My Experience At Digital Marketing Conferences

It’s been a while since I’ve posted an article, but I have quite the topic to discuss today. You see, over the last few years, I’ve attended a few digital marketing conferences in two different countries. Many people aren’t sure whether or not they should attend one, but I felt I should share my experience with them to help others make a decision.

What I Enjoyed About Attending Digital Marketing Conferences

The Challenging Audience

Whenever a speaker started accepting questions from the audience, one thing I really liked was how the audience was not afraid to challenge what the speaker was saying. In response, the speakers actually accepted the challenges from their audience head-on, thus promoting productive discourse. It reminds me of the type of productive discourse that often takes places on online forums, albeit with fewer trolls.

The Industry Experts

There were some interesting people present at these conferences that you wouldn’t normally have a chance to meet. These people helped develop tools, algorithms, and standards that have gone toward improving online marketing as a whole. Additionally, when these people were speakers at the conferences, they lived up to the expectations I had for them.

The Unique Experience

I can say that both experiences were unique ones, and no two conferences were exactly the same. One of the conferences in particular had great food and the setting for the event felt upscale.

The Networking Opportunities

The environment at these conferences is fairly casual. As such, this gives any attendee the opportunity to talk to industry experts at their own accord; no backstage passes required. For someone looking for this kind of thing, this is a great opportunity to speak to people with decades of experience in the industry.

What I Didn’t Enjoy About Attending Digital Marketing Conferences

The Drunks

Whilst I don’t partake in imbibement (could I sound any more snobby?), I don’t mind when others do at social events. However, the attendees and speakers at these digital marketing conferences took this too far for my tastes.

As you can expect, “hold my beer” moments were not an uncommon sight, with one boastful speaker thinking it was a badge of honour to hold up the video crew so that he can perform an interview whilst drunk to show off how good he is at speaking. He was not in the majority here, but it was not the prettiest sight.

The Weirdos

Every conference is going to have its fair share of undesirables, although there were a fair more than I was expecting.

Dressed in the smelliest and most unprofessional attire in their wardrobes, these representatives of various online marketing companies slithered around the conferences looking to get their rocks off with any female attendees. One of the sponsors even went as far as trying to guess the emails of female attendees to try to hit on them via email (you know, instead of just asking them directly?).

The Indoor Smokers

Despite the “no smoking” policy in the conference, several attendees were smoking in the conference lobby and nobody was telling them otherwise. It’s a minor issue, but an annoying one if you don’t smoke or have the lung issues I do.

The Speakers

This isn’t about the industry experts I was talking earlier, but rather the other type of speakers I took note of.

Now considering the high admission prices for these conferences, you’d think the majority of the speakers would share something you wouldn’t find online. I will say that when they weren’t putting me to sleep, some speakers did share a some titbits of useful information, but the majority of what the others discussed was what I felt to be common knowledge.

There’s also a weird culture around being a speaker at digital marketing conferences that convinces them that they’re celebrities, or rather “SEO Rock Stars” as they like to be called. As such, they’re very cliquey with each other and a small number of them can be downright rude to attendees at points. One speaker had the gall to walk up to me, mock me to my face because of my age, and then go about his day. He didn’t even see my name or have anything else to go on other than “young man standing next to the wall”.

I think the worst speaker was the one who said that if there was one thing he learnt throughout his career, it’s that you need to always “Always Be Closing“. I’m not even kidding, he seriously said he came up with that phrase after his many years of experience. A $1,000 ticket to hear someone use the most trite quote in the industry.


I will say that your mileage may vary. It’s very possible I just happened to attend two particular events that had one-off issues, but I feel the issues I experienced are indicative of wider problems in the industry..

Digital marketing conferences can present a good opportunity for meeting some big names in the industry and for learning something new, but the uncomfortable environment and people it attracts can detract entirely from this experience.

If, after reading all of this, you’d still like to attend an digital marketing conference, research the one that covers topics you’re interested in and research the speakers for each conference. As I mentioned before, some of the industry experts do know what they’re talking about and several of them have respectable positions at Microsoft, Google, Search Engine, Ahrefs, Search Engine Journal, etc. Whether or not you trust advice from these sources is a personal matter, but if you do, then these conferences may be for you.