Often times people argue that PPC conferences are too expensive to attend, and the return is not worth the investment. Between the price of admission, travel, and hotel, costs for just one employee can be thousands. Additionally, the presentations are usually posted to SlideShare and are recapped by search engine news sites. While I appreciate this thinking, I disagree with it.

To me, the main point of attending a conference is to interact with others in your industry. That includes conversation and listening to presentations. Your peers are the ones from whom you will learn the most. Speaker or not, most conference attendees have unique perspectives worthy of sharing. In fact, some of my greatest learning initiatives came from conversations I had with my peers.

Real Takeaways

At the first Hero Conf in 2012 I had lunch with James Svoboda, CEO of WebRanking. It was the first time we met in person, and it didn’t take long for us to start talking PPC. Our conversation steered to keyword match type. I explained that I generally used exact, phrase, and modified broad match as I built out accounts. He then countered by saying he rarely used phrase match because modified broad match takes care of phrase match permutations. In other words, this strategy would result in more efficient management.

Once I was back in the office I started testing this strategy. Not only did I find management to be more streamlined, but I also saw fewer searches of poor quality. This idea, which didn’t come from a presentation, but rather a casual discussion, reshaped the way I manage match types.

The next year I had a relatively short conversation with John Lee, but I still see the benefits of that discussion today. At the time, AdWords Dynamic Remarketing had just been introduced and we were discussing future updates. He mentioned remarketing via Facebook. I’d heard of the concept, but was still relatively uneducated. He told me to check out Perfect Audience. The platform was easy to use and had given him good results.

Again, once I returned to the office I asked a couple of clients if they would be interested in testing. They were, and we started to see ancillary revenue. Eventually, the platform started to offer Dynamic Remarketing and more clients signed up. All it took was a five-minute conversation with John to spawn a new, profitable endeavor for my clients.

These are only two examples of off the cuff conversations that turned into more. Interactions like these happen all the time at conferences and in my case, generally end up being the biggest takeaways.

One final note is that it’s always great to get together for dinner with colleagues, no matter how big the gathering.

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PPC professionals getting together for dinner at Hero Conf

Industry Trends

Another unsung benefit of conferences is that you can learn about the business end of the PPC industry. Everyone from CEOs to marketing executives to specialists managing accounts attend conferences…and they have a lot to say. I’ve had great discussions around various topics, including:

  • Management of PPC teams
  • New employee training practices
  • Vertical specific trends
  • Benefits and disadvantages of third party tools
  • The future of the paid search industry
  • General industry rumblings

Conferences expose you to both people and topics with whom you would not have otherwise engaged. Just like any other industry, by being in the know and keeping up with trends, you will provide valuable information to your company and clients.

Setting The Stage

It’s definitely easy to meet fellow PPC specialists at events, but it’s also good to reach out to conference attendees ahead of time in order to maximize your experience. You don’t have to formally request a meeting or ask a question about a specific topic, just put out feelers. These feelers can be done through:

Tweets or participation in Twitter chats

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Blog comments

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Simply getting your name in front of other attendees will help your networking efforts once you are at the conference.

Final Thoughts

Determining whether a conference is successful lies in the effort you make to connect with your peers. Simply put, by just attending presentations you are not going to realize the true value of a conference. The presentation isn’t where the “behind the scenes” conversations take place. Conference costs will more then pay for themselves if you converse with your peers.