Have you ever attended a conference? Did you know that analysts over-index towards introversion?* Have you ever struggled to figure out how to start a conversation over a cold pastry and a cup of tepid coffee at a conference breakfast? IS there actually a point in developing and executing a strategy when it comes to attending a conference? Is it annoying to listen to people who speak pretty regularly at conferences pontificate about speaking at conferences? Some of these questions are answered on this episode!
*We made this up, but it seems plausible.
00:04 Announcer: Welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. Tim, Michael, Moe, and the occasional guest, discussing digital analytics issues of the day. Find them on Facebook at facebook.com/analyticshour, and their website, analyticshour.io. And now, the Digital Analytics Power Hour.
00:28 Michael Helbling: Hi, everyone, welcome to the Digital Analytics Power Hour. This is lucky Episode 113. Did you know that this podcast is actually patterned after the lobby bar experience from a conference? Yeah, people hanging out, having drinks, talking informally about what’s happening in their industry. There’s an art, and maybe even a science for getting the most value out of a conference experience. And what place do conferences play or have in the development of the analyst specifically? And what do you do to get your company to invest in you to attend, or how do you speak at a conference? And if you get invited to speak, how do you prepare? We’re gonna be talking about it, tackling the conference in the analytics community on this episode. Tim, you must love conferences, because you sure do go to a lot of them.
01:24 Tim Wilson: I don’t know how that happened, but due to a weird thing started with my daughter, I now have a legacy, a history of all of the conferences I’ve been to hanging in lanyards in the basement, and it’s either interesting or depressing, or both.
01:41 MH: Yeah. And, Moe, you’re a pretty seasoned conference attendee and speaker yourself now.
01:46 Moe Kiss: I feel like I’m, yeah, getting my traps, skipping those sessions that I shouldn’t be skipping, that kind of thing.
01:55 MH: That’s actually one of my key takeaways, is don’t waste your time in the sessions.
02:02 TW: Okay.
02:02 MK: [02:03] __.
02:06 MH: I’m Michael Helbling, conference attendee extraordinaire. All right, let’s get going. Yeah, it’s really interesting. First, maybe let’s all go back… And we don’t have a guest for this episode so we can really be ourselves, really let the hair down, so to speak, ’cause we’re so on point when we have guests. What about the first time you went to an analytics conference? Talk a little bit about your first experience of going to one.
02:34 MK: I can still remember my first conference, actually, because it was the first time I met Tim, the first time I met Lea, the first time I met Lea Pica, the first time I met Jim Sterne, Simo Ahava was there, and I was in awe. I remember listening to all these amazing speakers. And I think the thing that I’ve started to notice about myself is I feel I’m getting less out of them now, but I don’t necessarily think it’s because I know more, I think it’s just because I’m less attentive. I feel like I go to conferences now and I’m always multi-tasking, and I’m still trying to do my job, and I’m not listening properly, and I kind of think maybe that… Yeah, I’ve been reflecting on this a bit, actually, but I can remember my first one ’cause I remember watching Lea and being like, “Okay, I wanna figure out how to do that one day.”
03:22 TW: So, you basically, as a conference attender, your value score, quality score is just slowly declining over time? [chuckle] It’s an easy trap to fall into though. It’s like, ‘Oh, another conference.” Yeah, I think it’s an urge, it has to be actively resisted.
03:40 MH: Let’s come back to that. Tim, what about you, what is your first conference experience in analytics?
03:45 TW: My first analytics conference experience was The Data Warehouse Institute Conference. It was in San Diego. I had recently moved into a BI role and had really no idea what I was doing, so I was lucky enough that… I don’t know how I stumbled across it. It’s a major conference, and it was in San Diego, and I went and I, to this day, can point to two or three of the topics and the speakers that blew me away, ’cause I… I was literally just there attending just to learn. And I’m sure I went to some kind of stinker sessions, but the ones that definitely stuck, one of them we, two years later, reached out to her and had her come in and do some consulting with the company, and I was able to make the pitch for that to happen. And that turned out to be super, super successful. I still actually recommend that conference occasionally to people even though I only went once. And actually I’ve never gone to a TDWI event since, but I was blown away when I did go. What about you?
04:54 MH: My first conference was eMetrics, and this was back when it was still held once a year, I think, or at least in the United States once a year, in Santa Barbara. And what’s funny is I didn’t go to the lobby bar a single time, but I still met all these amazing people and had this incredible experience. So, for me, getting into… This was about a year, year and a half, after I got into analytics, and so, at that time, there really wasn’t much in the way of any local networking that was possible. And so you’re reading blogs from people all over the country, world, and then you see them and meet them in real life and it’s just mind-blowing. And you grab the plate at lunch and you end up sitting at a table with Avinash Kaushik, Shane Atchison, Jason Burby, and all these…
05:47 TW: Bryan Eisenberg?
05:48 MH: Yeah, he was there, I think. And so it’s just like, “Wow, I just got to hang out with someone whose opinion I tremendously respect as someone who has guided how I think about analytics in a certain way. Now, this is pre-Google Avinash, so he was still working on a shtick back then, but he was still pretty outstanding. [laughter] But, no, it’s just so crazy. I always tell people the story where I was eating breakfast, I was sitting at a table by myself, and all of sudden this guy sits down and says, “Hey, can I join you?” And I’m like, “Sure, of course.” And we start chatting. It’s John Pestana, the co-founder of Omniture. And I have no idea who this guy is, and it still blows me away to this day that I actually met that guy and I didn’t even really realize at the time, and now I’m just like, “Man, I wish I would have known. I would have asked so many more questions.” But, yeah, at that conference, I ended up hanging out with Dennis Mortensen, who was trying to sell people on index tools back then, and he’s still a crazy Red Bull-drinking guy who’s high energy and I was just like, “Yeah, tell me more. I wanna know more.” I was very annoying.
06:55 MH: But anyways, that was my first analytics conference. Yeah, it is really interesting to reflect back on those things and kind of… I don’t know. Did any of you have a strategy for that conference or for conferences generally? Do you sit down and think about, “What am I planning to do or accomplish?” Especially if you’re just an attendee and you’re not actually speaking at it?
07:20 MK: No, but I always somehow pick the… This happens every year at MeasureCamp, where you have to pick what you’re gonna go do. So, when there’s more than one track, I actually really struggle. I like having one track, because I don’t miss the good stuff, because I’m really bad at picking sessions, and when I have a plan for what sessions I’m gonna go to, it always ends up awful and I just go to the ones that aren’t great. And so I kinda feel… Yeah, I’m a big fan of one track. I think it’s better for me, ’cause then I feel I need to do less planning, but I don’t plan to schmooze with people or anything, it just… I guess it kinda happens.
07:54 MH: Yeah, that’s interesting. I definitely make a plan ahead of time of how many people I’m gonna try to introduce myself to, because I am so… I’m introverted, and so I literally would not introduce myself to anyone unless I planned in advance to do it. And I’m pretty sure I’ve come off as pretty awkward a time or two. [laughter] As you know, it’s like, you see, somebody like Robbin Steif, who was the founder of LunaMetrics, and you go up to her and you’re like, “I have read your company’s blog and I really think it’s cool.” And she’s probably like, “Who the heck are you? Please step back.” I met June Dershewitz, I think I did the exact same thing, I was just like, “I’ve read your blog.” I was like, “I think you’re amazing.” And it’s just like, “Okay.”
08:45 MK: But I think there’s some value in preparing, especially when there are specific people, I guess, that are kind of famous and you wanna ask them stuff. Actually preparing, I guess, your questions ahead of time so that you don’t just do the fanboy, fangirl…
09:00 MH: Sure. I think that makes a ton of sense. I probably haven’t done that prep. I’ve usually been like, “Here’s how many people I don’t know that I’m gonna try to meet,” or, “Here’s a list of people who I’ve interacted with, say, on Twitter or Measure Slack, that I wanna try to pointedly get together with.” Just recently at Adobe Summit, I had Till Buettner, who’s on the Measure Slack, as well as Tyranalysis Rex, who does a cool Twitter account with dinosaurs. And I wanted to meet both of those guys, and I did, and I was super stoked ’cause I was like, “Yeah, I could check off my… Who I wanted to meet list.” And I wanted to meet Jen Lasser, who I had not met before, too. So, those are my main people.
09:50 TW: Well, I feel like the… There’s definitely many people you know, but then you’re limiting yourself to the people who are in whatever small size of a universe or known entities. I still, to this day, struggle with the… Conferences will try to set themselves up where they’re just too few tables, so you have to crowd around something, and the idea is this is gonna force you to talk to people. I have yet to figure out what the right opening line, I stress about that. If I can get through the first little exchange, then we wind up with all sorts of interesting discussions, although, if it’s somewhere like some massive, massive, massive show summit, there’s a really good chance you’re gonna sit down and you’re not gonna be talking to an analytics person. And that’s not a great example, ’cause it’s like so many people who don’t even do what you do there. If it’s a more local event, a more focused event… Everybody wants to… It’s like the person… You race to the line so you can be the first one at a table, so somebody else has to walk up. Although I did have the experience at a summit where…
11:00 MK: Sorry, wait. You actually do that? You race to be at the front of the line so that you get to sit down first and then people need to awkwardly come up to you?
11:06 MH: Well, Tim doesn’t have this problem now ’cause people just recognize him and, of course, you just sit down, it’s like…
11:13 TW: No. I mean, at Summit, I walked and there was like, “Okay, I could get a table by myself,” which one time I really needed to ’cause I had to really get in and out quick, or I’m like, “Okay, there’s a table with only one person,” and they’re looking at their phone and so I go up, I’m like, “I’m gonna do this, I’m gonna sit down.” I was like, “Hey, is there room at this table?” Which, of course, there is. Then I went and got coffee, came back, and then never… I was literally gonna have to pull her away from her phone to have a discussion. It was like, “Damn. Really? You’re eating. I don’t think I look that intimidating.” More often than not, it’s like you start to have the awkward discussion and then within a minute you found some sort of common ground and you’re having a good discussion. ‘Cause there were times that I would scurry off to my room, skip the networking reception, and I think that’s a miss, really I do believe you should be exhausted at the end of any conference and you should have spent the bare minimum time in your room even though it’s exhausting and you desperately want to recharge in some fashion, if you absolutely have to, but the reality is it’s a unique… It’s been brought together by the conference organizers, talking to other people, attending the sessions.
12:31 TW: Unless you literally have seen the speaker present on that topic before and it’s one track, or you have seen two of the speakers and literally the third topic just is clearly not in your wheelhouse, it’s very tempting to say, “I’m gonna hang out and chat with this person I know or take this opportunity to walk around and clear my head.” But I think that’s… It is so hard to predict which sessions are going to be good. If I had a nickel for every time that I thought, “Well, this isn’t gonna be good, but I’ll sit in it anyway,” and it was the highlight of the conference, or the flip side, “This session is gonna be awesome,” and it turns out to be a total stinker. I think it’s almost impossible to predict from the session title and description if it’s actually gonna be relevant and good, which means, like it or not, you just need to go to everything.
13:23 MK: Okay. So, I just figured out that the problem with our lives helps. Tim is our go-to everything person, and you and me are like, “Let’s skip out and go get a drink.” And therefore, when we’re wrapping up at our conference experience, we’re like, “Oh, I didn’t see anything good.” Whereas Tim is like, “Oh, my God, did you see this, did you see that?”
13:40 MH: But I also know that the multi-track… I recently had a conference experience where I swear I was… It was three tracks, and I was torn in probably half of the sessions as to which to go to, and I literally went to the wrong one every damn time, ’cause I would talk to somebody who was in the other session, like, “Yeah, It was really good.” I’m like, “Man, mine sucked.” And that’s the other… In that case, that’s feeling fine about… That’s why I don’t sit in the front row, because I’ve gotten better and better about saying, “Look if we’re five minutes in and it’s clear this is going nowhere, and there was something else you thought… ” Don’t walk out to say, “I’m walking out to go get a drink,” but say, “I’m gonna jump to another session.” MeasureCamp does a phenomenal job, says, “Do that.” It is overtly stated… It’s not overtly stated by it more formal conferences, but I think it’s actually a good strategy to say, “Yeah, walk in 10 minutes late for something that might be good,” rather than saying, “Well, I sat down. I don’t wanna leave.” Fake it, put your phone up, act like you got a call, whatever you need to do, if you feel like the speaker is gonna feel bad.
14:45 MK: No. My thing is, you’ve spent a lot of money to go to that conference, you should get the most out of it. And if you need to walk out of a session ’cause it’s not right or something, you think another section might be better, I think all conferences should be a little more like MeasureCamp where that behavior is not even just accepted but promoted. I think it’s a really good policy, especially when there’s lots of tracks.
15:06 MH: Yeah. Let’s make one thing clear right now, Moe. I don’t just go and socialize, okay? So, if anybody who employs me is listening, if you… [laughter] Mysteriously, that’s all for a purpose. Every drink I drink in every socializing hour, that is me working extremely hard.
15:29 MK: Yeah. But you also said you feel like you get more value from that stuff, and I can understand that.
15:34 MH: I would say, there’s another way that I get value, too, because I do go to sessions as well, and that is in the area of synthesis. I don’t know how other people do this, but my pattern or the way that I do things is I observe things. I read a lot of stuff, I try things, I’m doing work, and I’m formulating some really rough ideas in my head about lots of different topics. And then when I sit down and hear somebody else speak to it in their way, it can, a lot of times, help me bolt it in in a more concrete way. Does that makes sense? Like concepts, or things like that. That’s, a lot of times, what conference is and hearing someone speak at a conference really helps me do, is like, “Okay, this is where this fits, or this is how I see this working together.” I don’t know. That might be just a me, unique, weird thing, but that’s another big thing that I get from conferences. And everybody is, like, “Okay, whatever. That’s definitely… “
16:33 TW: “That’s definitely a you thing, Michael. Nobody even knows what you’re talking about.”
16:33 MH: Well, I think the other opportunities, if you don’t go to a session… And I will see there are bad sessions that are either the speaker mailed it in, which is infuriating and I will absolutely rip them in the reviews. And there are ones where they’re probably good, they’re just newer or they’re not confident, and I’m less likely to walk out of those, especially if I think what they’re doing is actually interesting, even if it’s not getting communicated well. And a part of that is because there is the opportunity to talk to them after the session, track them down later, further the conversation. And sometimes there have been the cases where the presentation wasn’t that good in clarity and concision and energy, but there was still something interesting being said. And then you get them one on one, especially after they had a drink or two, and all of a sudden they’re just like… You’re like, “Damn. Why wasn’t… That’s what you need to present.”
17:40 MK: When I’ve been helping people work on presentations, the one thing… Probably the most consistent feedback I give to people is about energy. And that’s not something that you can suddenly turn on. It’s not a switch. But if you sound bored as you’re presenting, it’s gonna be boring to everyone listening. I feel like you can make how to put a stamp on a letter interesting if you are passionate about it, and I think that’s the one takeaway for newer people that are keen to speak at stuff, is like how do you convey to the audience how excited you are about this, because that… It just makes all the world of difference when you’re sitting there listening.
18:22 MH: And don’t be afraid to show your own excitement, too, how much you like it.
18:27 TW: Well, and that’s a turn to a speaker. I think, it could be hard to turn that on. It’s human nature to buckle into yourself. To me, it’s pretty simple. If you aren’t prepared for that’s what’s gonna happen, then you definitely are gonna close in on yourself. So, it is a case of saying, “Look, you need to consciously up your energy level. Just think about that before you go on, have that little voice running through your mind.” Although, to me, that’s another reason to actually rehearse out loud, because you can tell the people who have gone… They might have gone through their presentation 15 times, flipping through it at their computer in their head, and then all of a sudden they hear their own voice in front of an audience, and they’re playing back like they’re running through it in their head.
19:14 MH: Not only that, but first time you hear yourself on a microphone really messes with you, and you hear your own voice coming through the loud speaker system, it could really throw you off. And so you have to get your content down so that you’re not trying to grapple with two things at once. And I do think there’s something to practice. So, that pivots nicely into, “Well, what if you’re gonna speak at a conference?” And I think the three of us have been pretty fortunate, we’ve had a lot of experiences with that, Tim probably more so than either one of us, Moe, but…
19:46 TW: We hold our own. [laughter] He just keeps coming up with new stuff all the time, frankly.
19:50 MK: You’re coming up with the new stuff.
19:52 MH: No one really understands Tim Wilson.
19:56 TW: You should see the one I yanked out of my ass for this Friday. Oh, my God.
20:02 MH: You can have any of my slides from one summit if you want, Tim.
20:05 TW: I try to pitch to have you go instead. I failed.
20:08 MH: I saw that they didn’t go anywhere.
20:11 TW: Yeah. Son of a bitch.
20:12 MH: Anyway… No. I remember the first few times I spoke at a conference anywhere, I was talking to someone who is a pretty well-established speaker both nationally and internationally many, many, many times a year. And he told me, he’s like, “Michael, you should plan to spend an hour of preparation for every minute of your talk. That’s the right ratio.” And I will just be pretty blatant.
20:42 TW: You can’t share who had that wisdom?
20:44 MH: Well, it’s not somebody who’s well known. He’s kind of a niche person, he’s not in analytics, so not gonna be listening to this show. Anyways, it was crazy, like, A, he’s right, B, do I ever do that? No, not even close. But to get your mindset to the “Michael, you need to have this ratio,” helps you understand, “Okay, if you’re gonna deliver a talk, it’s your maximum level of ability, that’s probably how you need to be thinking.”
21:13 MK: I reckon I would spend that much time.
21:15 MH: Yeah, ’cause when you think about, first, your outline. Then your slide preparation and planning, and then the delivery, and then cleaning it all up and timing it, practicing it multiple times.
21:27 MK: Rehearsal, yeah.
21:28 MH: For a 45-minute talk, you definitely are gonna be into the 30 to 45-hour range to do that well that first time. And maybe you don’t have as much preparation if you do the same talk again. And I’ve shared this story on this podcast before about how I gave the same talk again, and massively screwed it up.
21:47 TW: I believe did late night and alcohol play into that part of that screwing up?
21:51 MH: No. That was a completely different screwup.
21:53 TW: Oh, another story.
21:55 MH: Thanks though. [chuckle] I have a lot of lessons to share.
22:00 MK: There is a familiarity that by doing the same presentation a second or a third time, you think that you can take shortcuts and I don’t think you can. You have to rehearse just as much. Okay, the rehearsal might be easier.
22:10 MH: But you don’t have the same prep time, so maybe it shortens it by half or by 60% or something. But anyway, I think people don’t give themselves enough time. They don’t put the work in. And it’s a pretty big impression you’re making, I think, and so it’s probably worth it. Look at the time we put into prepping for this show.
22:35 TW: I’m sorry. I just want to…
22:39 MK: I knew what was coming.
22:45 MH: I had to say it because it was just so I did that. That was the right way to let it out.
22:52 TW: I do think there… So, what’s different from… Michael, when you and I… If we look at the timeline of when we first attended those first conferences, which were probably about at the same time. I was slow to actually managed to get to eMetrics versus Moe. One, we didn’t have the local communities. Now, the local between Web Analytics Wednesday, between MeasureCamp, between meetups, go to meetup.com, go back to your university and talk to the students. Every single program, every single university would love to have you come talk to the students about analytics.
23:30 MH: There’s a lot of it.
23:31 TW: But I have watched… Because that, in some ways, feels like a lower stakes because it’s not a necessarily national audience, that is not an excuse to say, “I’m gonna put lower preparation,” that’s infuriating to me. I remember going to Accelerate, and I’d spoken a few times at eMetrics, but going to Accelerate and having a five-minute talk, and I blew past five hours on that thing. That had higher stakes for me for a few reasons, but even if you’re going to a MeasureCamp, even though Peter O’Neill will say, “Look, you don’t have to be superpower versus super great presentation,” doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be really thinking through your prep or developing some sort of gimmick, because that is also how you find yourself at the larger conferences.
24:23 TW: Easily 85% of my speaking has come from somebody seeing me at another conference, and some of that has been a small regional conference. Granted, type A may be not the best model for many, many reasons, but I think that’s from a prepping… Which gets to, “Hey, I wanna go to name this large conference that costs large money. And how do I get my employer to fund me?” It’s like, well, if you get a speaking gig there, it’s a lot easier. How do you get a speaking gig there? Well, you can work backwards. You can’t just sit back and say, “I wanna go.” What have you done in the community? What have you prepared? What have you prepped? Do you have something to say? Which also helps with pitching to the conference. If you say, “I presented this at this regional thing, it went over really well,” you tell that to a conference organizer, that goes a lot farther than saying, “I have this general idea for a general topic.”
25:23 MK: I see that all the time at Web Analytics Wednesday, and it makes me curl up and die a little bit on the inside. And we’ve actually talked as a committee whether or not we need to do a better job at vetting slides, vetting talks, and even where people are new, giving them the chance to practice with someone from the committee. We can give them feedback before they present, because most of the people just phone it in. They’ll stand up, they smash some slides together the day of, and the audience knows. You know when someone hasn’t prepare, and you know when they’re not totally across it. And I 100% agree that those smaller meetups are the jumping off point now for so many things. I go to other small things to try and scout speakers for ALS, and I talk to other people running, conferences and I recommend based on the really good content that I’ve seen at some of the small meetups. I think that you should definitely be putting in your effort for those things. And I probably could do more talks at some of the smaller things, but I only commit to it if I have the time to commit to it, not if I’m gonna do a half-assed job to fill a spot.
26:31 TW: ‘Cause it’s a very limited view of what your… If you’re saying, “Well, I’m sharing my knowledge with this group, and therefore low investment on them, low investment on me.” I’ve also found that the effort to present effectively means that it’s forcing me to get a lot more clarity of thought, which then pays off with internal discussions, with client discussions, with stakeholder discussions.
26:53 MH: It makes you better, yeah, absolutely.
26:57 TW: And honestly, it’s why I encourage people to pursue that process. But you cannot… You should not shortchange it, because it actually will work negative. Right? Even presenting internally, it’s like, “Hey you’re gonna do a lunch and learn, so why don’t you present this topic?” And there are only five people there. If you actually knock it out of the park, then that’s five people who saw you actually had something to say and can shift their perception, and they may actually say, “Oh, wow, I heard about this local meet-up group that I go to, and they’re always looking for speakers. You should come and give them a talk.”
27:31 MK: Okay. Let’s talk about… There are some people who speaking at a conference is not important to them, but they do wanna go. And I actually agree… Well, I think that making a business case for going to a conference can actually sometimes be really hard and sometimes even where I have gotten them approved, and I come back, I’m like, “Was that worth it?” From a practical, how much did I learn? How much did I network? Was the bang versus the buck or… I don’t know. I’m really throwing out some shocking sayings today and screwing them up, but… [chuckle] Yeah. I don’t know for people out there, is it worth it?
28:13 MH: What? To attend a conference?
28:15 MK: Yeah. Well, sometimes I come back and I’m like, “I just really didn’t get anything out of that.” I’ve not been in the office for two days. I’m behind on work. I spoke to a bunch of my pals, because I was too lazy to do some really solid networking.
28:29 MH: Yeah, so that’s where approach and plan comes into this, is because, I think, if you walk in with, “Yeah, I’m gonna go attend this conference, I’m not sure for what reason,” then I think you risk a minimal outcome. But I think that’s the way you can set up a plan and say, “Here’s what I’m gonna do and here’s why I’m going.” And honestly I think people thinking through that business case is a really good exercise, even if your company doesn’t require it, ’cause you gotta push yourself to come up with what you’re trying to get out of it.
29:01 TW: It’s funny. I actually recently had to make a… I did make a business case for attending a conference that it was… It’s paid. Not super expensive, it’s not local. And now that… As we’re talking about it, I was like, “These are the three things that I’m hoping to do,” that actually also helps with the discussions. I haven’t actually attended it yet, but it got approved. But that also goes to, if I know these are these two or three things that I’m struggling with or that I hope to get out or that I can’t figure out this is what I’d love to know how other companies are doing it, this one session seems like it, so then I’m gonna sit in that session and I’m gonna see who else is in the session, and then I’m gonna aggressively pursue them to talk about it.
29:45 MH: You just said a really good thing, Tim, which I wanna bring into focus, which is that is what conferences are really helpful for, which is trying to establish an industry perspective on something and developing an industry perk. Like, “How are we doing with this? What should we be doing with this? I wanna delve into this issue, so when I network with people, when I talk to companies, I wanna focus on this area.” And that’s really helpful, either for your own knowledge or for gaining a broader perspective about how the industry handles or tackles a specific thing. And maybe that’s what I meant with this whole synthesis idea that I have, ’cause I have this concept, or set of concepts, and I wanna validate it against other people’s thinking and use their speaking to help me solidify it.
30:30 MK: I think, Tim, that’s a strategy I’ve never thought about, which actually is, begrudgingly I’m gonna say, kinda smart. [laughter] It’s not even just…
30:42 MH: For the first time in Power Hour’s history, we got [30:45] __ credit on something.
30:49 MK: I think there is a habit of someone speaks up the front, and then at the end, people wanna keep talking about it and they go to that person and they only talk to the presenter. Actually looking around who else is in the room is kind of smart, because then, one, they’ve heard the same content as you, two, you have something in common that you can talk to and easily be like, “Hey, stranger, let’s chat about something.” But, three, you often find the speaker is also swamped because five or six people have gone up to speak to them, versus old mates sitting next to you who you could have probably a really great conversation with. “Yeah, I’m gonna try that. I actually am going to a conference tomorrow, so I’m gonna give that a whirl.”
31:29 TW: It’s another reason to ask, if you say, “Oh, I’ll just wait and ask the speaker this afterwards.” One, you’ll have to deal with the whole scrum. If you ask the question publicly, then everybody has heard you ask that question and guarantee… I actually had this happen at summit. I asked a question about ITP 2.1, and the lady sitting in front of me… The speaker punted on the answer, and she turned around, she’s like, “I don’t think he really answered your question.” And I’m like, “Okay, ’cause he said ‘good question’ and then he didn’t answer it, so I felt a little small.” And she said… So, we chatted about it a little bit, and she wound up asking a followup, and then we stood and talked about it for 10 minutes afterwards. So, you’re also advertising, “This is the stuff I’m dealing with, and if somebody has an idea, they will… ” I’ve had that happen multiple times, where they’ll come over and say, “Hey, we’re doing something similar,” and they’ll find you.
32:28 MH: I think it’s a little awkward for you to bring up ITP 2.1 specifically since, on the Measure Slack, people have been asking us to cover it on the show and we have not done it.
32:28 TW: Oh, we just did? That was it. There you go. [laughter] You’re welcome.
32:30 MH: Just checking out on you guys. Yeah. You can find the whole of our talk on this…
32:37 MH: Okay. A couple of really good things came out of that. I also think, through our different styles of conferences, and that placed people’s preferences as well. And so what I’ve observed is… And there’s a little bit of uniqueness to some of this. There’s a single-track conference where everything happens all at the same time, so everyone at the conference is getting the same content, so a good relevant model of that would be like Superweek over in Budapest every spring, or every January, February. Another multi-track conference a la eMetrics or Marketing Analytics Summit, and then there are these sort of un-conference, I don’t know what you call them, MeasureCamp is kind of an un-conference concept. UnSummit, run by David McBride. Then you also have the Exchange Conference/DA Hub, its current iteration conference, which is a huddle-based format. So, let’s talk a little bit about those different formats, how you’ve used them and how you’ve gotten benefit or not benefit from them.
33:40 TW: I’ll say the huddle format… I’ve never been to a DA Hub, so the only one I’ve been to was Click Summit, and it was definitely different. I think by the time I went, I was already more comfortable speaking up than maybe I have been historically. But the nice thing about the huddle format is that, especially if you go in armed with these are the questions, these are the specific huddles where I really wanna hear what other people are doing in X or Y, the annoying person is the person who just pontificates with the answers and doesn’t ask questions. Nobody likes that conference guy who’s just there… They already have it all figured out. It’s like, “Why are you here? If you’ve got it all figured out, you’re just here to share your brilliance,” but… So I’ve really gone to very limited huddle formats, but I’ve always heard amazing things about the DA Hub.
34:35 MK: Yeah. I actually haven’t had a huddle format, per se. I’m just finding, the more time goes on, the more practical I want stuff to be. I really struggle with… Yeah. I’m just finding lots of people fluff on about stuff, and I’m like, give me something that, when I go to my desk, I can try it. If I walk out of a session and I have one tip or one thing I wanna try or test, or whatever, that, to me, was a really useful session and that made it worthwhile going. And I think speakers don’t actually think about that enough, and so I actually have started to find… I get the most value out of the less organized conferences because they are a bit more tactical, it’s a less speaker to 400 people and person…
35:23 MH: Well, and that’s interesting, because I actually sometimes feel the opposite way. When someone is highly tactical, sometimes I really struggle with how they haven’t placed us in a broader context and thought bigger picture about what they’re solving for. And so, yeah, it’s cool, you’ve done this small thing and it’s pretty neat. You’ve done some tricky stuff, but, writ large or big picture, how have you incorporated this in? And it seems like there’s not that thinking happening and it’s like, “No, but that’s… ” But this is something I’ve just become aware of over the last couple of years, which is conferences, at least conferences that are planned at some level, have in mind a certain level of attendee, and so they’re trying to get to some kind of person. Who is my content for? And so I think probably what you’re experiencing a little bit, Moe, is probably maybe attending conferences that are not geared to what you wanna get. And the same with me, when I get into those sessions where I’m like, it’s because I’m not attending conferences that are geared toward what I’m trying to get out of a conference right now.
37:19 MH: But that’s where we would then skew to separate conferences, which is fine, because I think it’s about where you’re at, what you’re trying to do, and where you’re trying to go, not some kind of thing about what you should be striving for or what kind of… What is the perfect conference for every person. So, I really enjoy the huddle-style conferences, like DA Hub, but it’s because I’m a highly relational person, and I just enjoy seeing and interacting with people in that smaller setting. At the same time, a big potential drawback is that you may go through a few sessions or huddles, where little to no valuable thought leadership is displayed, and you basically are in a group therapy session about, “Man, this whole aspect of our industry sucks, and there’s nothing any of us have done to solve this bigger problem.” And it’s like, “Well, I need another 45 minutes of that in my life.” I thought that’s what this podcast was for. No, I’m just kidding.
37:26 MK: But how do you figure out whether or not it’s at the right level for you? Because I actually feel like I struggle with that.
37:34 MH: Again, I think our industry specifically is so young, it’s pretty hard, I think, to really know. But I think that’s where you try different things and don’t lock in or be… I find that we’re pretty judgmental also about content and conferences sometimes, when in reality it’s a conference not pointed to us. And so we just have to be open to the idea that, “Maybe I didn’t have a great experience at this conference, but maybe actually it’s not for me, it’s for someone else. And I can be okay with that.” And then I can be like, “Well, then what do I do in this application?” And so I can tell you when I’ve been at conferences and I know I’ll be at more of them because a lot of times you may be at that conference to speak, but you wanna try to find other ways to get value. And that may be, Moe, where you and I end up at the lobby bar hanging out with people, ’cause then we are sharing stories and we are growing in our knowledge of how people are doing things in an informal setting. But then in the other context also, go walk and talk to the exhibitors, too.
38:36 MK: What do you say to them?
38:38 TW: I’m terrible talking to the exhibitors.
38:40 MK: What do you say? I just struggle.
38:44 MH: Yeah. It’s not easy and you have to pick the right… You should only talk to the person who can do the best demo. You should be looking at who’s on the computer showing people stuff, and then you should try to talk to just that person, ’cause the sales people who are manning the booths or whatever, they’re not gonna be able to answer in-depth questions, but get in there and ask, “Show me how your tool does this,” or, “Can you solve this problem,” or, “That’s interesting. Have you guys thought of this?” Then you dig in and find… And usually, if you get into some deep questions with the sales guy, then they’ll pull the demo guy in and you can have a decent… And you learn stuff, too, about how people are trying to solve problems. And so it’s… I’m not good at it and I probably go into that…
39:30 MK: It sounds like you’re really good at it.
39:32 MH: Well, no, but, look, I’m awkward. Just how I’m introducing myself to people, I walk up to booths and I’m like, “Don’t give me your spiel, just tell me how you’re unique and different than everybody else who does what you do.” And then they’re like, “Well, let me start with my spiel,” and I’m like, “I just said, ‘don’t give me the spiel.’” [laughter] It’s tough. And also I don’t wanna be a jerk about it.
39:52 MK: I feel like, the next conference, I’m just gonna follow you around and watch. It’s gonna be quite entertaining.
39:56 MH: Yeah. Lets go walk the exhibit hall together at Marketing Analytics Summit, that’s the next conference we’ll be at together, June whatever, whatever that is, it’ll be a last call. Stay tuned for exciting dates of details, actually. We are actually getting pretty close to the end of the show, so, I don’t know, any other thoughts or comments?
40:16 TW: One thing I don’t know the way you’ve explicitly said, but I realized I have had to, I find myself coaching people on, is that if you go to a conference, expecting that every experience and every session is going to move you forward, you’re probably setting the bar too high. I’ve had people say, “Well, I went to three awesome sessions, but then there were two that were stinkers,” I’m like, “Well, that’s amazing, you went to three awesome sessions.” And it gets a little bit to that, “Is this the right level for me?” Because when they have multi-tracks, a lot of times they’ll try to say, “Oh, intros, strategy, technical.” It’s always comical when they start slamming sessions in, you’re like, “Well, this makes absolutely no sense as to what you’ve actually… ” I’ve never actually gone down one track, and said, “Oh, this is the track that I’m on.”
41:04 TW: But if I have one or two sessions where I do walk out with either a fundamental upgrade in the way I’m thinking about something, or a very tactical tip to try, or sometimes even I just know somebody who I’ve made a connection with is the speaker or another attendee that I know I can actually contact and collaborate with in the future, that’s what it should take. It’s easy to focus on the on balance, what was great, what sucked and, “Oh, well, there were more sucky things than great things,” and I don’t think that’s the right calculus for a conference. I think it really should just be an absolute how many great things did you get? Which means you have to do as much as you possibly can to try to hit those. And some of them will be uncomfortable, some of them will be not particularly productive, but did you get… Can you remember one or two things that you say that was really useful?
41:53 MK: Yeah, that’s true.
41:54 MH: Yeah. I would say, if I walk out of a commerce with three to five really crystal things that I picked up to take away, I feel pretty good about that.
42:02 TW: Crap. So, now I have to be positive about Adobe Summit ’cause I definitely walked out with three to five, even though it wore me down.
42:10 MH: And you can actually see some of our thoughts about that, ’cause Tim and I did a little bit of heart taking on Adobe Summit, so that’ll be either before or after this one comes out. I don’t know yet.
42:21 TW: Although I think the most awesome thing that might have happened… So, the most awesome thing for me was actually meeting Jen Lasser. The most awesome thing that happened was Ben Gaines and his T-shirt fire fail, which was caught on video. Now that I’ve mentioned it, we can link to it and further spread the word on that.
42:35 MK: T-shirt fire? As in he’s…
42:38 TW: He was trying to fire a T-shirt canon at the beginning of his…
42:39 MH: He was firing a T-shirt out of a cannon, and it probably traveled all of 2-1/2 feet. It was amazing. [laughter] And we could share this story because Ben has such a great… He was laughing about it, too, so he’s not upset about it. All right. Now, at the end of this conference, we always do a last call, ’cause we walk around and we don’t wanna talk about what’s going on in life right now. So, Tim, why don’t we start with you this time?
43:11 TW: So, I am gonna tie into conferences ’cause I recently went to the Women in Analytics Conference in Columbus, and at the after party met Reshama Shaikh, I might have butchered her name, and I had a delightful chat with her. She’s a statistician, data scientist, out of New York, has done a lot in pharma, but she’s kind of a Python person, and she mentioned that she’d written this post called “Why Women are Flourishing in the R Community but Lagging in Python.” It actually got retweeted by Hadley Wickham, so the R users will be like, “That’s awesome.”
43:50 MH: That’s very interesting.
43:51 TW: And she actually made an appearance on the DataFramed podcast, where she talked about it. So, you think this might just be one of these thought pieces, but she went pretty deep into the data and she tried to do some kind of normalizing based on the raw size of the Python community versus R. And she looked PyLadies versus R-Ladies. So, it’s a really pretty intriguing read, both just the topic is interesting, but also she actually did a pretty kickass in-depth analysis about it, and it was… She’s definitely high in the list of one of those people that I met at a conference, and I’m looking forward to staying in touch with her. And it was a pretty cool post.
44:32 MH: That’s pretty cool.
44:34 MK: I definitely wanna read that.
44:36 MH: What about you, Moe?
44:37 MK: Well, it’s gonna be some reading material, ’cause I actually… At the moment, all I’m doing is finding stuff that helps me do stuff faster. So, I just had some cool little tool-y things that actually my sister, Michelle, showed me which are kind of changing my life. One is called Work Owner, which organizes all your tabs, and I actually find this is especially useful. When I’m trying to problem solve something, I suddenly end up with 40 Stack Overflow tabs, and then I work out only two are useful, so it just helps you manage all that stuff. And I’m actually finding it weirdly helpful. And the other one, I don’t know if anyone’s ever seen… Michelle always posts pictures in Measure Slack when she asks for help, and she blurs out the stuff that you don’t need to see, and so you can only see the stuff that you can see. And I always secretly wondered how she did it. Well, I now have said tools now, I guess, and I’m quite excited.
45:35 TW: Oh, yeah, absolutely.
45:36 MK: I’ve heard people that think, people are always like, “Oh, my God, I can’t believe you don’t have that,” ’cause no one ever told me stuff.
45:42 TW: If only you had a good relationship with your sister, then you could have…
45:46 MH: Yeah. You guys should talk more.
45:49 TW: We can also talk about how to do the… Specifically, in Snagit, the patented Adam Greco technique for Jagged Edge’s drop shadow. It’s kinda his look, his thing.
45:57 MH: Oh, I’ve seen a few people pull that one off. I don’t do it myself, but, yeah.
46:02 TW: I’ve actually had people ask me, “How do you do that thing like Adam Greco does?” I’m like, “It’s pretty much one of the defaults in Snagit,” but it’s branded Adam Greco.
46:12 MH: There you go.
46:13 TW: What about you, Michael?
46:14 MH: Well, I, given the topic, am gonna talk about a couple of conferences. We already teased it, but, yes, the Digital Analytics Power Hour is going to record live at the Marketing Analytics Summit, hopefully. I once called it the wrong name. Marketing Analytics Summit, June 17th.
46:36 TW: Implying we’re not recording live right now.
46:37 MH: We are recording it live in front of a… How do you describe it, Tim? Is it…
46:42 TW: I don’t know. Most of the one who got irritated with the phrasing of it.
46:47 MH: It is a live recording… It is a recording in front of a live audience, there you go. Thank you. We’ve got a month or two to work on this. June 17th to 20th, in sunny Las Vegas, Nevada. And this is a great conference. Especially, I would say, this hits right at that middle point of your analytics career, so if you’re three to five years into your career, you’re a senior analyst or manager, this is probably a great conference for you, since we talked about multiples.
47:16 MK: I’m actually so pumped about this year’s one. There are some really cool speakers. Matt Gershoff is coming. Elea Feit, who I’ve never met before, and I’ve already been sending her preemptive emails about all those question points. The lineup this year, I’m pretty excited about it.
47:32 TW: And I’m presenting head-to-head with John Lovett, so that’s gonna be a clash of titans. Two very different topics, should be very easy to choose which one you wanna go to.
47:41 MH: Aforementioned June Dershewitz, who I had a big fan moment with. And there’s a lot of cool speakers there, so I recommend you come. And if you’re a listener of the podcast, come to the live… The recording in front of a live audience show that we will be doing there. And also I like meeting people who listen to the show. I know Tim and Moe don’t have time for our listeners, but I do. No, I’m just kidding. I’m kidding. [laughter] I will probably have some cool Digital Analytics Power Hour stuff to hand out at the show, because we have a lot of swag left over from Adobe Summit.
48:21 TW: It’s pretty cool. People actually… The people who’ve got it were like, “That’s pretty cool.”
48:25 MH: I will be using mine all summer long. And my second would be… This is because I’m contractually obligated, because I’m on the board of the Digital Analytics Association, the DAA is having their first ever annual conference. And if you’re not in the United States, this less pertains to you, but I’m gonna tell you about it anyways. It is the DAA OneConference, and it is October 23rd and 24th in Chicago. You got plenty of time, but I’d suggest checking it out. I think the speaker lineup is gonna get released fairly soon, so that will help you know whether to come or not.
49:00 MH: All right. Well, you’ve probably been listening and you’re thinking to yourself, “Man, it would be cool if I could hear all of this content in the context of a conference.” And so probably you should start a conference and then invite us to it. No, I’m just kidding. We would love to hear from you, ’cause maybe there’s other questions you have. And I don’t know that we have the end all, be all knowledge on this, so we’d also probably love your comments and thoughts as well. If you’ve attended or spoken at a lot of conferences, how do you get value? How do you prove that’s the right way to spend the company’s money on you to develop your skills? We’d love to hear from you. As place, always, Measure Slack. But also our Twitter account, and our fancy shmancy, we don’t know what to do with it yet, LinkedIn group, which is growing. And also, since I’ve deleted my Facebook account, you can’t really talk to me on our Facebook page, but I think Tim is still there. And Moe maybe, too.
49:56 MH: All right. Well, we really appreciate you listening, and we’d love to hear from you. I don’t know. Moe, Tim, any last thoughts? It’s weird to do this without a guest. We’ve had so many… We haven’t done…
50:06 TW: You can thank us. You can thank us for coming on and what wonderful guests we were.
50:10 MH: I don’t feel like that’s show appropriate, Tim. [chuckle] A, I really believe on being authentic, so I’m not gonna say it if I don’t feel it.
50:19 MK: Yeah.
50:21 MH: No, I’m just kidding. Obviously, I’m delighted to be here with you, Tim, and you, Moe, and me, Michael. And to all of you out there, whether you attend conferences or you don’t, make sure you don’t stop analyzing.
50:40 S1: Thanks for listening, and don’t forget to join the conversation on Facebook, Twitter, or Measure Slack group. We welcome your comments and questions. Visit us on the web, at analyticshour.io, facebook.com/analyticshour, or @AnalyticsHour on Twitter.
51:00 Speaker 5: So smart guys want to fit in, so they made up a term called “analytic.” Analytics don’t work.
51:05 Speaker 6: Analytics. Oh, my God. What the fuck does that even mean?
51:15 Speaker 7: Oh, this is when we start recording? This is all this? This is great.
51:21 Speaker 8: I’m definitely being a whiny, bitchy guy.
51:24 Speaker 9: And what’d you find out?
51:25 S8: I stopped looking, ’cause it wasn’t worth it anymore.
51:28 MK: You guys modify, you wanna make a coffee?
51:30 MH: Go for it.
51:31 TW: Why not? My God, no.
51:36 TW: Whatever.
51:39 TW: It’s not anger, it’s disappointment. Let’s be clear.
51:42 MH: Yeah, I know. I felt it.
51:45 MH: Yeah, so write it down, ’cause I’m about to start in five…
51:50 MH: Hi, everyone. Welcome.
51:56 MH: Hi, everyone.
51:56 MH: We cannot gonna get it kicked off if you guys don’t take it seriously.
52:01 TW: Well, I’m lost. I just lost my train of thought.
52:06 MK: 17th, June 17?
52:08 TW: Yeah. I was gonna say it at the end of the show. But it’s okay, you could say right now.
52:13 MH: Thank you so much, Moe, for… Do it again. Now they don’t even have to listen to the end of the show.
52:20 MH: It’s called the DAA OneConference, and it’s happening in October. And, of course, I forgot the dates, but I think it’s October 13th. Now I need to look that up. It is not October 13th. It is…
52:35 MH: Rock flag and conferences.
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