When I first learned the title of the conference being developed by the crew over at Search Engine Guide I thought, “Awe, how cute. It fits the puppy theme.” Even as I was tapped to be a presenter I knew that Unleashed was going to be different. After all, I had an hour and 15 minute session all to myself. Apparently someone thought more highly of me than they ought! But I didn’t fully understand how different Unleashed would really be from the norm of search engine marketing conferences.
First of all kudos goes out to Jennifer Laycock, Rachel Phillips, Vickie Evans and Robert Clough (who’s sole job was to stand around and look pretty. He failed.) who were all key to making Unleashed happen. Their dedication to every last detail created one of the best industry conferences I’ve ever attended. Everything from the pre-event networking, through to the very last session went off seemingly without a hitch.
The only complaint I recall hearing was “I can’t decide which session to attend, I want to see them both.” That’s not a bad problem to have.
I’m not a natural at networking and socializing, but Jennifer and crew made it easy starting with a pre-Unleashed speed networking event. This gave attendees and speakers an opportunity to mix, mingle and get to know each other.
This really set the tone for the rest of the event. It was important to the Unleashed crew that the speakers not be set aside in a speakers room, out of reach of the attendees. They wanted to make sure all speakers were accessible whenever sessions were out on break. This opened the door to ensuring that we didn’t all just clique together, creating a wall of separation between us and the attendees.
In fact, one of the things that really made unleashed great is that the speakers really acted no different from the paid attendees. All were just as eager to sit in on sessions and learn from the other speakers, not just to give a presentation and then run off. Speaker or attendee, we were all there really to learn from each other, build relationships and make friends.
The first morning of the event I gave my presentation on website architecture. I covered three main points: Domain & URL Structure, Page Structure and Link Structure. I started to run out of time at the end and had to blaze through about the last 10 slides but overall I think the presentation went great. I honestly feel that website architecture is all pretty basic stuff but some said they felt some parts were too advanced for them. I’ll remember to add a little more explanation to some parts in the future.
After my presentation I stepped outside with the lovely Abby Prince of Web Pro News for an interview.
On the second day I was on two site review panels. The first panel I reviewed with Wendy Piersall. She’s amazing at being able to look at a site and hit on the key points that need to be addressed. The second panel I shared the stage with Sage Lewis. If you ever need a dose of energy, spend five minutes with Sage. That’ll give you what you need to get through the day!
One of the best things about this event was the setting. Yeah, it could have been held in some corporate-y networking center, but instead they chose a very cozy, down to earth location that really helped foster the relationship building atmosphere. The conference center was a full-size replica of the Alamo. The grounds continued the theme with old-west saloons and log cabins along with a tennis courts, a rec center (where Team PPM ruled the pool table!) and a mini chapel.
The setting really allowed all of us to hang out together in a comfortable, unassuming environment. I walked away with more friends than any other conference.
Never gonna stop me. Never gonna stop
“Scream if you want it, because I want more!”
Ok, I’m not a big Rob Zombi fan, but I do love that song. And I just happened to be listening to it as I type this up. But it accurately reflects how I feel about Unleashed. Yeah, it’s really not just a clever name that fit the puppy theme. It’s really how I feel after two days of education, socialization and developing lasting relationships. Sure, you can go to the big conferences and walk away with a head full of information. But if you want something that you’ll get that plus a whole lot more then you need to be Unleashed from the other corporate conferences.
Unleashed was such a success that they are already planning the 2009 event. If you missed it this time, don’t let it pass by again. Dollar for dollar, Small Business Marketing Unleashed provided the greatest return of any conference I’ve attended. Now that’s enough to make you feel, well, unleashed. Don’t believe me? Check out these photos.