There are two types of people who attend the HubSpot INBOUND marketing conference. The first type is the fiercely enthusiastic marketer/salesperson. The second type is the curious and quiet advertising assistant account executive. This group is small. In fact, it’s downright exclusive. It’s a party of one.
This year, over 14,000 marketers, advertisers, and sales professionals, representing 70 countries, gathered at the Boston Exhibition and Convention Center to take in the unique experience that is the INBOUND marketing conference. Although not the typical attendee, I was excited to go in order to gain insights to better help me develop marketing and advertising strategies for Well Done’s clients. While I didn’t learn as much as I had hoped, I still learned a lot. Here are my top 5 takeaways from the experience:
- The shuttle leaves at 7 a.m.
Listen, Boston bus drivers have better things to do than wait around for a bunch of marketing nerds to leisurely make their way to the shuttle. If the schedule says the bus leaves at 7 a.m., then you better be at the stop at 6:45 a.m. to guarantee a fare free ride from your hotel to the convention center. Should you miss the shuttle, Boston is rife with Uber drivers and taxis, but saving $8-$20 every day will make your experience all the more enjoyable.
- The value is in the workshops
This year, I attended the keynote and spotlight speeches. When planning my trip, I was operating under the assumption that I would learn the most from the likes of Brené Brown and Seth Godin. I didn’t believe the no-name leaders of the small group workshops could possibly possess the same knowledge as these business giants. I can’t be certain, but I have a sneaking suspicion I was sorely mistaken. At a conference of this magnitude, you definitely learn more in small groups. I missed out on what I’m sure were fruitful tête-à-têtes full of juicy marketing and advertising tidbits. If I had it to do all over again, I would be sure to attend as many of these workshops as possible.
But, my trip was not in vain. The keynotes all presented compelling talks that were expertly coordinated to have the same current of insight coursing through them: Your humanity is the most valuable asset you possess as an advertiser or marketer. Honesty and connections go further than strictly adhering to content calendars or fiercely collecting analytics. Sure, you need compelling, well-crafted content to draw people in, but what do you do once you have their attention? Vulnerability and non-manipulative emotion is where it’s at.
- Be prepared to go clubbing at 8 a.m.
Nothing screams “You’re having a great time!!” like walking into a room overcome with strobe lights and thumping pop music at 8 o’clock in the morning. The HubSpot team was really working overtime to drive home that fact they were facilitators of both quality marketing information AND fun. Or maybe they thought most people hadn’t made it back to their hotel rooms the night before, and they wanted to keep the club atmosphere consistent. Whatever the reason, 8 a.m. is too early to hope to find love in a hopeless place. Sorry, Rihanna.
- Go with a group
Being in Boston alone for four days may not seem terribly daunting, but if you are accustomed to sharing your workspace with 21 wonderful people, and your home space with one wonderful person and two snuggly pit bulls, then being alone in a new city can drive you a little batty. I learned that I am definitely not cut from the Eat, Pray, Love cloth. You may be thinking, “Aren’t conferences the perfect place to make new friends?” Perhaps they are, but it seemed that INBOUND was full of groups from companies, not single representatives. I would recommend going to INBOUND with a few curious folks from your office. Or go when you are well positioned to enjoy the nightlife with the new friends you do make. I don’t want to get in the habit of using being pregnant as an excuse, but not being able to drink and enjoying being in bed by 7 p.m. precludes one from a lot of the after hours opportunities INBOUND and Boston had to offer.
- Early September did not make for a lovely autumnal trip to New England
While I was eager to absorb the content of the conference, I was perhaps equally motivated to attend INBOUND for the opportunity to enjoy the cool New England temperatures. I was about three weeks too early for that. This year, INBOUND, just happened to coincide with Boston’s first heat wave since 1884. This inclined me to stay in my air-conditioned hotel room whenever I had downtime; therefore, I did not get to see as much of the city as I would have liked. Next year, INBOUND is in November, so it will probably be snowing by then. I suppose I’ll just have to take that Northeastern fall trip on my own time.
All in all, I give INBOUND a solid B-. It is definitely up to the individual to set him or herself up to gain the most out of the experience. INBOUND isn’t handed to you; it requires your active participation and curiosity. I would definitely go back and “do it right” by attending workshops and being more outgoing. I’ve sipped the Kool-Aid, and I am eager to go back for a full glass.