Sessions and General Overview…
While I enjoy the huge conferences like SES NY, I have to admit that I really dig these smaller events. SES Latino had a few hundred attendees and a small expo area that was literally in the middle of the two session rooms. Everything was close by and there wasn’t any schlepping all over hell’s half acre trying to run from session to session, or the need to wander to the other side of a huge conference center to get to the expo hall and back again. Everything was very compact (which was great for me because I was tottering around in my strappy 4 inch heels).
The other really nice thing about this conference was that I never got that feeling that I was missing out on twelve other things I also really wanted to attend but just couldn’t because I couldn’t be in multiple rooms at once. There were just the two tracks… Fundamentals and Landscape & Tactics. The Fundamentals being… obviously… a little more focused on fundamentals, and then the Landscape & Tactics track was more advanced topics, case studies, speculation on the state of the industry and where it might be headed, etc.
Everyone gave their talks in English (which was good for me because I’m very much not multi-lingual) and translations were available in Spanish and I believe Portuguese via a live translator in each room. For all the coverage of the SES Latino 2007 sessions, see Search Engine Roundtable.
The Venue and the Parties…
There was no big soirée sponsored by any of the major engines, or any soirée sponsored by a non-major engine for that matter; however, there was a networking reception in the expo area after the Monday sessions with an open bar and tons of great looking food (I didn’t actually have any of the food though because it all had seafood in it… well, except for the cheese display and the roasted pigs that were actually whole little piggies… but I don’t eat seafood, I’m lactose intolerant and I can’t eat anything that looks like it’s looking at me. So… oh well, that’s my hang up. Everyone else said the food was fantastic).
It is really too bad that there wasn’t a Google/Yahoo/MSN type party or event. People who normally attend these conferences expect to see a huge presence from at least one of the majors, so you would think that would be reason enough to just make a small showing. Plus, there were a number of new faces there. It was a great opportunity to reach out to the newcomers and schmooze them without having to shell out tons of money to entertain huge throngs of people (like at the larger events).
After the networking reception, there was a somewhat impromptu gathering at the poolside bar. Drinks were flowing. The bartender was doing his best Tom-Cruise-in-Cocktail impression. People were chatting and watching the storm roll in… it was a good time. When the rains came… and boy did it rain there for a bit… everyone hid in the pool house area. It was very cozy… there was a door directly into the bar, so the drinks kept coming and everyone was just hanging out and mingling. Because of the small size of the event overall, it was very easy to find people you knew, or wanted to talk to, or wanted to meet, and actually talk. Plus, since there was no private party where all the VIPs and rock stars were swept off to… *everyone* was in one place. It helps to make *all* the attendees feel included and welcome.
Speaking of the pool, I hear from certain people who claim to be connoisseurs of these things, that the scenery at the pool during lunchtime was “quality”. (You can extrapolate the meaning of scenery and quality in that context. I’m sure I don’t need to spell it out.)
[Side note: The hotel had NO MINT. How does a hotel/restaurant/bar in MIAMI have no MINT for MOJITOS? I mean seriously. I watch TV. I've seen the Bacardi commercials. You go to Miami, you have a mojito, you do the little twisty mojito dance while the bartender mushes the mint for the drinks.... someone needs to have a little come-to-jesus chat with hotel manglement about that. This "Oh we just use mojito flavored syrup" is BS. I can get the mojito flavored mix at the Target in Joliet. When I'm in Miami, I want a real. fricking. mojito. Period.]
The venue itself was lovely. The hotel restaurant had an awesome, albeit tad pricey buffet. There was a brand new full service Starbucks in the lobby (not one of those lame little kiosks). The only major complaint I have (aside from the mint thing which I’m still miffed about) is that the connectivity sucked major rhino rump. The cell phone issues I can probably blame on Nextel, but the inability to get a wifi signal on the conference level was beyond irritating. Sadly, this seems to be an issue at most conferences. While I get that it’s probably best for keeping people paying attention during the sessions and not sitting and reading email or something, it makes it difficult to check mail or blog between sessions and during lunch. If people aren’t having to rush around to find a good signal, they have more time to spend perusing the expo area, you know?
I really enjoyed this conference. Not just because of the small size, but also because it wasn’t the “usual” crowd with the same “usual” presentations. While my company is still half a year away from the phase of our big overhaul project that has us redoing our international sites, it was really fascinating to hear case studies about how the cultural differences in different countries affect marketing copy, branding efforts, e-commerce, ppc campaigns, etc. It provided a fresh perspective on things in general and I left with outlines for some new projects at work.