Confessions of a Conference Goer: What Hit (and Missed) at IMS San Francisco
After a wonderfully productive week in San Francisco to play tourist, visit with a couple of corporate marketers, and attend and speak at the Inbound Marketing Summit (IMS), the five hour flight east presented an opportunity to recharge and reflect.
Here’s my unabashed view of the conference:
Content is the Core
Profile industry speakers and panelists to address timely and meaningful topics attract high quality attendees. This, in turn, sells exhibitors and sponsors which then creates a well rounded community at the event.
IMS did well to recruit speakers with diverse perspectives. Analysts typically draw because of their focus on market defining trends and experience speaking to groups.
Digital Clarity Group’s Robert Rose delivered on that expectation with an insightful presentation entitled “Transforming B2B Marketing.” Rose emphasized three issues that are very much top of mind with chief marketing officers:
-Content and its role as a centralizing force for an organization’s external communications
-Context and the need to craft messaging based on industry trends
-Chaos and the requirement to invest a percentage of budget on innovative endeavors
Panel discussions with a healthy dash of tension also prove to be constructive. A few of the IMS sessions were merely a hollow chorus of consensus, which left much of the audience thumbing their smart phones.
An exception was the “State of Inbound Marketing” that featured an attention grabbing debate between Patrick Cahill from Beep! Directed Voice Mail and Kelly Jo Horton of Marketo about the return on investment from marketing programs. Kelly Jo stands in the brand court with a commitment to story telling, and fostering emotional bonds with customers and prospects.
In comparison, Patrick shares my more pragmatic opinion that the majority of marketing initiatives must be evaluated by their contribution to lead generation, lead nurturing and/or deal capture.
The incorporation of video into a presentation by Jason Thiebault of Limelight Networks also proved to be a winner. Appropriately called “Why Video is the Future of Marketing Content,” Thiebault highlighted each best practice with a real-world example pulled off the servers of YouTube.
Networking at Events, On-Premise and Online
Like most industry conferences, IMS effectively extended the relationship building return for attendees from solely the venue to a myriad of online environments. During the keynotes and panel presentations, there was a healthy Twitter exchange, followed by a flurry of new LinkedIn connections.
Plus, there was ample time allocated in the agenda for informal discussions and chatter among participants. Personally, it afforded me the opportunity to seek out a group of executive level business developers who I had an interest in speaking with about potential teaming.
So interesting how a few years ago being on your phone/computer during a conference would be rude. Now it shows “engagement” #IMS13
— Susan Lockwood (@slockwood270) July 30, 2013
Venue and Food Fall Flat
While San Francisco is a magnificent city with an extensive portfolio of top-drawer hotels and meeting facilities, IMS was inexcusably housed in the drab and hard to find Fort Mason Center. My late afternoon ritual was a time consuming search for a cab to shuttle me back to my hotel, which was situated in a more central part of the city.
The food and drink offerings at the conference were equally deplorable with a limited supply of beverages and snacks during the sessions. This disappointment was topped off by the arrival of a single food truck for lunch each day, producing a 30 minute long line of guests salivating for mediocre taco.
Perhaps I have grown spoiled by the royal accommodations at GetWellNetwork’s GetConnected conference and Polycom’s global partner summit, yet jetting 3,000 miles for a lukewarm bottle of water and cereal bar (yes…that was all that was offered in the afternoon) is unacceptable.
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