This week’s PPC Chat topic was PPC Conferences. As usual, it was a great conversation about a fun topic. Take a look at the streamcap if you missed it.
The discussion got me thinking about conferences in general. In fact, I’ve been waxing nostalgic.
In another lifetime, before Google existed, I did traditional marketing. As part of that job, I had to go to several conferences and trade shows.
I hated it.
Even when I traveled to trade shows with coworkers (which helped somewhat), the whole process was a huge chore. All the strangers, all the small talk with people, all the “being on” all the time, all the “networking” just plain wore me out. Believe it or not, I’m an introvert, and that much contact with people I didn’t know literally exhausted me. I dreaded going to these shows.
But once I started doing search, it all changed.
I still vividly remember my first PPC conference, which was SES – in Boston in 2003 (yes, this was before SES moved to the Big Apple). I had been doing search for about a year, and had been participating in a lot of the forums, which were kind of the predecessor to social media and PPC Chat. I had gotten to know (online, at least) several key players in the marketplace at that time; in fact, we had hired one or two of them as consultants, and I had read every e-book I could get my hands on in my thirst for knowledge.
Well, I couldn’t wait to go to SES. It was a total 180 from the feeling I had before the other conferences I had gone to in my career. I knew that the movers and shakers were speaking, and I was hoping to meet some of them. I was nearly giddy with excitement.
Needless to say, after that conference, I was hooked. Back then there was no SMX or HeroConf; and Pubcon was just a small informal gathering of SEOs. SES, programmed at that time by Danny Sullivan, was the only game in town. Following that first show, I started making annual SES pilgrimages.
In the early days when I was still learning, I’d be the first one to raise my hand during the Q&A in each session I attended. I figured this was the cheapest way to get advice from the biggest experts in the field, and I was right. I always came back with takeaways that ended up boosting our profits substantially. I also swarmed the podium at the end of each session to try to meet the people I’d chatted with in the forums live and in person. I would never have done either of these things at any of the conferences I’d attended in the past. I probably annoyed the heck out of the other attendees (and some of the speakers too!), but I didn’t care.
Little did I know that one day, the roles would be reversed and I’d be the one on the speaker podium. I’ve found that I actually love speaking about search – it’s become a passion of mine. People always ask how I get past my nerves, and my honest answer is that I really don’t get nervous. I’m just so excited to talk about the career that I love so much.
So how did I go from someone who dreaded conferences to one who can’t wait for the next one?
I believe that when you finally find out what you were put on this earth to do, you’ll discover that your job doesn’t feel like work. That’s how it’s been for me. It was really my passion for the craft and the industry that spurred me to ask all those questions and stalk all those speakers back in the day. My thirst for knowledge far outweighed any shyness or nerves.
Do I still get exhausted with all that meeting and greeting? I do, but not until I get back home. While I’m actually at a conference, I’m loving every minute of it, even meeting all the strangers!
And do you know what the best part is? It’s the fact that it’s come full circle. I’m now able to help others learn about search, just like I learned from some of the best when I was new. There is nothing more rewarding than the look on someone’s face when they “get it” for the first time. There’s nothing like getting emails or tweets from people who enjoyed one of my sessions. And there’s nothing like going to a conference like HeroConf and feeling like I’ve gone to a class reunion, even though I haven’t met most of the attendees in real life. We all know each other already.
Can you name a single industry that’s this cool? I can’t!