It's been a crazy couple of weeks for me. First I attended, spoke and moderated sessions at SMX Toronto (Arpril 8 &9) and then with just a weekend to recover I head down to Dallas to Attend PubCon (April 13-15). While I had hope to drop in on the PubCon training sessions on April 13, sadly conference calls and a work hang over from SMX Toronto, kept me away until the evening networking event.
By attending these two conferences back to back I discovered a few things. Here at the Toronto conference which was paired with eMetrics many of the SMX attendees were gravitating to the eMetrics sessions (despite not having the combo pass) and the SMX analytics sessions (I spoke on one and moderated another) which very well attended.
A PubCon, the web analytic focused sessions were not well attended. Perhaps it was the time slots (my session was the last one on day 1) or some of the topics pitted against them. Regardless simply talking to people at the PubCon show there seemed to be only a small interest in web analytics and greater focus on Social Media.
Once thing I also discovered at SMX/eMetrics while most people were using Google Analytics, they were also using one of the other major tools (Omniture, Webtrends, etc.) to get more advanced information. At PubCon most people I spoke to seemed content with their Google Analtyics. Perhaps this explains the minimal interest in the subject matter. People seem to believe that all they really need is Google Analytics and that it will tell them all they need to know.
This concept was stressed at SMX by the keynote speaker Avinash Kaushik when he said "Google Analytics has more in it then any company needs, so you don't need to spend money on the other tools" (I'm paraphrasing of course). Of course most of the people at this conference gasped & groaned at the comment realizing that measurement of specific KPI and paths to conversion are critical in the continual evaluation and improvement life cycle of a web site and are absent from Google Analtyics
The biggest highlight of the two events was the Day 1 keynote at PubCon by Scott Stratten (from Oakville, Ontario) President of Un-Marketing (twitter ID unmarketing). I met Scott for the first time last fall in Las Vegas and despite living 30 miles apart and only catching glimpses of each other at different events where we both speak, we finally managed to hook-up in Dallas. His keynote was simply the best keynote of recent memory at any conference and may very well be the best one I've ever heard. What set this keynote apart was not the content (the content was great), but his style. True to what Scott preaches in his tweets, he didn't talk to us (or shout at us), but he grabbed a chair sat down and proceeded to have a conversation with the entire audience. No one even noticed that they couldn't get a word in until the Q&A portion, because the gems and insights that flowed from Scott's mouth were so captivating. From what Scott told me, it sounds like his upcoming book (due out this fall) will follow the same style. I just can't wait.
As with all conferences, you get out of it what you put in. By speaking, moderating and attending sessions, I picked up lots of new ideas and techniques to apply to clients. Yet the best part of both of these two amazing events was what happened out side of the sessions room at the various networking events. The connections, the exchange of ideas in an unstructured manner - yes in conversation provided even more applicable knowledge and insight. It is this face to face meeting and conversations that can't be replaced by on-line lectures and it is why I always try to find the time and budget to attend as many high quality conferences as I can.
Right, I'm not booked into any events in the short term, but I'm hoping/planning on SES Toronto in June and the main PubCon Las Vegas is November, plus with a little luck perhaps another 1 or 2 before the year is over.