Founder of Learn Inbound
Event Organiser | Problem Solver | Digital Marketer
With over ten years experience within the digital marketing industry, Mark is a results-focused marketer who has worked with a broad range of industries throughout the years.
Mark is best known as the founder of Learn Inbound, a digital marketing training company who hosts an annual large-scale in-person event in Ireland.
Mark states that his ability to solve problems is what ensures he constantly strives forward to exceed goals and targets.
The unscripted TAD interview with Mark Scully
Watch 1 hour and 8 minutes of pure events gold where our TAD founder (Mark Preston) gets to know Mark that bit better and gets a deeper understanding into what it's really like to run and grow a large scale digital marketing event.
Some of the questions we asked Mark in his unscripted TAD interview
What has been your biggest learning running a digital marketing event?
I've certainly learned quite a lot. Over the last five to six years, it's been an experience running everything from a meet-up similar to large conferences, where you have a few hundred people and a lot more speakers to manage. Certainly, it tests you in ways that you never expect in that you run in certain circumstances and manage expectations you've probably never foreseen.
I want to say running a free event and paying to attend are two different things. And, for a free event, there's an expectation to a certain level but if people physically paid for a ticket, then suddenly the expectation scales go up massively. Our five first events were completely free to attend back in January 2015. But then, at the second event, we realised we can host again by charging the experience. It was the same experience. But now we were charging 30 Euros for a ticket to cover the expenses.
So trying to encourage people to pay was incredibly difficult. All of a sudden, people want to have a certain quality of food and snacks; they want to have swag; they want to have different quality speakers. But the more they have a more in-depth experience, the more they take away from the events. It's extremely hard to monetize thoughts. Whenever it's free, you generally don't get as many complaints. But when you charge anything, even if it was five pounds, 10 pounds, people do have those expectations.
They'll compare you to so many other events out there. It's difficult because you know yourself and how much work goes into its time, how you may lose your mind and realise you're not gonna hit your technical goal yet, you've maybe got a big venue that you need to fill. I think it's extremely hard to ensure that you keep everyone happy; you're always going to get negative feedback. I think even if one got accepted as an event organiser, there's always going to be someone or some people that you can't please, whenever you're transitioning from a free event to appeal events. You gotta be prepared.
The foundation needs to be solid; you need to know exactly how to run the events. You need to know hard to please your core demographic of people. Those people want to attend. You should still expect that no matter what you do, you are going to get some comments coming back to you. They are difficult to read. Like in my early days, I read every single tweet, often events; it could take me to four or five hours in the morning sometimes, but I read every single one and I would take that one negative one meant to make me think that was a terrible event. Even if I had maybe 199 positive ones, I would take that negative one to heart.
What's the most challenging thing running up to an event that you've found?
That's a difficult one. Whenever you put me into the organisational side of things, managing relationships with speakers can be difficult especially whenever you're maybe facing 10 other pressing things to ensure that your events are hitting your commercial goals. Even in the business-to-business side of things, attracting sponsorship I find can be challenging because again, it's a competitive landscape. There are so many other events out there competing for the same audience.
You must be sure of what is unique about yours, so it's difficult. I think every event organiser will probably lie about this, but I think most pet events do struggle to sell lights. So whatever is, the reality is most paid events, including the ones I've run, have never sold out. It's nice in the rear, I have to say that we have sold our boats not to happen. So for me, if you were speaking to sponsors on it and you say we're going to have 500 people in attendance, that's their expectation; they've paid you for that expectation. But maybe you're realising a week or two after that maybe you're going to fall short, not only are you going to upset your speakers, because they're flying over to speak to an audience of a certain size.
You're also going to upset those sponsors with whom you've worked pretty hard to nurture that relationship. To get them to pay you with a reminder is for them to maybe generate so many new leads for their business. So like, that's been hearts, all those things come together, all of a sudden, this is no longer you as a marketer hosting a great marketing experience and bringing together these marketing experts. You need to take yourself out of the box and realise this is not a commercial operation.
That's if you don't still hit your revenue goals, you're going to build up some deaths. If you don't have the number of people in attendance, then you're not going to be able to maybe get back to sponsors next time; you're maybe not going to keep those speakers satisfied because maybe they're coming from quite some distance. Maybe they've never heard of you before, but they've bought into your audience size. It's an opportunity. That's kind of like a melting pot of stress and frustration.
Then you obviously need to pull off the events and make it as flawless as possible. This is because your attendees are going to kick you to get around, so all those things come together. I think it's difficult whenever you see so many people promoting themselves as being a sellout event, but then you're looking at yours and you're thinking why am I struggling. You may also not be realising that they're probably going through the same challenges as you. So there's that level of imposter syndrome. I think to an event organiser, and especially if you're a marketer, it goes to marketing conferences, because when you're comparing those marketing conferences two years on, you want to have the same quality experience or better.
And it's so hard, like, it's just such a challenge. I think, for me, it's been a big learning curve. I've had points whereby once they walk with me at times that I just felt like I really can't do this. And as a one person, it's been something I've learned a lot from. So, whenever I see new events coming along, I'm excited about them. But I also want them to know that this is going to be so damn hard. You're excited about your brand right now. It's exciting; it is. Just don't get carried away and scale it beyond your capabilities. Don't grow to a certain size just because you're selling out tickets right now. That you might sell 100 person events doesn't mean you should go to fires on personal events just because it's nice. So yeah, I could rant about this all day.
Do you have an example of something you weren’t happy with at Learn Inbound?
I could give you a great example of this mark. This is one I've not spoken of publicly. So I'm going to give you the kind of cover insights into this. I won't mention the speaker because I'm never gonna be the person. But yeah, we had a well-known person last year. It was hard to get this person and we knew he could speak about a certain topic. I hadn't spoken to many conference organisers that worked with this speaker but it's based on the profile that I found the person to be a perfect fit.
The conference came along and I realised the communication from this one person was pretty poor. We got their slides; I think three hours before they got on stage. They missed every single deadline. I never reviewed the slides. I couldn't say by the time I got them as I was stressed from the conference. But then I stepped outside the room just before the talk was about to start and then I realised that they asked a member of our audience to get up on stage while they were walking onto the stage during the walk-on music, to record them using his mobile phone, so he could use in a promo video by himself as a public speaker.
Now, not only do they not get to review slides, I didn't authorise the happening. From a GDPR perspective, he captured footage of our audience without anyone giving permission. The day after the conference, he included this in the promo video and he was running Facebook ads with footage of the audience and campaigns.
So, I won't get into too much. But as an attendee, you're looking at our thing, and this guy, so cool. Look at him. He's got someone falling, open stage recording video. This guy is a superstar. He works with some major bronze. I feel special. I got to see him speak. As an event organiser, you're thinking of things that you should be thinking of that probably include trolling him into the back of the car and pushing him off a cliff. When you see yourself as an organiser, you receive these things but as an attendee, you don't. All I could think of as an organiser was this person I'm never going to work with again. If there's anyone that asked my opinion, I'm going to tell them to avoid them. And his demands were ridiculous. He was looking for a podium just before he got up on stage when we never give podiums to speakers because as an organiser, I hit podiums.
Why don’t most speakers get paid to speak at digital marketing events?
I like to say that every speaker should be paid for the time because as an attendee, you don't realise that maybe 30, 40, 50 hours of preparation is what's the 30-minute talk. Some speakers might have a couple of hundred slides. There's a lot of research and time that goes into that. So where possible I think every single speaker regardless of their profile, or whatnot is completely new to public speaking and should receive something. As an event organiser myself, I'm sure you can relate to this. When you're running a free meetup, when you don't have anything to give to them, you can't just say I'm going to pay you whatever amounts to do this because you're doing this in your spare time yourself. So I think then, it's realistic to not pay a speaking fee. I think where possible, you should be giving the speaker something to help them move on to maybe the next speaking gig, which for me is if it's an impersonal event, I pay for a professional photographer to come along.
I get photos of them publicly speaking on the stage. I'll send them the photos and tell them they can use them for anything. And a lot of speakers have used them on their websites or have used them in slide decks, etc. They've used them to move on to maybe bigger gigs like BrightonSEO, or Search Love or MozCon. Some speakers have imposter pint-sized marketing events, they've got something from the same way if they can record the audio of the events, give them notes, you know, a few during the free event, give them up that's useful. They can turn into a podcast, they can embed it on their website and they can stick it on YouTube, whatever they want to do. That's useful too. Same way, if it's like virtual events like this where we record it, we allow them to get free access to it so if they want to share it with conference organisers, or pitch it for a speaking gig.
Yeah, that's amazing, though, that's what you want to like, you find that, especially for newer speakers, that needs some kind of assets to pitch themselves to bigger conferences, because bigger conferences need to do the research. So your events or my events can be a stepping stone for them that can help them move along for more established speakers. Some people are quite happy to do free events anywhere; it's still some exposure. But I hate saying exposure is the reward for giving up your time because that's usually bullshit.
But I think for bigger conferences, like learning bonds, to be completely honest like we've never had the budget for a speaking fee (and that's always been the case on the two occasions) I've found budgets which were neglecting other things and those speakers did not perform very well. I find them hard to work with, to requite demanding, our audience did not enjoy their talks. So I'm not saying people shouldn't ask for a fee. I think they should, especially for conferences charging maybe $500 for tickets $1,000. I think there's a budget there for it.
But I think the minimum any pet event should do is cover travel, flights and hotel are possible if he can budget for taxi journeys, speakers dinner, things like that should be the minimum in every case, but I think you know what, for free events, give them as much as possible that they can use. They are putting in time; it might be even a 10-minute session, 20-minute session, whatever it is but you know, this kind of my work that goes into lots. So like me, I try to send the speakers a gift if I can afford it. I'll pay for it from my pocket. But the minimum I'll do is I'll get the videos and send the videos to them so at least they can use them.
Can conference organisers actually afford to pay speakers?
Yeah, it's hard because I do think there are a lot of conferences that can afford to pay for speakers that choose not to, but in the same way, as a conference organiser, I also know the cost of organising a conference. It's a hell lot more expensive than most people think and the profit margin is quite small. So it's not just the organiser always being difficult. I think there are a lot of occasions where organisers just cannot pay for speakers. And other things could be neglected than the favourite paying for speakers. I think the conference itself wouldn't be reputable. I think you'd be cutting back on things like catering, which is extremely expensive. I know for learning bonds, about 20% of the budget goes purely towards food and drink and that's like that's basic stuff. That's your tea and coffee break and a selection of food options at lunchtime. That's not a buffet to choose from.
And that doesn't even include maybe a beer after. But yeah, people would see the conference and think okay, so for the ticket, the maximum price per ticket was 249. The capacity of the venue is 500. So then they're trying to work out the figures. You think it's not like that. But people do think like thoughts? I get it. So it's a tough situation. I see those conversations happening on Twitter quite a lot in their homes and with speakers who are thinking, why am I not getting paid? I pitch to this, but they're saying no, I get that. But I think the other side of the argument needs to be that and this is harsh to acknowledge but some speakers have much bigger plans than other speakers.
You could put one name on your lineup and not sell tickets. So what's the return on that speaker? I could spend maybe 10 grand on one speaker. But I can maybe make 10 times hop back and ticket prices and ticket sales. So does that mean that I should spend 10 grand on somebody that's just starting? It's probably not. And I know that sucks. I know people are gonna look down thank comments organisers, not so you know, he's not paying every single speaker. But yeah, it's, we do need to think of it that way too. Like you know yourself from organising events, certain names will share with their audience, which is quite large. You'll see more signups off the back of it. You'll see there's more excitement around one particular event because of that speaker. You can see the return on knots.
Yet, maybe 19 out of 20 speakers in your lineup. It might be amazing speakers, and the content might just be as a goose, but you just don't see it coming back. In terms of numbers, I think that's hard because people dig a bit deeper and think of who a speaker is. He's a white male. He's been paid in the sense. But this group 10 is not being paid at all. Is there more to this? And some cases might be because some of those organisers are just horrible people who don't have full diversity among your lineup. Or maybe they're looking purely at the financial return thinking. For example, Gary Vee is really a hit. But yet he was maybe charging a couple hundred grand to speak on events. It's tough and I don't have an answer for it's really hard.
I think I completely understand why speakers will be upset by this. But as a conference organiser, I know I can put two or three names on our lineup, and that will drive certain percent of tickets. And I think you should have a lineup that gives upcoming speakers the opportunity. I think you should also think about what is your goal as well. The topic and the theme of the conference alone is not going to be enough to hurt people because unfortunately, people still go off to certain speakers and they'll still go to a conference because they're gonna hear certain people speak.
So it's difficult. It's like it's really hard like me as an attendee. He hats off to practices that conference organisers follow the marketer. But as a conference organiser, you go through those desperate moments of struggling to sell tickets on the thing; every conference organiser has been there. So I'm not saying some of your values are true or at the window, but you're going to compromise or you count on I have had to. It's burdened me in some ways, but in other ways, it's maybe got me through that one event, and kept me surviving to the next one.
What do new speakers need to do to get a speaking gig?
I find that from working with people sometimes, it just comes through referral, more than anything. Obviously, where possible, new speakers should be putting themselves out there just not in terms of events, but in terms of what they're writing, what they're sharing and the useful information to help them build themselves an expert in the industry. Like one speaker who has come up before two years over, he hasn't really done public speaking at all. But yeah, he found a template you put together and the content marketing space that was useful to me and my clients, reached out to me and said, ‘Look, this is amazing’.
Also, I'm looking for potential speakers and I think you have something interesting to share. He asked if I had done public speaking before. But yeah, I could do a 20-minute session from cool. So like, it can start sometimes with thoughts. But it's also fine that if you do know a particular speaker, that has a little bit of a poll, sometimes it's just getting to know people. I think that's incredibly powerful. A lot of the people who I've worked with who I did not know before, who are new to the industry, the grassroots groups have been set up by the slack community, the women in tech SEO, it's amazing. That implies giving so many people opportunities to get themselves out. Like, that's incredibly powerful. I think sometimes it comes from getting to know others. I think as long as you're doing something remarkable and you're putting yourself out there, you're creating great content. I think that will help you massively. I think if you expect to become a public speaker but do very little for your own profile, it's gonna be a challenge.
Yeah, I think people won't only want to go and see speakers because of the reputation they have.
Now, she's kind of a founder, well, you know, they might have done wonderful things or might have something great to say. If they don't have any online presence or any personal brand awareness, then you know people gonna pay to go and see him if you don't know who they are.
It depends, like I think, as a new speaker, start with free events. I think that's where you need to build your profile, to begin with. I think if you go from zero to pitching, to pair conferences, it's gonna be a tough struggle. Because again, as a conference organiser, you're still thinking of the returns on spending, the amount it will cost to bring the speaker and the location which is the harsh reality of it. But if I could say I have seen the speaker presenting these two meetups and have watched the recordings of seeing the positive sentiment around your talk, I can justify bringing them over to Dublin. That is easier.
So I think free events, especially free meetups, like your events have been great opportunities for so many people to get themselves out there. I think that has to be the starting point for a lot of people. You got to perfect your craft a little bit. You got to know how to put together a compelling slide deck and know how to speak to the camera. If it's a virtual event, you must know how to keep an audience engaged. You've got to receive that initial feedback, which might be harsh, but we will help you grow massively as a speaker and help grow your confidence over time. Public speaking is hard. I will never be a public speaker. It counts down. I can't bear standing in front of a group of people. It's not my thing. So I think you know what starting it, you just got to test what works and just take that on the chin.
Sometimes he can see the type of person you want to be on stage, what type of topic you want to specialise in and the type of events that are fit for you like he might find that you're quite technical, which might realise more generalised marketing conferences. I think it's just learning over time. I think from chatting with new people who are starting I would just have said you'll learn so much about yourself from the free events. So, whenever you do pitch to appeal events, you'll be very confident about what you can talk about. There is no doubt that you'll be a good fit for lots. That's why a lot of people should start writing to begin with. It's our fault Stein, ability to profile writes in-depth articles, really in-depth guides, speak while the people in the industry, then start to specialise, hone in on a specific area, then test start some, some talks of free events. If they perform well, then at least you're in at least you're more confident about what you can do.
What was that light-bulb moment that took you from running free events to a large paid event?
Yeah, I think for me, especially there was a hunger and a competitiveness side of me because especially in Ireland, similar to your I guess, I go to international conferences. I would go to BrightonSEO, which is for me international, have to leave the country, or go to Moscow or spiritual love for other events. But yeah, I looked at Ireland on fire, okay, there's just nothing here that excites me. Nothing at all since we've tested smaller events. And then, we realised there's a hunger we can bring to Dublin. So, for me, I just want to grow a community. First and foremost, I wanted to grow something about difference and I wanted to allow marketers to learn from industry experts and share their own stories and experiences. So for me, it's just as a marketer, first and foremost, it wasn't as an event organiser.
I just wanted to be part of something that was more to myself and more than a handful of people. And that's what got me excited and still gets me excited whenever you arrive in a room full of people that are doing what you do and they can relate to the challenges you're going through. And they're also excited about what they're about to learn. I think that alone gets you through those dark nights of sitting alone trying to organise events. I think that still excites me. So I think I was just a market force not an event organiser; I'm still a marketer force. The moment I stopped being excited as a marketer is the moment I stopped being the organiser. I really just enjoy seeing people like myself, I enjoy seeing new people come into the industry excited about us. Like that's, that's fun. That's what gives me energy. So, yeah, it's been a fun five, six years doing.
Do you feel an overwhelming pride for putting on Learn Inbound?
Yeah, if during the events? No, I'm being honest. I never get that feeling during the events, because I'm a problem solver. All I see are problems. So no matter what feedback I'm getting, at that point, I still see problems and I think I'll always be that way. But then, like I mentioned earlier, I'm not kind of a weird person, the hustler read every single tweet. And I have to see every bit of feedback after it's like, I have to hear the fault speakers. I have to hear the faults of attendees. Those moments when I have a chance to sit back and relax, then I'll think okay, so it was something more than I was expecting. There were no big problems. There were no technical issues. There was no real negative feedback. People enjoyed the time. I reflect and think, okay, it went okay. I think it went pretty well. People enjoyed that. I enjoyed it.
It was measurable stress where you're just hating iPhones thinking, why the hell did I organise this? I went on holiday this year. Jesus like this is just hell. But then after you think, actually, it was okay, right? I'm gonna do it again. And then you go off and do it again. Then technology in the calendar and where you go. Like, there's always thoughts like, I think every event organiser will think to themselves, ‘why in the hell am I doing this?’ Like, why did I choose to bring this stress upon myself? Why am I trying to deal with this at the weekend when I could be relaxing, watching Netflix? But then after you think you know what, I do something amazing. people enjoyed it. There's definitely demand to do this again. I got to bring these people to this location at the same time. They enjoy it. That's all the positive feedback has been great. People have been telling me how great it's been. Dan, you think to yourself?
Ah, I can rest? That's great. Yeah, with the other. You're like, Okay, let's do it again.Yeah, rest for a week, then start next year after.
Yeah, it's tough because I don't think I've ever felt more exhausted after doing anything than a conference. Like it takes me about two weeks of isolation. Okay, maybe I should look at the landing page to update the copy. Or maybe I should send out an email campaign or maybe I should start organising the next one. It takes around two weeks, at least from a conference before I ever feel normal again. I think that's okay. Because for an introvert like myself, I do feel exhausted by even those conversations, trying to say that talking to people is hard. Like I find I just want to go back to my dark corner in the room and kind of just turn off the lights and the highs. So two days of just relenting conversations with strangers like I find it difficult on top of all the other pressure.
As the conference organizer, do you feel like a magnet where everyone wants to talk to you?
It's a nice feeling of being honest. It's a nice feeling to think that people think something of what you've just done. And people just want to talk to you about it and people are excited. Like I think that that's probably a good thing as a conference organiser, you get the takeaway from it. Is that satisfaction? Like I mean, for myself, I'm quite happy hiding in the back of a room behind AV where no one can see me if my laptop. But it's also nice that people will come up to me and say, Look, I really learned so much today. I made a lot of friends that I got to meet.
These people have been following me on Twitter for years who have been speaking at lots of conferences around the world. But yeah, I got to meet them for the first time. Like don't say exciting, like the first conference I ever went to was probably BrightonSEO. And like, I was excited. The moment I stepped into, I think, was the dome then Brighton Dome. Yeah. And I remember walking around thinking just people like me here. I used to be like SEO on a team and the only SEO on the team who didn't have anyone to talk to, but yet, and I was like, think of fires and people there back then. And all of a sudden I just saw Calvin walking around. I thought he was like Jesus, like, you know, it's me. He was just like a special figure. I thought, Oh my God, this guy I've been falling for so long. He's created us. You know, like, he's special. He's brought all of us together. And I have so much respect for that. And same way when I've gone to other conferences like, like one two malls calling years ago, the feeling I got when I stepped into the Convention Centre in Seattle, for the first time on the music's playing, and there's all these people there who do what I do.
All these amazing speakers have been following. Like what I got from knots is what I carried over to learn in bonds. If I could even give people 1% of that feeling I had just there and then to go back to the office and think I'm always facing deadlines and facing pressure. I'm always doing reporting. I'm always dealing with client issues. But yet there's people out there as excited as I am about the industry and learning. If I can make people excited enough to go to my events If they want to share that with me, that's great. I'm always here to talk to, but if they can also share that among each other, that makes all that stress warfare. Like, it's so exciting when you see people who enjoy what they do, especially new people to the industry.
There are so many things written online; there are so many things being said. So for someone new to the industry and is just coming on, they need a place where they can get the right sort of knowledge and the right information. A lot of people I speak to that are coming into the industry are just overwhelmed with the amount of information that's out there. So what should I read? What should I look at? Who should I not look at? Who should I learn from? Who's really telling the truth? What is it? And I don't think a lot of people understand the value of what, you know, as a conference organiser, you're giving. The ability to see people who you've personally wanted to make sure they have the right to be there.
Yeah, it's special, like his special feeling to think that you've pulled off and to see that response. There's nothing quite like in-person events. I could Randall thereby May as he's referred to events, because I, I just don't like them. I say that as a person to host them myself. I just don't like virtual events. I don't think I ever will but in-person, events are exciting.
When do you think large scale in-person events will happen again?
I don't have one in the calendar; I'm probably not going to be as optimistic as all the people. I don't think impersonal events are going to happen again, within the next six months. I think if you're hosting events with maybe over a couple of hundred people, I don't think you should be thinking this is going to happen within 12 months. You're asking me when I think large scale conferences with maybe fires and pay per 2000 people are going to be feasible, I would probably say 18 months.
And the reason is, I don't think people are going to feel comfortable going back to large crowds of any description. And I don't think a lot of companies are gonna want to sponsor those experiences anytime soon, either. I think for the physical conferences, the in-person ones are going to feel this ripple effect for the next couple of years. I think any conference that was pitching themselves as being the largest, whatever conference in the spears, I think they're probably going to find that is going to negatively impact their ability to sell themselves going forward. I think the smaller events like meetups are gonna be the first ones to come back. I think anything 100 people or less, probably about six months’ time, I hope. But I do think the larger ones. They're not going to happen even this time next year. I don't think so. I don't see it happening.
Can I actually justify paying for travel expenses to these events?. I think speakers are going to be pretty reluctant to jump immediately into doing international travel for conferences again. And I think a lot of companies are going to be reluctant to lie to people to travel to international conferences for the next 1218 months. I do think the events industry is going to feel this for a long time to come. I think we need to be realistic about this. I've seen some conferences that have been planned for say August, September, October, kind of wait till the last minute to decide to pivot to virtual. I think it's been quite clear for some time, no conferences happening this year in-person. I think if you're planning one for Q1 or Q2 next year, you should be reconsidering it right now. I don't think it's gonna happen.
I could be wrong, I do hope I'm wrong. But I personally would not be putting my money towards in-person competence anytime soon on as an event organiser, I would be looking towards 2022. For Lauren, again, I would have no intention of doing it next year. I just don't see it working. I think I've struggled to sell tickets, struggle to get sponsorship, spend a lot of money on marketing to get those few ticket sales. So I don't want to be negative about this. But I do think if you have an event management company, or you're running a marketing conference and you have staff to pay, I feel European I do, I think it's tough. I think it's difficult to even pay a staff member at the moment. I think if you're organising a free event, you're okay, you can hold off virtual is fine for you. But those who have stuff to pay, I do feel sorry for you. I just don't see things returning anytime soon. I could be wrong, and I hope I'm wrong. But hurry, don't think I am on this.
What's the craziest speaker pitch you've ever received?
I tell you that, that they're going to know this, because they've been speakers too. Personally, I've got a problem with speakers who think they're comedians. Because it's a marketing conference, I think we're too. We're moving too much forward towards using gifts and jokes and talks and less aware that we're moving too far away from the educational pace. So the woods, one pitch, they got on the whole talk, and I did see the deck, it was all gifts. Like it was trying to get across several different points. But the formatting and the way it was presented was just terrible. The actual theme of the talk didn't make a lot of sense.
But because they thought it was funny, and for the SEO community with fingers a great talk on again, this was from like a well-known speaker. That was probably the stupidest pitch I've ever seen in my life. Because we're marketing conferences for Christ sake, I'm sorry, but like, you can inject some comedy and a few swear words into your talk. But if you're doing something just to get a reaction from the audience, I'm sorry. But that's bullshit. Like, I've got no time for that. You want people to remember something, something that can be put into action. But I think we're just trying to give people a laugh when you're pitching yourself with Speaker.
I don't know, I just don't sit right with me. I think that a lot of speakers are starting to get reactions from the audience just to keep attention. But then they're not remembering that people are there to learn. That's kind of frustrating me a little bit. And I've seen among quite a few pitches lately. His thoughts? I think, you know, what, if you're trying to give a talk people have to learn. If you're feeling on that pace, then knock off mothers, for the upcoming speakers from an organiser that's gone through thousands of these speaker pictures.
What do up and coming speakers need to consider when pitching?
Okay, I'm calling the two people this time, because the two best outlines of talks I've seen have been from two women in the industry who have done amazing work, and rightfully have moved on to some amazing conferences. So these two people have put together in-depth Google documents that give a breakdown of exactly what their talk is going to cover the core themes of eight slides. As an organiser, you look I immediately think it's amazing, like I mean, they've clearly put in a huge amount of effort. They're not just putting together like 50 words, our line of the talk You really want us an organiser to no doubt this is gonna be a fit for your audience that you can provide feedback can be to accept them as a speaker. I think the collaborative approach shows me that they're not just pitching talks.
They actually want to speak to your audience, and they want to ensure that resonates with your audience. So one speaker I felt was amazing as Jill quick. I think Jill is definitely top of her game. I recommend her to every conference organiser I know, she has spoken at some amazing conferences. She's probably the easiest speaker in the world to work with. So kind, so generous, she does go to certain levels to ensure that it's the best talk like you mean, Jill is amazing. I can't say more about Jill than what she tells about herself, when she puts together that kind of pitch. Like it's just really in depth. The other speakers, Shannon McGuirk, are from that era. I mean, again, she puts together a clearoutline with Walter talking about it's like, you want to know, dots, this is going to be a fit for your audience.
And whenever a speaker is open to feedback, and they're willing to tailor, it's once you give them audience demographic data. I mean, to me, that shows the person is just not pitching events. It shows me that they've taken the time to understand your events. To understand what talks have happened in the past that your events, why not that topic has been delivered before, that shows me out the hub and just picked like maybe 20 events sent the exact same pitch, and hope that one of them learns. So it's a bit like PR, I guess not sense that everyone wants to feel like you've taken the time to understand them, or even link building like you mean the amount of crap that's out there.
So some of you let somebody stop saying,
hey, wait, we got time for that? No, yeah, we don't want a high mark, insert domain name, I was looking at your article on this website. And I thought it was amazing. Please insert this link. So like anyone can say it's me, you know, it's, I've taken the time to look at learning bonds. I've seen that you've had these three speakers presented by digital PR in the past, but do focus specifically on these areas. I would like to talk about this and I've put together this Google document that gives a full in depth look at what my talk about.
If I was to be accepted to Speaker, I would tailor some more to your audience, once you can give me some information. That to me thing makes me think, okay, that person has taken the time here. They've put in some time into their pitch, they understand my events, why would I not work with them? I'm confident. So even for a new speaker, you don't need to have a lot of experience, but you need to show that you're just not pitching to the events out there. They have invested some time into looking at events and thoughts, you know, this will work. Usually, I'm going to start listening.
What really annoys you from the world of digital marketing events?
Okay, a few things. So one thing that really pisses me off about events is false advertising, particularly saying that you've extended early bird tickets. No, you've not extended the early bird tickets. I know you're not thanking people because of the bank holiday - Monday or Christmas break. It's not a special ticket because no one bought your fucking ticket. That's what's happening here. You know, you're not extending it because you're rewarding your audience. You're extending it because no one bought your damn ticket. That's it like I mean, you're not extending your early bird ticket. You're not making it exclusive. You're not doing any thoughts because no one has bought your ticket on your shit and yourself.
So you're sitting there looking around and thinking I have enough money. What desperation tactic Can I use to sell more tickets? That sock like that we're doing something for our audience? No, you're not. I'm sorry, you're not doing it because you're trying to find your audience, not because it's my pad and you think that you're given a better opportunity to purchase a ticket? That's because no one wants you to own tickets. That's the damn thing about like, no one is buying them and you're thinking Oh Christ, what am I going to do? Stop that. The other thing I think is just even writing naming conventions of tickets. Personally, I've put together too many email campaigns to buy early birds, and other ticket price names like I just can't write copy anymore. It's too generalised. I just don't have it, ma. I'm just gonna call it something else. I just, I hate the naming conventions, and the In the street, it just doesn't sit well with me. I like Toronto to have our thoughts.
Um, the other thing I think as an organiser, it's getting harder and harder to standardise because speakers are speaking at so many other conferences. So particularly for pan events, if I looked at a speaker's nicest or last five events, a spoke out or free events, NY Hydra by Solomon as a speaker to a pair of events, and what is so unique of barter talk, that justifies paying a certain amount of money to hear them speak again. That's the tough thing as an event organiser, especially if they're delivering the same talk, as free events. I speak at someone that's done free events, I'm still doing free bounce. But I've also done paid events.
So it's, it's hard like I find a harder, like you need to, you need to really on Earth, those on heard of names, if you're running paid events, in my opinion, those people that you knew are brilliant, to audiences maybe not familiar with what you think actually can deliver an amazing talk.
But to do that, you need to have Browns that people buy into. And so if your event is completely new, and you're charging for tickets, but you're using speakers No one's ever heard of, you're probably going to struggle. But if in established events, so the likes of Moz calm, they can allow new speakers to get on stage because they're pretty confident that they're going to sell a certain percentage of tickets. I think it's important for those events to go after the upcoming speakers. So the ones that don't maybe just focus on security, the more well-known keynote speakers are, the more frustrated I get. Those events should really be helping them to diversify the lineups and when they don't, it’s annoying. This also brings me on to meal lineups. So our sausage fest type lineups where you're just all man on the lineup.
It's like, dude, Dear God, like what's going on here? Like I mean, if you look at lineups, they all look like you. There's a problem. I think you know, and there's too many events like that, the suns, rightfully, again, call lights. And I think it's important for you, as an event organiser to ensure that you're, you're delivering experience that pays as many people as possible, and that you're fully representing everyone in the industry. I think if we don't do that you're feeling I think it's right that people call you for that. And I stay with someone in the first year of learning bonds. I think around 70, or 80% of our speakers were all white males. year two, we definitely improved upon that. And we keep improving.
But I think those events that don't listen to that feedback, but yes, continue focusing purely on the speakers that help sell tickets. Like that makes me angry. You know, like, that really frustrates me because, like, you know, there's so many amazing people so much tallent they're not getting the representation they should be. So whenever that doesn't change, like I get angry, I will be calling my to. So I think it's so important, especially for free events to really give people a platform, to give them whatever the need to help to pitch the bigger events and to help nurture them. Like that, to me is the lifeblood of the industry.
What can we all be doing to help others within the industry?
Like for me lately, the one thing I've actually enjoyed is purely helping completely new people to the industry. Like especially people that have really recently lost their jobs. So like I created spreadsheets on this was purely for Irish marketers to insert your information if they're lost their job, highlight what their experiences, highlight what they're looking for. I would say to everyone right now, lots of everyone has fear struggles are time songs. Sometimes people do need help. And sometimes people are not comfortable asking for it. And I'd probably say I really thought when I started. That's I was afraid, I was nervous, I was unsure of myself. I didn't know where to go, I didn't know who to speak to.
If you can help one other person who is just struggling right now, even if you can just point them towards someone else, need someone temporary freelance work, do lots of help, five or six people over the last few months get six to eight week contracts. And for them, that was enough to cover rent for a month or two. And it was also enough for them to stick on your CV for short-term contracts, which helped them get like a permanent job. Shortly after that I helped those kinds of people. That's satisfying. I get more satisfaction out of that than I do events. So whenever there are community groups, like the women in tech, SEO, which is amazing. help those people. If you're part of our group, help all the people, bring them into the group. Ask them what struggles are facing right now. Because a lot of people do not want to share the challenges they're facing, if you can give them some level of comfort and some level of help.
I get satisfaction from that, like I really enjoy seeing new people to the industry. And I certainly can't relate to a lot of people, I have a different background to a lot of other people as you do too. But we're possible to at least try to empower others. Try to be that midpoint between maybe worthy are now trying to get a full time job. So even if you review CV, my two free CV workshops every week, like I do for a couple of hours for our clients, we do like three or four hours every Thursday. even send people my way. If you think they're struggling right now if they're unsure of themselves, just send them my way.
We don't have time, I'll look at their CV, I'll go through, It'll be right for us. So just just give some of your time. Like we're lucky that I have a job right now, you have a job right now we compare our bills, but there's a lot of other people who cannot do that. And we don't know what's going on in their lives at home, it might be difficult. So just give some of your time every week, even if it's 10 minutes, introduce them to someone else. There's so much you can get from just helping someone people, some people new to the industry, who maybe don't have a Twitter following that don't know any industry experts. They can't afford a marketing book right now they don't know what's blog articles to read. They don't know what resources again, just give them something back. So I lost a lot because I needed help when I started.
What should new people in the industry be reading right now?
new people in the industry? That's a tough one. Because again, depends on the area that you want to focus on. I think there's so much to get from just getting a mentor of the industry rather than just reading. I think, you know, if you're just building arts, your own basic Twitter profile, if you do you put together a list of experts on again, happy to share who you should be following. From not alone, you'll start to build out your own reading list you'll start to see as useful. I think, again, like the most important skill for any marketer is to treat themselves like a student. Like is a continual improvement like it is continually learning.
It's hard at times. Like I mean, at times, you just want to turn off your laptop, you frustrate us. But when you're starting out, you need to just be so hungry. You get to absorb information, even in areas you're not working in. That's important. So that's not really a reading source. But I think you should actually just establish who the people are sharing good information on people in certain areas. So technical SEO for me, I always recommend Barry Adams because even though he swears a lot, he does share a lot of useful information. I'm good friends with Barry, I can say a lot. I probably would stay with more generalised marketing blogs, in my opinion. I'm not going to mention them, but the major inbound marketing ones I would stay away from and go towards more specialised ones. I don't want to recommend too much because I think I'll annoy some people.
I think every week it's like a knife fight in the SEO industry. It's like who's gonna survive? So I tried to stay with knots and I think it's so important as a new marketer to kind of separate the negativity from the positive day. There's people out there who are just waiting for a fight no matter what you say. Right now, feelings are quite tense because we're in a difficult situation. Every single person, and people just want to kick off. So don't ally, those herdy Desi industry, when you see these types of things to make you feel like that as a marketer. I think that's important. I think there's just so much negativity. Right. And I think there are a lot of good people out there too. I think you just need to know how to separate them.
And I think it's just important to be confident enough to reach out to someone and say you've got a problem. I'll give you one example. I will name a person. So back when I worked for a company in my early days in SEO, I was working for a company called dafs. I was unsure if it was too high to map out new sitemap architecture for the website. I was unsure myself it was a massive website. Yeah, I went onto the Moz community forums. I posted a technical question marfy Barbie who is no, he's working for hotspots most amazing beltway traffic Think Tank along with Nick and Ian, he replied. And then he sent me a direct message. And he gave me a really in depth answer. No, Matt did not know me.
And I did not know much. But yet he gave me something that helped me get through that meeting. 30 minutes later. He also made me curious enough to keep learning. So like, I mean, Mark was the first speaker I learned in bonds. I invited him off the bike. But yeah, it's putting yourself out there and just being curious enough funds confident enough to ask you a question. So even itself, you don't need a reading resource sometimes just just ask the question. know who to ask it to? Or just get yourself in the bedding industry? So I keep recommending the women in tech SEO group for women like me, not amazing. There are all the groups out there but just start joining them conversations. And from now you'll actually start to get curious enough to check out other things. And I think you just need people around you to support and nurture you.