This is an event review by David Iwanow from Search Marketing Expo in Sydney – an event about all things search that took place a few weeks ago. 

Having spent most of last week sitting in the Sofitel at SMX Sydney learning about what is changing or maturing in digital marketing, I had a few insights on what is working and what is not. The conference had a large number of international speakers from the US, which is great as any changes in social, SEO or PPC are first launched overseas – sometimes a few years before we see them in Australia. I did notice how Australian conferences/events are different to similar events overseas and here are some insights on what I saw.

Social Sharing

People like short hashtags and consistency, the official conference hashtag for Twitter was #omxsydney12 but the one that I found easily to use and more popular was the #SMX one. Compared to US/UK conferences/events, I’ve found the social activity is much lower in Australia and often non-existent during smaller events.

So the tip is to make sure your hashtags are short and easy to remember but also that they are regularly promoted between speakers and during the conference venue to increase attendee adoption of them. Also look at encouraging attendees via rewards. This could be for those who tweeted the most conference images, uploaded the most videos or became Foursquare mayor of the conference venue during the week. You want as much social activity as possible happening during your conferences/events so people know how much they missed out on by not being there.

Social Checkins

The conference session was filled with a number of industry people who are heavy users of Foursquare and Facebook Places but found a very small percentage of attendees were using these platforms regularly. There is also lower use of social checkins by international speakers who may not see the data roaming charges of $5/MB as worth it. The insight is to encourage attendees to use social checkin services and offer rewards as it spreads the reach of your conference/event but also encourages networking outside of official events during the conference.

WiFi Access

This is something about a large number of power boards that is expected by attendees – with SMX also having little or no issues with WiFi access at the venue. The only item learnt was that some venues need to examine how they provide access as bandwidth can be quickly consumed by a room full of people sharing and broadcasting via multiple social platforms. The insight is to ensure your conference/event venue has enough capacity to deal with every attendee being on more than one device at a time, the one area not to cut corners is WiFi if you want attendees to stay happy.

Networking Events

The best insights and discussions often happen once the day has ended over a cold beer when both the attendees and presenters have a chance to unwind and can have more off the record discussions. There is less of a concern that every statement will be instantly tweeted or blogged when the person they are speaking to has a drink in one hand and a handful of chips in the other. If you are attending conferences you need to ensure that you make time to visit one or two of the after-hours networking events if you want to get the most out of your time there. There also needs to be a suitable mix of events that are suitable for attendees who are not drinking but also those who like to let their hair down and run wild.

Presentation Decks

The key part is that most presenters are more willing to share links to their slide decks but you also want to ensure you are ready to jot down notes as some of the best insights come from responses to audience questions or jabs back at other speakers. There are an increasing number of presenters using platforms like SlideShare but still a majority of them still only share links to their decks on their personal websites.

Be Positive and Introduce Others

The biggest insight I got this time was just how many people may not know each other just because you have connections in common. Take a few minutes out to make sure that you introduce people when you are hanging with but also take an extra step and make some one-on-one introductions to key people within the industry that should know each other. I believe the days of hoarding connections at conferences and not disclosing how you know each other is slowing dying off as people can easily see your social connections and there is more value in making stronger connections.

Promotion of Events/Conferences

No matter what you budget is there are always people in your target market who managed to miss the news or fail to book far enough ahead so they are able to take time away from work to attend. The key insight here is to encourage organisers of local meetup groups, industry evangelists and strong networkers to help you promote the upcoming events. The benefit is personal referrals and recommendations to attend an event hold much more weight than a bulk email newsletter broadcast out to your previous attendees.

Stay on Top of Events

There are a number of easy ways to keep ahead of trends such as subscribing to The Fetch, Twitter Hashtags, Linkedin Groups and dynamic options like a Twitter list of popular speakers in your industry. So if you are attending or planning an upcoming conference, I hope this list gives you some insights on how to make sure it’s a success and the attendees get the most out of it. Also if you are attending a conference take a few minutes out to tweet/share something of insight from the conference as a thank you for all their hardwork that went into delivering the conference.

About our Ambassador:  About our Ambassador David Iwanow: David can be found working as a SEO Product Manager for and in Amsterdam. He is an avid traveler and publishes on TravelNetwork but he is also one of the folks behind the monthly SEO Meetups, which have almost 2,000 members across Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide. You can also find him on TwitterFacebook and Google+.