Last week was yet another round of Pubcon Vegas, the party trip of the year that can be written off as a business expense.  And this year was no different, but things are definitely a-changing at Pubcon  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.  Yes, there was an astronomical 10 different tracks going on at once.  TEN.  And you know what that means?   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.  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 weren’t nearly as problematic as what speakers were reporting this year.  Because some of those rooms where like a ghost town.  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 – or even half of the rooms – had a decent number of people in it.  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.  And only if you were super lucky, you might’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.  And I can’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.  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.  Seriously, “Content Strategy” and “Strategies for Content Marketing” (really?) could be consolidated easily.   Same with “Brand and Reputation Management Strategies” and “Online Brand Management Strategies”.  And “The Intersection of Social Media and Search” with “The Convergence of Social Media and Search”.  And those are just the ones I noticed.

What should Pubcon do?  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.  Some speakers might complain about the lack of bodies in their room, but more won’t for the sole reason that they don’t want Brett to think they suck as a speaker and they don’t want to lose a potentially juicier speaking spot for the next Pubcon.    Next six, scale back the tracks to 7, because that was clearly where the tipping point was.  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.  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.   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.

By seobitch

Seobitch is a pen name for a well known female expert in the SEO industry that most of you likely already follow. She has more than a dozen years experience and is a very respected expert in the field. Seobitch can be controversial but writes about issues that most people are afraid to talk about due to their employers, clients or friends. She also loves to tackle industry issues from a different point of view than what you normally see the "complainers" of the industry complaining about. She is also open to suggestions for future topics you would like to see the SEObitch tackle.

16 thoughts on “Pubcon Sessions are a Deserted Ghost Town”
  1. I’m surprised they even bothered having pubcon this year, but whatever, burning money and then pissing over it can be fun…I guess.

  2. It shouldn’t be that hard to throw a good event. Take some like-minded fun people and put them into a room together. Add some food and A LOT of alcohol and watch the magic happen! Some of the best conferences/events I’ve attended were the ones that had people meeting up after the main events. People get loose and business starts happening and your drinking buddy is now your new investor!

  3. Too many speakers/break out sessions seems to be running rampant and not just at PubCon. Why bother speaking if you’re just talking to half a dozen people. Hell, you can do that shit over drinks. And then from the attendees point of view you’re not always going to be able to even hear everyone that you want because there is just too damned much shit going on!!

  4. I’d be so pissed if that happened. I know that some speakers even pay to talk at events (which is crap in of itself) but to toss money at something and get nothing in return, there’d be no way I’d ever go back to that event if taht happened.

  5. Lemma guess, the mysterious SEOBitch was supposed to be one of said speakers or was in the past and got burned and now needs to cry to the world about it?

  6. NOTHING should be ‘first thing in the morning’ in Vegas. NOTHING….unless you’re still partying from the night before.

  7. I’m waiting for barcodes to just be permanently assigned to individuals and we get scanned for everything. I for one welcome our barcode overlords.

  8. I heard a lot of people during Pubcon complaining that the sessions were of less quality than in previous years. I agree that they are trying to fit in way too many sessions at the same time. The keynotes were always mega packed. Even though Matt Cutts was speaking early morning on the second day of the event, it was still packed and a ton of people were standing. With the massive money and attendance behind Pubcon, I would like to see the exhibit hall much better, as that is where much of the business and networking happens.

  9. I say just start having cage fights with speakers and whoever wins gets to talk. People would totally come to that.

  10. I will say this as a Pubcon Fanboy.

    I spoke on 3 panels, and of course I prefer to have the room packed too.

    I believe there were over 2000 attendees. As a speaker I would have preferred to have all 2000 of them in my room, but as an attendee, I would much prefer to have diversity of choices on what to learn.

    The positive points for me were:
    1. The poker tourney ended up having 117 players, which was hands down the most we ever had. The fact that Pubcon promoted it this year was off the hook.
    2. We connected with 2 great major brands that we will be working with at some level.
    3. Of course seeing all of the amazing people who come to Pubcon, including Todd with his amazing recovery and new and improved forehead. 🙂

    But point well taken, I would rather have them all in my room when I speak as well 🙂

  11. I spoke on three panels also, one packed, one moderate, maybe 60-80 people, and one ghost town.

    I thought it was odd that they didn’t scan badges this year, when they always have in the past, and I was disappointed that there was no video taking place either. The past two Pubcons i’ve paid the extra money to buy the videos, but they didn’t get filmed this year.

    That said, I’d hardly call the event unimpressive or a “fail”, and I got a quite a bit out of the 4 or 5 sessions I sat in on besides my own.

    I think the quality of conferences overall has dropped with so many to choose from, but SMX Advanced in Seattle, Pubcon, and SearchFest here in Portland Oregon (where Shoemoney is keynoting for 2014) are three that I’ll keep going to year after year as long as I’m in the biz…

  12. This is a good writing. I have been seeking for information about Pubcon for a while and I have found this writing. It has helped me know much about Pubcon. Thanks for sharing.

  13. It seems there was an embarrassing incident that took place at Pubcon. Everyone is disappointed for attending the event!

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