11 Things I Learned Organizing SEO Summit 2014
I was nervous the night before. I walked to and fro my workstation – it was 2am in the morning. I was set to give the opening remarks at around 9am a few hours from then. I wasn’t going to have enough sleep.
I haven’t had a good sleep in weeks.
SEO Summit 2014 was my first shot at trying to create a better standard for the hacker-type SEO conferences here in the Philippines. There are three goals to making the SEO Summit come to life:
- We wanted this to be a charity event – giving away all the proceeds to the poverty-stricken students of Timoteo Paez Elementary School.
- We wanted to be able to organize the first high-quality, hacker-type SEO conference in the country.
- We wanted SEO specialists here in the Philippines to be able to get together, learn from each other, have an agreement, share insights and ideas, and ultimately, unite.
There is a rising number of honest to goodness SEO specialists in the Philippines. However, like the early times of China, the practices, agreements, alliances, and overall outlook of SEO companies and freelancers here in the country is segmented and broken. We have to go beyond that.
We want the world to know that the Philippines is one of the best places to go to with your website’s SEO. Right now, we’re not there yet – in fact, we’re near one of the least places to go to for good SEO (probably just one or two steps behind India). SEO Summit is one of the things that will change that.
I plan to make this a yearly event. In fact, we’re already in the early planning stages of next year’s SEO Summit. I’ve learned a lot, you know? And I wanted to share with you some things that I’ve picked up along the way.
1) Plan Early
We planned everything just 6 months before. For an event like SEO Summit which was supposed to house more than 300 people, that was absolutely cramming. A conference with 300+ people, a ticket price of 2,500 per head, three niche prominent speakers, and all things besides, you have to plan at least a year ahead – for the simple reason that this will affect everything else. Especially the sponsors.
2) Get Sponsors Really Early
Newsflash! Sponsors allot budgets way ahead. Usually a year ahead. You can’t just squeeze in and ask them for a sponsorship at the nick of time to get some of that juice. We looked for sponsors just 3 months before the event. It was a grave mistake!
I could say that it’s nothing less than a miracle for us to have closed deals with the sponsors of SEO Summit 2014. Won’t happen again for next year.
3) Document Everything for the Next Event
We can’t go to the sponsors and simply tell them “It went great!” They won’t appreciate that. You have to document as much as you can. We got videographers and photographers to cover the event and the sponsors. SEO Summit is not just a one time thing.
As such, things have to grow and sponsors love to see how the last one went. If they like what they see, chances are they’ll be willing to shell out more for your next one.
4) Pay your Presenters
I’ve been to a lot of events wherein presenters get invited (myself included) and we don’t get anything – not even a love gift of some sort. And that’s fine because those events don’t charge for anything. However, our specialization in the field and the time we take preparing our PowerPoint decks and practicing our presentations is not charity work.
SEO Summit paid its presenters for what they’ve contributed. And this will keep on as a practice. If you’re interested in speaking at the SEO Summit 2015, get in touch with me. Send me an email.
5) Provide a Seamless Experience
Steve Jobs believed in controlling the user experience – and that’s because he sincerely believed that consumers don’t know what they want. You have to give it to them. To some extent, he’s right – but that’s also because he’s an exceptional visionary.
Quality standards are extremely important especially in a big event such as SEO Summit. Providing an end-to-end experience to our audience means getting all your presenters to do their topics and Powerpoint decks ahead of time – so you can align to and reinforce each other’s topics.
Wouldn’t it be awesome if my presentation continued off in some way from where the previous presenter ended? I think so.
It would make the entire experience coherent.
6) Encourage your Speakers to Practice
And practice the hell out yourself! A great speaker’s secret sauce is simple: Practice, practice, practice. I practiced from 12am to 2am – just a few hours before my opening remarks. I didn’t deliver the most stellar of my presentations, but I sure nailed some points down – and the audience took it home. And that’s very important.
7) Haters will Hate
The evaluation forms provided much needed insight to me and the organizing team. There were lots of good comments and some bad ones – but with good suggestions. However, I’ve also stumbled upon hate comments there that had no constructive suggestions to offer at all.
These things are to be overlooked. Haters will hate – let them. After all, they might’ve paid to do just that.
8) Ask for your audience’s Evaluation
We handed out evaluation forms during the seminar to know what our audience thought of the whole thing. As it turns out, it provided rich insights on what to do and what not to do for next year’s. The audience was kind enough to tell us what to do and what to stop doing to make things better. We only got 87 people to tell us their thoughts but the data is more than enough to make us sure of our action points for SEO Summit 2015.
Here’s an overview of what people think of the seminar:
9) Asking Around before the Summit Helped
Using Qeryz micro surveys to collect statistics and gather people’s opinions before the event proper gave me some serious back-end insight. It helped me a lot to get to know what kinds of people are attending the SEO Summit and how I should direct my presentation to cater to that.
Here are some of the questions I asked using Qeryz:
Are you a:
- Small to Medium Business Owner – 26.5%
- SEO Specialist – 43.5%
- Marketing Manager of a Company – 14.2%
- Self Employed – 15.8%
Would you still Attend the SEO Summit Next year even if it’s not for a Cause?
- Yes – 91.3%
- No – 8.7%
Not only did we get insight of who’s attending but we got a boost in making this a repeat seminar since people are eager to attend for next year’s too!
10) There Aren’t Going to be a Lot of Walk-ins
In a niche industry like ours, people who are going to walk in are very few. Only those who told me they would walk-in and pay on the day really did so. For niche events like SEO Summit, strongly encourage your target audience to pre-confirm and pre-pay online so you won’t worry about your attendees on the day itself.
11) Ask the Audience’s Questions in the Website
I think that the questions in the Ask me Anything (AMA) section could’ve been asked through the website using a tool like Qeryz. They could be attributed properly and answered better on the day of the event too! We’ll try to do this for SEO Summit 2015.
I made tons of mistakes trying to organize SEO Summit 2014. The good thing is, I’ve learned and we’re adjusting everything to make SEO Summit 2015 extremely better.
Hope to see you guys next year!