Who wouldn't want to go to Chicago in early December for SES Chicago 2008? The Bears fans are usually happy and friendly (depending on what you wear), the air is cold, and the crisp wind reminds you of the city's famous moniker.
For marketers who are just getting into search and seasoned veterans alike, the Chicago Hilton will host dozens of leading SEM, analytics, and other SEM-related experts to learn from and connect with.
What makes SES Chicago stand out from its bigger siblings, SES New York and SES San Jose, is precisely that level of access to industry experts. Without many of the usual search engine-hosted parties to "get in the way," SES Chicago offers greater opportunity for attendees to actually find the speakers outside of the session halls and engage in conversation. Additionally, the expo hall usually has a nice mix of new exhibitors and veteran companies showcasing new and updated software and services.
Typically, Chicago ends up having one major party: Webmasterradio.fm's Search Bash on Wednesday night. That leaves Monday, Tuesday, and (for some) Thursday to set up dinners with networking acquaintances or business partnership prospects.
I recommend keeping your schedule as open as possible to capitalize on those hallway and expo hall meetings, and to invite or be invited to dinner. Of course, you can also go to dinner on Wednesday prior to Search Bash, in order to get a nice "base layer."
One of the constants over the past three or four years has been a club called B.L.U.E.S. Right across the street from the well-known Kingston Mines on North Halsted, B.L.U.E.S. offers amazing guitar music, fun bartenders, and a general "I'm in laid-back Chicago" kind of feeling. Hopefully, a few of the smaller vendors will get together a throw a party there one night, and it will be well worth the 20-minute cab ride each way.
Of course, Search Engine Watch Forums typically assigns a party coordinator to keep track of things like the lovely Becky Ryan did for SES San Jose. Ideally, she will start something up later this month, but again, don't expect the Chicago list to be as long as the San Jose agenda.
I suppose I should have started with this, since the conference is far more important than the networking (deadpan). I'm very excited about the content on the agenda for SES Chicago 2008.
The show leads off with a bang with Monday keynote speaker Lawrence Lessig. As noted in his bio, "Professor Lessig teaches and writes in the areas of constitutional law, contracts, and the law of cyberspace." He will speak towards recent trends towards "extremism" in copywriting laws, and part of the panel's topic is "in a hybrid economy."
Ideally, many of the speakers in December will pause to focus on if or how things have changed during the economic downturn. During a recent SEMPO board of directors meeting, this was an important discussion that tied in nicely with the organization's renewed focus toward the individual.
In these tough times, many people are worried about which companies will stand and which will fall. Right now there are many banks failing and/or merging with larger banks. Could the search industry be next?
I've been invited to speak on two panels and moderate one. The speaker panels are very exciting to me.
I'm being "reunited" with the Advanced Linking panel that I spoke on for a few shows starting in 2005. Over the past year or so at Brulant/Rosetta, I've managed some excellent link developers and have experimented with a variety of internal linking techniques, which I plan to discuss at this session.
Additionally, I'll present during a session discussing SEO for eCommerce platforms, which is becoming more important as large-scale retailers begin to understand the value that additional SEO brings to them.
I'm moderating a fun panel, How to Speak Geek: Working Collaboratively With Your IT Department to Get Stuff Done. This should certainly be very educational and provide a nice entrance strategy for marketers thinking of approaching their IT teams and advocating needed structural changes in the name of optimization.
My boss, Paul Elliott, will be on a star-studded Monday panel that covers the topic of "Why Does Search Get all the Credit?" This is a very important topic, especially in a slower economy, as it should help guide marketers to better allocation and attribute conversion "assists" to some marketing tools in jeopardy of losing budget, such as display advertising or non-brand-focused search campaigns.
Of course, Frank will be there and I know he always enjoys the Chicago Hilton and the Irish bar around the corner...
Frank Watson Fires Back
The Chicago event has always been a good one. It's smaller than the New York or San Jose conferences, is a lot more intimate, and interaction between speakers and attendees is more prevalent.
I highly recommend this one. The weather, while often cold, actually creates more opportunity for attendees to meet the speakers at Kitty O'Shea's -- the popular hotel bar. So make sure you stop in and strike up a conversation. I've made many new friends at this event.
Join us for Search Engine Strategies Chicago December 8-12 at the Chicago Hilton. The only major search marketing conference and expo in the Midwest will be packed with 60-plus sessions, multiple keynotes and Orion Strategy sessions, exhibitors, networking events, and more.