INBOUND 2018 is one of the biggest marketing events of the year. We spoke with 15 experienced marketers to glean best practices and tips for getting the most out of this major happening.
Held in the city of Boston, INBOUND 2018 is a three day event filled with high energy, tons of amazing sessions and (as of 2017 numbers) 21,000+ potential networks for you to make. In brief, there's a lot to do.
To help bring out the best of your time at INBOUND, we've asked 15 industry professionals about their past experiences at this mega event. Our respondents shared a wide range of perspectives, offering insights into how they organize their time between networking, attending sessions and still ensuring they have enough energy to pace themselves throughout the event.
While the below responses are inspired by INBOUND, they can easily be applied to other event you attend, as well.
Britta Schellenberg, VP Corporate Marketing Ops, Brightcove
Your attendance should cover: sessions, sponsors, Inbound booth and people you need to meet up with. Conferences are a great way to not only get inspired, but to meet with technology partners, learn some new tricks, and network.
First go through the agenda and mark off what sessions you want to attend. Make sure you leave some open slots. Use these open slots to mark down what sponsors you want to connect with (they are all listed on the event website) and save a big time slot to visit the Inbound booth. Finally, see from your network (I suggest LinkedIn), who else is attending and reach out to schedule a coffee date.
This will transform the event experience and help drive more perceived value to the role that events play in overall marketing strategies.
"This might sound trivial, but spend time to plan your day(s) thoroughly."
Jenny Mudarri, Content Marketing Manager, Wistia
My best piece of advice would be to do your research ahead of time and really try to determine what sessions you'll benefit the most from attending. If there are sessions that overlap, find a friend or colleague and ask them to take notes! There's nothing wrong with spreading the wealth. Also, definitely bring water and an emergency snack, just in case.
"If there are sessions that overlap, find a friend or colleague and ask them to take notes!"
Oren Smith, Marketing Manager, Precision Marketing Group
INBOUND is such a great opportunity to learn and grow as a marketer, but the sheer size of the conference can make staying organized a challenge. A few words to the wise: Familiarize yourself with the convention center map.
Either select to attend a few sequential break-out sessions that are close together or be prepared to make a quick exit and move on to your next location – particularly if you aren't pre-registered for a presentation you'd like to see.
Be sure to get plenty of rest the night before. And finally, don't forget to update your LinkedIn profile and bring plenty of business cards! You never know who you'll meet—a potential partner, an industry peer, or even a prospective lead for your business—and it's important to make a good impression.
"Don't forget to update your LinkedIn profile and bring plenty of business cards!"
Kirsten Onsgard, Marketing Ops Specialist, TowerData
Be prepared to be flooded with enlightening and actionable inbound marketing thought leadership. Because the content is so dense, INBOUND can be overwhelming — in the best way possible. Grab your coffee and come armed with your favorite note-taking software. I used Evernote to create a different note for each session, and followed up with speakers afterward via LinkedIn or Twitter to download a copy of their slides.
"Followed up with speakers afterward via LinkedIn or Twitter to download a copy of their slides"
Jessica Hennessey, Director of Marketing, Wakefly
I distribute my time across different sessions for specific objectives I wish to achieve. I always like to pick 1 or 2 sessions that helps with personal development that challenges my personal thinking or exposes me to something I had never thought of.
Then I pick 1 or 2 sessions that are targeted to the C-suite. This is to help me learn more about what CXO's are focusing their energy on so that I can look for opportunities in my job to be proactive about it and bring it to their attention.
As someone that manages staff, I also look for a session or two that helps me be a better manager. The rest of the sessions are dedicated to the day-to-day work of my current role and career development.
"1 or 2 sessions that helps with personal development... 1 or 2 sessions that are targeted to the C-suite... 1 or 2 sessions that helps me be a better manager."
Allison Casey, Digital Marketing Director, WSOL
With such a wide variety of tracks and session topics at INBOUND, it can be a little overwhelming to put together your schedule. I recommend honing in on a few topics areas (such as product knowledge, or improving conversions, etc) and building your schedule around learning the most you can about those topics. Oh, and wear comfortable shoes!
"I recommend honing in on a few topics areas and build your schedule around learning the most you can about those topics."
Lauren Connors, Account Coordinator, Spot On Agency
In order to get the most out of sessions as well as your time at INBOUND, definitely research the sessions that are available and register ahead of time! Make sure you seek out a few topics you know very little about as well as a few you are fairly knowledgable in but would like to learn more.
"Definitely research the sessions that are available and register ahead of time!"
Allen Finn, Senior Product Marketing Specialist, WordStream
Hot take alert: the secret to a successful first INBOUND experience is not the programming, it's the people. Are the keynotes inspirational? Yup. Is there a ton of value to be gleaned from the myriad breakout sessions? Absolutely.
But don't be so quick to push to the front of the crowds milling about before throngs of smart people take the main stage. Don't schedule yourself to the hilt during breakouts. More than 21,000 people attended INBOUND 2017 last year; that's more potential clients, employers, and friends than you'll probably talk to in the next decade.
There are plenty of opportunities to sit and listen: save some of your time for exploration and good old fashioned conversation. Each day you should give yourself permission to wander. Chat with the shirt and koozie-hocking people manning sponsorship booths. Sidle up next to someone you've never met and introduce yourself while you're milling about at 7:30am waiting for coffee. While the knowledge you glean listening to the unreal gallery of speakers might yield new skills and strategies, the relationships you forge between bites of your porchetta sandwich and sips of beer will prove far more fruitful over the course of your career.
"Save some of your time for exploration and good old fashioned conversation. Each day you should give yourself permission to wander."
Will Curran, Chief Event Einstein, Endless Events
Two things. First, INBOUND is an incredibly high-energy conference so make sure you're equally as energetic throughout the week! You'll definitely get more out of the event if you are.
Second, create a solid game plan for session attendance. Prioritize the ones that you think will be most helpful and get there early as many of the popular sessions fill up quick.
Also, don't feel the need attend sessions that will be recorded because you can look back on those when you have time. Similarly, there will be certain sessions that will be put on again as "encore sessions" so keep a close eye on the agenda each day to see which sessions will be held a second time.
Amanda Nielsen, Internal Marketer,
New Breed Marketing
It's no secret that outbound events are expensive, so make sure you calculate your estimated expenses and compare with your goal ROI so that you can get the most out of your INBOUND experience.
Once you've crunched the numbers and identified a goal ROI, you can determine how many leads you'll need to generate in order to meet this goal. Sure, this seems like an intimidating task, but here's how you can break it down simply: If you spend $1000 to attend this event and you want to see an ROI of at least 150 percent, you will need to capture enough leads to translate to $1,500 or more in revenue.
Work backward from your revenue goal, use your historical benchmark data on your lifecycle conversion rates to determine how many leads you need in your marketing and sales funnel. Doing so will ensure you can effectively track your progress while at the event.
"Work backward from your revenue goal, use your historical benchmark data on your lifecycle conversion rates to determine how many leads you need"
Frank Isca, Inbound Strategist, Weidert Group
As a veteran INBOUND attendee, I feel I've learned a lot in the six years I've been attending. My first year attending was in 2012 which was only 2,800 attendees, so it was a little easier to navigate the conference matrix and decide on which sessions to attend. Now with the INBOUND conference exceeding 21,000+ attendees in 2017 and the number of sessions continuing to grow, it can be overwhelming for an experienced INBOUND attendee let alone a newbie!
My #1 strategy for building a game plan for your INBOUND schedule is to sort and research the sessions by presenter. A lot of sessions sound great from the title but the quality of the presenter can make or break what you take away. So, do your research on which presenters are in the schedule that you're already aware of and the ones that come highly recommended. In addition, be aware of how much distance you have between sessions since the BCEC is a huge venue!"
"A lot of sessions sound great from the title but the quality of the presenter can make or break what you take away."
"Spend time in this notebook during free sessions and at night, reviewing your notes, finishing half-written thoughts, and fleshing out ideas, so when you return to work, you're ready to hit the ground running!"
Mikita Mikado, CEO, PandaDoc
Inbound started as a conference for marketers as well as agency owners. However, it got a lot more diverse in the recent years. You can easily meet people from sales and operations there.
Going to specific educational tracks, parties and talks will help to focus on the right crowd. Inbound's mobile app or agenda is a huge help for that. And don't be afraid to approach people! You'll meet many fun and innovative folks there.
"Don't be afraid to approach people! You'll meet many fun and innovative folks there."
Kevin Benson, Senior Global Event Director, G2 Crowd
Always attend ancillary events when you are at a conference, whether it be INBOUND or any other. Professional networking is just as important whether attending a session or going to a dinner. I have found my most fruitful connections to be at smaller, hosted events such as a margarita happy hour or a concert. Find a great customer to join you and pick several prospects to wine, dine and enjoy each event!
"Find a great customer to join you and pick several prospects to wine, dine and enjoy each event!"
Kaylynne Hatch, Marketing Manager, Inflow
My recommendation would be to check the map against your session schedule as soon as its available. When I attended in 2017, I completely filled up my schedule without checking the map and wound up spending all of my time between sessions making a mad dash across the building to get to the next one in time.
Not only did I wind up exhausted by the end of each day, I lost out on opportunities to stop and network with those around me and I didn't have much of a chance to check out the expo hall. Make sure you schedule enough time to not only get to your sessions but to also appreciate the rest of the event as well!
"Check the map against your session schedule as soon as its available."
Wrapping Up: Your INBOUND 2018 experience
The INBOUND Conference is a huge event for all marketing, sales and operations professionals. With its influence and popularity increasing year after year, this is an event which definitely pushes your limit as an attendee (in the best way possible).
Here's a quick breakdown of what our 15 experts have shared to maximize your time at INBOUND:
- Double check your session timings and location—the venue is huge.
- Always take notes, you can't remember everything without it.
- Dedicate time to networking.
- Rest well to keep up with the high energy levels at the conference.
- Have fun!
Hopefully you can employ these tips and tricks to your own arsenal of event attending secrets to maximize your time at this annual event.
On a separate note, Bizzabo will be exhibiting this year as well. We hope to see you there!