The 5 Most Annoying Things About Marketing Conferences

I just went to an awesome conference on content marketing. It was called Content Marketing World, and it was hosted by the Content Marketing Institute, which is located in the amazing….wait for it….Cleveland, Ohio!

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I’ve never been to Cleveland before, and actually, it sucked way less than I thought it would based on that fact that it’s in the Midwest. I know, I’m a horrible, awful, bratty New Englander. Sorry not sorry.

Anyway, Cleveland turned out to be actually kind of cool and who knew it had a craft beer scene! The first night of the conference was a bar crawl with free beer and free food, so that’s one really NOT annoying thing about marketing conferences – they always booze you up pretty good to get you in the mood.


The next morning though, the real fun begins – and by that I mean a televangelist church style stage performance bordering on high school pep rally masquerading as an “opening keynote” on the power of content marketing. Which brings me to my first item on the list of the 5 most annoying things about marketing conferences:

1. You think you’re at a marketing conference but you might actually be at a cult recruitment event.


Content marketing, much to the dismay of the 2500 people watching in awe as one “content marketing godfather” after another took the stage in ridiculous orange suits to “evangelize the contexualization of this conversation,” (that is a REAL quote from #CMWorld, LOL) is not going to change the world, save marketing, or cure world hunger. But by the end of a 2 hour keynote complete with smoke machines, rock music, spotlights, highly produced videos and color coordinated Koolaid (no really, that’s not a pun – there was orange Koolaid at the conference) – you might actually think that it will. Or you might have become a Mormon, I don’t know. I can’t remember what I signed up for but I’m totally in. This is the answer. This is the way. Amen.

2. People say things like “Traditional advertising is dead.”

So one person says something radical and over-the-top and totally exaggerated during one of the over-produced keynotes and suddenly it’s spreading like wildfire. Every speaker needs a “tweetable takeaway” so they’re serving it up like it’s a medium rare filet. But really? Do you actually think traditional advertising is dead? Have you been to Times Square recently? Have you bought a Coke? Been on Facebook? Attempted to watch a Hulu video? If traditional advertising is dead, why are we all at this content marketing conference trying to figure out how we can get people to hire us instead of traditional advertisers? And why is Doritos buying 3 million dollar Superbowl ads? C’mon now people I get that this is basically a pep rally but lets not get carried away, ok? Stop drinking so much Koolaid.

3. Schmoozing


Commonly referred to as “networking,” this godawful activity is built into every marketing conference to give the sponsors a chance to get people drunk and obtain their business cards.

4. The Business Card Exchange

Now this is an industry I need to get into. The premise is you charge people a ridiculous amount of money to put their name, email and phone number on a small piece of paper in an “out of the box” creative kind of way, and then charge double because of the custom die cut. Then said person hands the little cards out to as many people as possible in an effort either “network” or indicate to someone that they don’t want to talk to them anymore and please leave. That person takes the business card, looks at it as if it might have the winning lottery number written on it somewhere – and then puts it into a fancy little case that they keep at the bottom of their briefcase, and empty into the trash periodically. If I want to know you, I will find you online. If I can’t remember your name, I don’t really care that much.

5. The Shark Tank

Also known as the expo floor, this is where all the used car salesmen sponsors stand in little decorated booths with giant flat screen TVs and wave iPads and headphones and fancy phone chargers in your face in a thinly veiled blatantly obvious attempt to trick you into listening to a Jr. Marketing Manager explain why you need a speciality software program that will make creating content fast, easy and completely scalable at a super low cost (want to know the actual cost? Just scan your badge and we’ll email it to you). The worst part about the shark tank is that I DO ACTUALLY WANT a new phone charger, so I’m forced to whore out my contact info and 15 minutes of my snack break for $12 charger and a sugar cookie.

As I write this, I realize I should immediately delete it because my company paid good money for me to attend this conference. And actually, I learned a lot and would totally go back. But one of the things I learned at the conference is that nobody cares about what I learned. They do, however, really like lists, and sarcasm, and bulleted blog posts. So here you go people. Oh and if you just subscribe to my email list I’ll send you a phone charger, and a sugar cookie.*

A souvenir from #CMWorld2014
A souvenir from #CMWorld2014

*No I won’t.

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