4 People You Find at a Marketing Conference
Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Digital Summit Denver, a “premier digital strategies forum transforming the future of the digital commerce ecosystem.” It was a well-run event with some of the most influential professionals in the industry sharing their knowledge and inspiration with a hodgepodge of webmasters, writers, SEOs, designers and the perpetually confused marketers. Between sack lunches, a few too many coffees, the corresponding bathroom breaks and all-too-many buzzwords, I started to get a grasp on the conference environment – a mix of relevant, useful information, genuine enthusiasm and timid confusion. It’s in these unfamiliar environments that we see the best in human behavior, for better or worse. That is to say, the people-watching at big events is often spectacular. I’ve compiled a short list of a few of my favorite conference archetypes, as witnessed at Digital Summit Denver.
In 1996, the PalmPilot was released, giving tech-savvy professionals and suburban teens the digital scheduling capabilities that they’d always longed for. Integral to the personal digital assistant’s appeal was the stylus, a pen-like instrument used to input commands to the device. Of course, in the twenty years since the PalmPilot, along with the progress of the touchscreen, the human finger has supplanted the stylus as the preferred mode of input on nearly every digital device. But for Stylus Guy, the high of handwriting recognition has never been so strong – a blissful blur of plastic taps and perfectly organized to-do lists. While all of you chumps taint your screens with scratches and smudges, Stylus Guy will be enjoying a pristine digital universe, where the accuracy of a pen doesn’t go unrewarded.
Marketing conference speakers are just as likely to hit you in the gut as in the head, every bit inspirational shaman as practical guide. These industry titans have transitioned from silo-specific experts to mystical marketing gurus, skilled in public speaking and commanding a room. In each room, they depend on a few static characters to reinforce their performance, spread their message and buy their book. Most complicit in this social engineering? The Head Nodder. This agreeable professional has given up all voluntary bodily movements to communicate the most intimate approval – a tunnel vision that wouldn’t be unfamiliar at a Scientology auditing session. Looking for a company guy? Look no further than the loyal Head Nodder.
The Marketing Bro
These events are fun, especially if you’re coming from out of town. It’s a time to let loose, have a good time with coworkers, meet some people in the industry and maybe take some ideas back home. But for The Marketing Bro, an out-of-town conference is something more. It’s a release into the professional wild. Uninhibited by his hometown cubicle, The Marketing Bro has the opportunity to flex his networking muscles. Business cards exchanged, diet restrictions revealed, The Marketing Bro doesn’t know what he’s saying, but he knows it sounds good. “You ready for a drink?”
Usually set apart from the general public by his well-manicured facial hair, The Sophisticate knew a marketing conference in Denver called for a drastic change. For Christ’s sake, even the emcee would be showcasing a fashionable beard. So with a Hitler ‘stache and a finely starched collar, the Sophisticate took his rightful place in the theater, a private box in the back with uninterrupted sight lines and auditory access to the acoustic sweet spot. The Sophisticate mentioned to himself that the opening comedian was “frivolous, if not altogether unintelligible.” The keynote speaker? “The worse combination of vulgarity and sentimentality.” Certainly not comparable to Cannes, but there’s always next year.
Honorable Mention: The Overeager Laugher, The Coffee Aficionado, The Early Exiter