Over the years I have attended many conferences spanning a variety marketing of topics, including the MIMA Summit.  At each of these events, my role was quite simple: attend the most relevant presentations to my area of interest, take copious notes, and apply the learned tactics and techniques in my day to day work.  If our team feels ambitious enough, we will even post the notes on our blog and share reactions for the world to see (like our Google Analytics Summit and Online Marketing Summit notes from 2009).

This year's MIMA Summit was different, because this would be my first time presenting at the conference.  While I had blogged earlier this year about my goal to be a presenter at a marketing conference, I never imagined that it would actually happen.  That is, until I met Betsey from Sugarbeet Creative and she gave me the opportunity to have my voice heard!

Observations from the other side of the podium

This post is chronicles what went on "behind the scenes" during my time spent at the MIMA Summit. I wanted to put my thoughts down for personal reasons (reflection) as well as share my experience to anyone who may be interested in learning more about conference speaking. Hopefully you can enjoy reading as much as I enjoyed writing!

Conferences Take Months of Preparation

I was amazed by how much preparation needs to go into a well run conference. Many of the preparations for the conference are done months in advance. Organizing and scheduling 50+ speakers and two featured keynote speakers takes months of hard work. Sue at Jigsaw Unlimited did an outstanding job of keeping each speaker informed with conference schedules and expectations. Lots of respect to the team who put on the event!

Seeing Your Picture in the Conference Program is Hilarious

As a proponent of self deprecating humor, I couldn't help but laugh at seeing my face on the MIMA Summit website and printed program. 'What am I looking at? Is that my senior yearbook photo? Can someone please Photoshop this for me?' are all thoughts that came to mind as I perused the MIMA Summit Website. Even Diane the intern made fun of me!

Jeff MIMA Summit Bio

Good Presentations Take Time

As a card carrying member of the procrastination nation, I did my best to not wait until the weekend before the event to put everything together. This plan didn't work well, as another September speech and client work prohibited me from working on the deck until a few days before it was due.  Thankfully, the combination of help from Diane, Kristina, Jake and Alex pitched in to help me create a quality presentation, and a weekend of furious editing allowed me to finish the slides mere hours before I was scheduled to present.

Making Analytics Less Boring

One of my main objectives was to create a presentation that didn't put people to sleep. No matter how you package it, talking about numbers and analytics is a fairly dry topic. Even though I find it absolutely fascinating, by nature analytics doesn't necessarily make for a stimulating presentation.

In order to make the topic interesting, I tried to adhere to the following rules:

  • Set the tone by telling everyone that I am trying to make less boring and encourage them to ask questions throughout the presentation
  • No reading off slides!
  • Add vivid pictures/images for transitions between topic areas (thanks Kristina for your help here!)
  • Try to break up a 1 hour 45 minute presentation into enough sections that it would stay interesting. 10 topics at 10-15 minutes each is much easier to sit through
  • Do as much to relay the information in terms the audience understands. Don't try to impress with intelligence and vocabulary: impress people with simplicity and clear delivery.
  • Provide real value to your attendees instead of patting yourself on the back

You Never Know Who is Listening

It wasn't until after I completed my speech that I learned who was in attendance.  My friend and fellow presenter Aaron Weiche told me that one of the gentlemen in attendance of my speech was the one and only Baratunde Thurston, one of the keynote speakers for the conference.  He asked some great questions along the way, and took enough notes that I think I might have actually taught him something new!

Positive Feedback is Very Fulfilling

Alongside the keynote speaker in the audience, a well respected member of the Minnesota tech community, Steve Borsch, was doing a "live blog" of my session.  I have been an admirer of Steve's for as long as I have been in interactive marketing and it was an honor to have him post his thoughts on my presentation to the world!

Better yet, his feedback was overwhelmingly positive.  Humbling in fact.  Not long after my speech, Diane the intern emailed me all of the comments that she was able to gather from Twitter, Facebook and Steve's live blog, so I was able to tell almost immediately how I had done.  Of all of the comments, this one meant the most to me:

@sborsch: Here is a strong opinion I'd like to mention: Jeff Sauer has explained using analytics in a way that is THE best explanation I've ever heard! He is articulating several pieces that I've always known, but now "get" in a deeper way.

I could present every day for the rest of my life and not get this type of feedback ever again!

Anticipating Questions is Difficult

No matter how hard you try and anticipate the questions that may be asked during a presentation/workshop session, it's hard to work them all into a presentation.  In addition, it's difficult to truly understand the knowledge level of your attendees before the presentation starts, so it comes down to a lot of deep thinking and some wild guesses to pull the material together.  Do your best to mitigate this, but realize it's part of the presentation process.

Share Your Deck With the World

To share or not to share? There really shouldn't be a question. From concept to presentation, my team probably put a solid 40 hours into creating this presentation. That's an entire work week!  It would be foolish to go through that entire process of creating a presentation, present for 2 hours, and then let the presentation sit on your hard drive.  In fact, that would be a huge misuse of resources to not share this presentation with the world.

In order to maximize the impact that my presentation may have, I uploaded the presentation to Slideshare and promoted it through my Twitter account, Three Deep's Twitter and the #mimasummit hashtag that was used for the conference.  Less than 12 hours after uploading, I received the following note from Slideshare

Slide Share Promoted Presentation

Holy cow!  I didn't even know that was possible.   Better yet, it gave me something to talk about with others on Twitter, Facebook and in person.

When all was said and done, the promotion to the homepage had a huge impact on the number of people who were able to view the presentation.  At the time of this writing, the presentation has had the following impact:

  • 1072 presentation views
  • 64 "tweets" and Facebook "likes"
  • 12 "favorites"
  • Top 10 search result on Slideshare for "Google Analytics"

While I didn't get an exact headcount on total people attending my MIMA Summit session, I estimate it was slightly below 50 people.   By posting this on Slideshare, I was able to share this information with 21x more people!  And this presentation will be available for years after the presentation date.  For a small marketing company like Three Deep, this exposure is really helpful for building a recognizable name in our field.

The Green Room is the Place to be

The "green room" is where presenters go before and after their speech time.  It is a place for relaxation and preparation, as well as many great conversations between speakers.  This is where the magic happens.   They also have refreshments, interviews with speakers, a massage chair, and the opportunity to meet the keynote speakers.  While it was inspiring to hear Gary Vaynerchuk speak on stage, it was even better observing how he interacted with others, the questions people asked him, and his enthusiasm to talk with anyone who approached.  He came across as a genuinely nice and sincere person after seeing him in the green room.

Your Fellow Presenters are your Friends

Literally. If your fellow presenters aren't currently friends, they should be! I met some amazing people during the event and strengthened friendships with others who I had known previously. The amount of energy and brainpower that goes into these events is incredible, and sharing in the experience with others enhances the value you get out of the event.

Of all of the two people I met, I would like to give a "shout out" to two in particular. The first is Lisa Raehsler from Online Marketing Mavens, who presented on how to improve your paid search program.

MIMA Summit PPC Workshop- Lisa RaehslerI also wanted to mention Aaron Weiche from Five Technology, who presented on Small Business SEO:
Small Business SEO

You Have to Start Somewhere

The first speech is usually the toughest, and it gets easier from there. The hardest part is finding the proper opportunity to get started. I was fortunate to have unconditional support from the MIMA Summit committee and my team at Three Deep. For others, the process may be completely different. But the key is: you have to start somewhere!

Do you have any tips for speaking or experiences to share? Please leave a comment if you do!