vendor hype and industry spin and learn the unvarnished truth (warts and all!).
4. Ask compelling questions. You can learn a lot by listening to the speakers at SES, but you will learn even more by asking them compelling questions. If you want a sample of just how well this works, then register for the SES Webcast with Avinash Kaushik today, January 12, 2010, at 6 p.m. GMT, 1 p.m. EST, or 10 a.m. PST. Kaushik, the Analytics Evangelist for Google, will be a keynote speaker at both SES London and SES New York. Note that he'll be giving out six free copies of his new book, "Web Analytics 2.0," to the most compelling questions fielded during the webcast!
5. Bring business cards. Yes, yes, you'll want your business cards handy when you network with the speakers at SES. But, you'll also want to bring your business cards with you to the clinics in the Clinic Track on Day 3 of both SES London and SES New York. If you give your business card to the moderator at the beginning of the session, then there's a good chance that the panel of experts will review your website or examine your search campaign during these interactive sessions.
6. Walk the floor. According to Tradeshow Week research, the top reasons for attending conventions and trade shows are to "keep up-to-date on trends and issues" followed closely by "see new products." The conference sessions at Search Engine Strategies will enable you to keep up-to-date on trends and issues. To see new products, you will want to walk the floor of the expo hall. The exhibitors will be happy to demo their new products. And some of the goodies and tchotchkes are worth picking up, too.
7. Get into training? One of the options you'll want to consider is signing up for the training workshops held the day before or the day after the SES conference. These workshops cover the best practices and provide the in-depth training needed to take your search engine marketing skills to the next level and improve your business results. The small class setting also ensures that your instructor is accessible for informal one-on-one or small group discussions. But there is an extra cost. Get it? Got it? Good.
8. See around corners. There are three concurrent conference tracks at SES London and five as SES New York. So, you can't attend every session. But there are ways to see around corners and over walls. Reporters and bloggers will be covering many of the sessions, so check the SES blog for links to their articles and posts, or read my take on the top stories for each day of the event in the Search Engine Watch Blog. You can also visit SESConferenceSeries' photostream on Flickr or SESConferenceExpo's channel on Youtube. Finally, presentations will be available for download by SES delegates after the conference. Although there's no substitute for attending a session, these periscopes will help you see some of the conference sessions that you missed.
9. Join the community. Another way to see around corners and over walls is to join the SES community. You can subscribe to SESConferenceExpo's Channel on YouTube. You can join the Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo Group on LinkedIn. You can connect with Search Engine Strategies & Expo on Facebook. You can follow SESConf on Twitter. Take your pick.
10. Lather, rise, repeat? Sooner or later in the constantly changing search industry, you'll realize that you need to come back to another Search Engine Strategies Conference & Expo in order to "keep up-to-date on trends and issues" and "see new products." At SES Chicago 2009, Kathryn Joy of the New England Journal of Medicine said, "If you miss a year or two you find (like) I did that I had a lot to catch up on." So, don't be surprised if the instructions on SES Magazine say: Lather, rise, repeat.
I should disclose that Search Engine Strategies is a client of my agency. But trust me on the comfortable shoes.