Last week was yet another round of Pubcon Vegas, the party trip of the year that can be written off as a business expense.Â And this year was no different, but things are definitely a-changing at PubconÂ I have commented before about the sheer number of speakers (not sure on the numbers, but it has to be about 100) at Pubcon , but having 50 different tracks (okay, it is 10, but it feels like 50) is sheer stupidity.Â Yes, there was an astronomical 10 different tracks going on at once.Â TEN.Â And you know what that means?Â Â Speakers were stuck feeling like losers when they were presenting in a room with maybe 5 or 6 people in the audience if they didn’t happen to be slotted in the “cool kids” session in each time slot.Â Because nothing makes a speaker feel like shit more than the fact no one wants to hear what they have to say.
When I wrote about Pubcon earlier this year, there were 7 tracks from the previous Pubcon, and the deserted conference sessions werenâ€™t nearly as problematic as what speakers were reporting this year.Â Because some of those rooms where like a ghost town.Â And it wasn’t just an occasional session, here or there, it was multiple session during every single time slot, with usually one or two rooms that drew the crowds.
Now, having 10 tracks is fine if every room â€“ or even half of the rooms – had a decent number of people in it.Â But the reality is, speakers were complaining about working on an entire presentation yet only speaking to 4 or 5 people sitting in the room. Not a great ROI when you consider the work put in the presentation, and expense of traveling to Pubcon and then speaking for 20-30 minutes to those four or five people, and chances are pretty good at least half of them you had some association with them previously, and they were interested in anything he had to say.Â And only if you were super lucky, you mightâ€™ve had one of the few standing room only sessions.
But from a speaker perspective, it must suck when there is competition from 9 different tracks meaning that you have put a ton of work and effort into creating a fabulous presentation while there are about 6 people in the room watching.Â And I canâ€™t imagine how it was for the speakers who had to speak first thing in the morning in Vegas, unless perhaps they scored a spot after the Matt Cutts keynote.
There is also a huge overlap with sessions.Â There were multiple Facebook sessions, which essentially presented the same thing and could have easily been consolidated into one session with the best of the best speakers. Â Seriously, â€œContent Strategyâ€ and â€œStrategies for Content Marketingâ€ (really?) could be consolidated easily.Â Â Same with â€œBrand and Reputation Management Strategiesâ€ and â€œOnline Brand Management Strategiesâ€.Â And â€œThe Intersection of Social Media and Searchâ€ with â€œThe Convergence of Social Media and Searchâ€.Â And those are just the ones I noticed.
What should Pubcon do? Â Pubcon should really have used a system where badges get scanned, so they would have a clue which sessions are popular and see just how many sessions had only a half dozen people in it.Â Some speakers might complain about the lack of bodies in their room, but more wonâ€™t for the sole reason that they donâ€™t want Brett to think they suck as a speaker and they donâ€™t want to lose a potentially juicier speaking spot for the next Pubcon. Â Â Â Next six, scale back the tracks to 7, because that was clearly where the tipping point was.Â zThen consolidate some of the sessions, so people are missing out on less and Pubcon could pick and choose the best speakers.
Then take the sponsored sessions out of its own room and stick it in a section of the expo hall, similar to what Search Engine Strategies (SES) does.Â Sponsors get more traffic from people wandering through the expo hall from people who wander by and notice a presentation going on, and you lose less people from attending actual sessions.Â Â And charge a premium amount for the half hour during lunch each day.
It is a good thing PubCon has always been about the networking.