Last week I had the opportunity and pleasure to attend Pubcon Las Vegas 2011 through my full time position at Zacuto USA, and I must say that it was the best year yet for me for several different reasons that go beyond just the great knowledge that goes on in the sessions.
While I have been to various conferences throughout the years (this is my 3rd Pubcon), this one I made a promise to myself to be much more social oriented in getting out there and networking. Most people will say that is the primary benefit of going to these conferences, but I will admit that in the past I was reluctant to engage in a lot of the social activities. I think this was based on the thinking that most of the people there all knew each other already and it was awkward for me to interrupt or approach groups where I knew no one (probably also a side effect of my time in corporate IT where I would be locked in a server room with only 1 or 2 other admins).
To help overcome this fear, I started engaging those in the industry more on Twitter earlier in the year, kind of a pregame to the conference. While no substitution for in-person interaction, it would allow me to at least go into situations where I could feel that people would have some vague notion of who I was, which as it turns out was all I needed to push me forward into introducing myself more. Though I will admit that I still find it hard to walk up to someone like Graywolf or Joe Hall, just because usually they already have a crowd around them and I don’t want to interrupt. I think that I had a great success in social this Pubcon and I got to interact with a large number of great people in different events, and because of this not only did I learn more, I enjoyed this Pubcon much more than the others I have attended.
I won’t go into recaps of specific Pubcon sessions, you can find some superior live blogging of the events by Ryan Jones or Outspoken Media (scroll to bottom), but I can tell you some very knowledgeable speakers got up and put out some good info if you pay attention. You can also find a compilation of tweets by Click2Rank that give good bite sized info. I think my biggest gripe is that there seems to be a lot of tracks of sessions and I think some of it gets watered down. I know some sessions seemed awfully sparsely populated, yet some of the best speakers were put into competitive time slots. I hope that Brett and the Pubcon team take a look at the attendance data for the sessions and adjust accordingly.
If I had to pick one speaker that I got the most out of, it was Greg Boser from Blue Glass, he has a distinct way of putting things out there that is straight forward, and he doesn’t push a company or agenda beyond the way he presents his data in a competent demeanor. I had to miss one of his sessions because a work emergency came up that pulled me back to my laptop at the hotel, but if not for that I would have said I was most of the topics he was presenting on. A close second is going out to Carolyn Shelby, she is scary smart & does a great job of not only presenting information but getting you to think outside the box.
Carolyn Shelby & Greg Boser
If you are ever at a conference and see either of their names on the schedule I would highly recommend attending their sessions.
There are a ton of events that go on after hours at most conferences, and in the past I would avoid them like the plague. This time I wanted it to be different, so I made an effort and it was well worth it. I want to single out two specific ones though because of how great they were.
Raven Tools’ Pubcon Poker Invitational
If you are in the SEO/SMM space and you don’t know who Raven Tools are then you are not paying attention. These guys kill it on the tool side, and I would definitely recommend them, we do use them at Zacuto. I found out that Raven was throwing an invite only poker tournament at Pubcon thanks to an errant tweet from my friend Ryan Jones, so I immediately hit up Arienne Holland to see if I could finagle a seat out of her, and she was nice enough to extend one to me.
The event was held at the MGM Poker room and you could tell from the start it was going to be a fun night, as the crowd was playful and the tables were always fun. I think I went through about 4 table changes and I can honestly say there was never a bad time at any of them (Beyond some bad beats of course).
Photo Credit: Raven
As people got knocked out they hung out and cheered the rest on, it was a nice spirit going on in the poker room and Raven was nice enough to provide drinks in the attached bar to help ease the sting of any beats. I was surprised how fast we got down to the final table, and eventually because of the technicality of the fact out of the last four players, two of them were Raven employees who bowed out, it was down to Dawn Wentzell & myself.
Photo Credit: Michael Dorausch
After just one hand I pushed all in and won the tournament for the $1000 prize, with Dawn taking home 2nd place for $250. I just want to thank Arienne and the rest of the folks at Raven for putting this together, and also a big hand for the players who made it a great time win or lose.
You can see more pictures and tweets from the tournament on Storify put together by RavenCourtney.
Photo Credit: Matt Siltala
Again a hat tip to twitter for making me aware of this great event, when Alan Bleiweiss tweeted out that he was making a list for a dinner at Pubcon. In past years, I would have avoided events like these, but in my making the most of Pubcon I signed up right away, and I am glad I did because the interest was large for this event and Alan eventually had to cap it due to seating limits.
Dinner was at Pampas Brazilian Grille in Planet Hollywood “Magnificent Mile” area, and was everything you could hope for in an event this size. Great food and great people to hang out with, I was sitting with Dave Roher, Carolyn Shelby, Tony Verre, & Charity Verre at our end of the table. I had never been to a Brazilian Grille before and didn’t know the system, but I can tell you I’m kind of hooked on it, and the ones in Chicago will definitely be getting some business from me. The food was terrific and it just kept coming out and I don’t think I had a bad piece of meat at all.
It was a full house!
Photo Credit: Dana Lookadoo – Yo! Yo! SEO
The only problem with so many people attending it was hard to meet everyone I wanted to, but I guess that leaves me with more opportunities at the next conference. Everyone I did talk to was friendly and it’s nice to have common interests with the people your out with. Honestly my local group of friends & family have no clue to what I really do, so having that shared experience makes it much easier to engage in conversations then I anticipated. The night want by way too fast, but I’ll have that great swag coffee mug to remember it by over the Chicago winter.
Alan did a terrific job of pulling everything together, along with the sponsors. For a full list visit #EpicDinnerVegas page on Alan’s site.
As I said in the past I had attended Pubcon and hit all the sessions but did very little social networking, I found by making that extra effort and getting out there I made the experience much more in depth and something that will extend beyond just 3 days in Vegas by keeping up those relationships I started via Twitter/Facebook/G+. If your going to spend the time & money to go to Pubcon, or any other convention, then don’t be off put by the groups that have known each other for awhile, take it as encouragement that this is a great group of people that are worth introducing yourself to.