In the last in our series of conference interviews (for now at least), I’m talking to Chris Winfield ahead of the BlueGlass LA conference later this month. Personally I find it incredibly useful attending US conferences in order to keep up with how the industry is developing in the States – this has included SMX Advanced in Seattle and Pubcon Las Vegas in the past – and this year I’m heading over to the BlueGlass LA event.
Image credit: Dana Lookadoo
Thanks to Chris for taking the time to answer these questions – here goes:
1) I haven’t attended a BlueGlass event before, but I have heard great things about them (which is why I’m attending this year) – can you give us a bit of background about the event and let us know why first-time attendees should sign up?
Over the years, several of us at the company have attended and spoken at just about every Internet marketing conference. I did make great connections going to shows, but it was because I was going to 10+ conferences a year with a lot of the same people. We wanted to find a way to whittle this type of networking down into just one conference where you’d also learn from the best minds in the industry without sacrificing an entire week of your time.
We set out to create an experience where attendees can see real benefits in their business because of what they’ve learned and who they’ve connected with. Because we cap our conference size and everyone attends the same sessions (one track), there’s ample opportunity to form relationships with the other participants AND speakers. The speakers don’t just show up for their panels: they attend the sessions and hang out with everyone. It’s nearly impossible to get that kind of access at a big conference.
What a lot of people don’t realize is we’re not in the conference business. We don’t profit off of our conferences (we’d be happy to just break-even on one of these). That in itself differentiates us from other conferences since we don’t have to be focused on the bottom line.
2) BlueGlass has made a fantastic name for itself in a very short space of time – obviously you must be delighted with the growth experienced, but with that do you think there comes an expectation with this to take things further? The BlueGlass events seem to be very highly thought of because of the high-quality of sessions, hand-selected speakers and the limited number of attendees which creates a more intimate community feel. Do you think you can keep that balance if Blueglass was to grow into a larger scale event?
Honestly, it’s hard to believe this is only our fourth conference. We’ve learned so much about how to put on a show in just under two years. I can only imagine what our conferences will look like in another two years.
I’m really proud of the niche we’ve carved out for ourselves, and I don’t see a reason to veer much from this formula in the future. Instead, we’ll continue coming up with ways to get a great mix of speakers, include even more in the cost of a ticket, and facilitate networking among participants.
I don’t think taking things further necessarily means growing our attendance roster. We’ve managed to improve on each conference without compromising the intimate feel we set out to achieve with our very first conference.
3) As I mentioned I’ve heard lots of great things about BlueGlass (both as a company and the events), the team is full of world-class speakers/bloggers, you all actively use Twitter etc. I’m a big fan of the inbound marketing approach and I’m sure BlueGlass is an excellent example of this paying off very effectively, but I just wondered how you value putting the effort in to building a strong brand and reputation. I remember seeing an interesting case study on how Pubcon saved $xxx,000 on advertising by replacing this with Twitter and word-of-mouth promotion – do you measure and compare this activity against alternative advertising methods/costs in a similar way?
We planned to start seriously start promoting BlueGlass LA in April, but we’ve already sold out! We’ve been fortunate enough that we’ve never spent money advertising our conferences. It’s been done using word-of-mouth and our own resources: social media, our site and newsletters.
We’ve actually watched conversations on Twitter where someone is talking about our conference, and next thing we know we have a ticket purchased from one of their followers. That’s pretty damn cool.
4) What are the main sessions you’re looking forward to seeing yourself at Blueglass LA?
As you mentioned before, we hand-picked all of the speakers. In other words, this is the BlueGlass team’s dream speaker list. We also come up with most of the session topics, so it’s also what we want to hear our dream team speak about! This is by far our best lineup yet, so it’s not easy to pick just one or two sessions. But if I have to…
Having Chris Brogan and Brian Clark speak together will be off the charts. Plus, I get to moderate their panel, called Cultivating Visibility: How to Amplify the Human Digital Channel.
I’m also really excited for the PR panel, called Why Trusted Recommendation is the New Public Relations. There are few people I want to hear talk about the shifting PR landscape more than Peter Shankman, Sonia Simone and Adam Singer.
5) 2011 and early 2012 seem to have been crazier than ever in the world of search. What do you think have been the biggest game changers in search during the last 6 months and should be the key takeaways from the event?
We made sure our sessions touch on most, if not all, of the recent game changers.
Greg Boser has a killer presentation planned for his first session where he’ll walk through what he considers the most pivotal algorithm tweaks Google’s made since November. We have an entire panel focusing on alternative data-collection methods in wake of Google’s “not provided” keywords. If Panda taught us anything, it’s that everything needs to be built around quality content. As such, our agenda for this conferences focuses on a lot of content marketing.
Honestly, I haven’t thought of anything as being a game changer in a really long time. And that’s not because there haven’t been huge, momentous events or actual changes but rather because the only constant in this game is change.
6) The agenda looks amazing, packed full of great speakers and very interesting/topical sessions – what type of audience is this aimed towards and as our readers are largely from the UK, do you think this has an international appeal?
This is a more advanced conference, so many of those attending have at least several years experience in the industry. Our audience includes business owners, SEOs and marketing teams representing companies ranging from small to global, in a wide range of verticals. We also have a lot of return attendees. Some people have been to all 4 of our conferences (and no, they don’t work for us!).
Most online marketing principles are universal, so the overall agenda will appeal to just about anyone in the industry. We don’t have any sessions specifically focused on international topics, but we do have quite a few Europeans speaking (Joost de Valk, Marcus Tandler and Dennis Goedeubuure – even though Dennis is now a California resident :) so I expect their presentations to be infused with what they’ve learned in international markets. And I should mention our Chairman of the Board Richard Zwicky is Canadian and moderating one of the SEO panels (yes, Canadian counts as international!).
We have quite a few attendees traveling from all over the world (yourself included), so we expect this to be quite an international crowd.
If you want to signup for BlueGlass LA unfortunately you’re now too late! The event fully sold out (always a good sign though!), but of course there will be further events announced later in the year. And if you’ve missed our previous interviews – we’ve also spoken about SAScon, SMX London, BrightonSEO, ionSearch (I’m also speaking at all four) and International Search Summit.