How are you keeping up with the latest in marketing trends and innovations today?
More importantly, how well is that working?
If you're anything like me, you manage to find a few minutes out of every day to read one or two articles from trusted sources. You might have gone so far as to have time set aside each day and have an app like Feedly set up to pull in the latest posts.
If I'm being honest with you, I probably only get around to checking my Feedly once a week, if not less. While I do still read at least two or three articles a day, it's usually due to seeing them bubble up in one or more of my social feeds.
There are, of course, a number of problems with this approach to self-improvement and continued education. Here are four:
First, I'm immediately limited to what's been published recently and shared by existing contacts. It's far more challenging to become aware of ideas outside of that sphere.
Second, whether and how many articles I consume in a given day is largely dependent on what else I have going on. If it's a busy day or week (or month) my time spent learning and improving can often be minimized.
Third, even if I do manage to exceed the norm and read a bunch of new articles in a given day or week, that doesn't necessarily translate into significant improvements.
Were those the best articles I could have spent that time on? Just because someone I know and trust published a new blog post this week, that doesn't mean it's the kind of article that's going to have an impact on me. Maybe it was written for a different target audience (very likely!).
Ideally, I would have a carefully selected and curated list of articles that come from a variety of sources, both those familiar to me as well as people who aren't, on very specific topics, updated regularly but not necessarily dependent on being a recent publication.
That's actually an approach that might be worth the effort. While it might take you a few extra minutes to consider whether you should read a particular article and, if so, save it to Evernote or a Flipboard for later reading, the time you save longterm by only reading highly beneficial articles.
That time you spent reading a light but largely irrelevant article can be much better spent.
But there remains a fourth problem that no degree of organization can assist with: time to improvement.
Reading one or two articles a day, if they're good, will certainly have a nice, positive impact on you and your business over time. But how much time? Weeks? Months? A year?
While there's nothing wrong with that approach, at all, I do think that every entrepreneur and marketer needs to find points in their career where they can focus internally and make tremendous leaps forward... as though they'd been able to consume a years worth of marketing articles in just a couple of days.
That's what marketing conferences do for you.
I've had the distinct pleasure of being able to attend Content Marketing World in 2015 and Social Media Marketing World in 2016 (and coming up in 2017). Both times, the events were packed with incredible workshops, speaker presentations and more.
In April, I'm pleased to tell you about a similar opportunity right here in St. Louis.
It's called the Midwest Digital Marketing Conference (MDMC) and it's taking place April 12th and 13th, put on by the University of Missouri - St. Louis (UMSL).
Their story as an event is not an unfamiliar one. What started as a few Google Hangouts quickly grew into a full day event at the university. Within just two years, it outgrew that venue and moved to Union Station, the historic train station / hotel / shopping center in downtown St. Louis.
If you've never been to a conference like one of these, the structure and organization is fairly consistent.
Each day of the conference is packed with many different sessions to choose from throughout the day, often with concurrent sessions in different rooms running along different tracks.
For instance, during the second day of MDMC, during one of the morning session periods you can choose between a presentation called, "Inspiring Creativity on Pinterest" or another presentation titled, "How to Create Raving Fans and Multiply Business Profits with Digital Video." If Pinterest is more important to your brand, you can opt to attend that session.
This allows you some flexibility in making sure that your schedule and the sessions you attend are exactly what you need to improve your marketing skills.
Sessions are generally a mix of panel discussions, presentations from brands and professionals, and keynote addresses from established speakers.
For instance, Jennifer Phillips, Marketing Strategy Director from Salesforce, will be offering a keynote at MDMC entitled, "The Future of Marketing Technologies and Automation." [Can't wait for that!]
As a result, you're able to pack dozens of different topics and kinds of presentations into just a couple of days, maximizing your learning potential.
And it's worth noting that, unlike whatever blog post someone happened to publish this week, these presentations are highly focused and targeted. It's not uncommon for presenters to have spent weeks creating, revising and polishing their talks.
And a 40-minute presentation will have, on average, 5,000 words! In terms of length, that's the equivalent of 4 - 5 blog posts. If you attend 16 sessions over the course of 2 days, you will have heard the equivalent of 80 articles.
So after you've gone through all of those sessions, your head will be packed with a incredible amount of information. You'll be able to take that back to your business and begin to implement some of the things you learned right away. (And make sure that you take notes to refer back to so that you can continue to implement new techniques and improvements over time.)
But that's not even the best part.
The best part of any conference is the networking.
Throughout every conference there will be opportunities for you to meet and talk to other people. From the conference organizers and speakers all the way down to individual attendees like yourself, everyone's there to meet each other and get to know one another.
In between sessions as you're walking down halls, lunch breaks, morning coffee, networking breaks and after parties are all designed to give you a chance to meet and greet. (And more than just a little bit of fun.)
While you might have a sense for who is attending a particular conference and who you might want to meet, you can't actually predict all of the introductions you will make. And more importantly, you have no way of knowing which introductions will result in positive ramifications for your business down the road.
You might connect with an influencer who wants to know more about your business and ends up promoting you to their audience. You might connect with a fellow business owner who has a complimentary offering and wants to collaborate.
You just make some great friends and contacts that can help you make life better & easier!
But, I guarantee you, as long as you're open to the opportunities and are willing to take a chance with individual contacts and conversations, good things will happen.
One feature of marketing conferences that I love is that they always have a space for vendors and exhibitors to set up and hang out. It's a great chance to wander around, check out brands and solutions you may or may not be familiar with, and have some conversations. Either with the vendors or other attendees.
Take advantage of these and other opportunities to network and expand your connections.
If you're thinking about attending MDMC and are in the St. Louis area or can travel here in April, there are a few points I want to make about what makes MDMC special.
First and foremost, simply being in St. Louis is unique. I mentioned Content Marketing World and Social Media Marketing World earlier, to which I had to travel thousands of miles to get to Cleveland and San Diego, respectively. If you're from the midwest region, St. Louis is an easy drive.
Second, it's one of the most affordable conferences around, starting at just $149 for a 2-day pass (or just $50 if you're a student!). There's also a career fair that you can attend for free.
Attending this year's conference are brands and preventatives from Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, LinkedIn, Google, Salesforce, Hubspot, IBM, Microsoft, GoDaddy, Adobe, Buzzfeed, Pandora... as well as many amazing marketers and content directors and other presenters.
Whether you attend MDMC or SMMW or some other marketing conference, I cannot stress enough how impact that time will be on you and your business. Whatever the cost, consider it an investment in yourself, and one that will be paying dividends for years to come.
As one of the official bloggers for MDMC, it's my job to share with you some of the opportunities the conference represents, and I couldn't be more pleased to do so. If you're able to attend, I strongly recommend it. Any links to MDMC, however, are not affiliate links and are for tracking purposes only. Other than access to the conference, I receive no further compensation from MDMC or UMSL.