INBOUND23 was a different experience for us this year. While this was my seventh (gasp) INBOUND and we always make a point to be there, taking as many people from the team as we can, this year was a different beast. Traditionally, INBOUND is an opportunity for us to meet up with our remote team, attend a bunch of sessions, network with colleagues and prospects, and bring back a ton of inspiration and ideas to close the year strong.
Well, this year was all about our booth and my speaking session. We didn't get to attend all the sessions we normally would have, but that is in no way saying that this year was worse than prior years. In fact, I think it was better.
To give some context, I have wanted to speak at INBOUND for years. I have always found a lot of inspiration from the amazing speakers at INBOUND (Marcus Sheridan, Rand Fishkin, Barack and Michelle Obama, Oprah, Neil Patel, and Brené Brown just to name a few) and always wanted to be on that same stage. But it has taken a while to break into INBOUND. See, INBOUND is focused on quality over quantity (hey, a Market Like A Human plug), especially post-pandemic. They are looking for speakers that not only have a reputation, but that also have something valuable to say. I've applied the last three years to speak at INBOUND and this was the first yes I was received...and I was pumped!
So now that INBOUND23 is over, what was my actual experience like? Was it what I expected it to be? Did it live up to the hype I had built up? Let me share.
So Much Planning
I have spoken at many conferences and events over the years, but nothing compares to the planning that goes into INBOUND. We had so many deadlines to hit, practices to attend, and boxes to check that it was honestly exhausting, but that is why INBOUND always goes off so well. The HubSpot/INBOUND Team are very protective of their audience and they want to make sure that their speakers are up to the challenge. We had an amazing team of people in charge of programming that made the process extremely productive and organized. And the planning and preparation started many months before the actual conference.
Also it's so important to mention my team here. No speaker — and I mean NO speaker — can do it alone. My team was amazing in helping me to hit all those deadlines, reach all the milestones, and ultimately pull off my presentation. Specifically, everyone needs a Desiree. 💛
Going Against the Grain
If you attended INBOUND, you know that there is always a theme. This year, inevitably, was artificial intelligence. It seemed as though every single speaker had a section on AI. It is the hottest topic in marketing right now, HubSpot is making huge advancements in AI (check out our latest HubSpot User Group recording on an Intro to AI in HubSpot), and everyone is diving into the power of these tools.
Well, my session also included AI, but from a different perspective — and I think it resonated. See, I'm definitely a tech-first kind of guy. I drive a Tesla, I always have the newest iPhone, and test out basically any software that I can get my hands on. I am intrigued by all things technology and if that technology also helps me do my job better, faster, or more efficiently — I'm in. I am also, however, pro-human. I think as the conference went on and we were all hit over the head with AI at every turn, it was refreshing for my audience to talk about the human side of marketing. Diving into the fact that there are actual human beings on the other side of our campaigns. AI doesn't have to be (and shouldn't be) the end-all-be-all to our work. I saw a steady growth each day in people interested in my book, Market Like A Human, because it almost felt like a juxtaposition to the other speakers.
Again — I am not and was not anti-AI. I am just a believer that human-centric marketing and the ethical and reasonable use of AI is what will set businesses apart into the future.
One of the not-so-highlights was the technology. If you attended my session, you know that there were some technical issues with the presentation not working as it was supposed to. And on top of that the internet was a mess. It was frustrating for sure, but honestly it played very well into my presentation topic. Everyone there stuck it out with me and it ended up being a great session. As I talked about in my session, we all understand that we're human and that humans (and technology) aren't perfect. And we also value the ability to persevere. I was actually shocked with so many people that came up to me after the session that didn't care about the tech issues at all. They cared about the content.
At a large conference like this, these things are probably inevitable. They're just going to happen at some point. While it all ended well and the session was a success, we will definitely be doing things a little different next year to take those issues out of the equation.
I was completely overwhelmed with the amount of amazing feedback that I got after my session, feedback that is still coming through many weeks later. I had countless attendees track me down between sessions, follow me to the HIVE booth, email me, connect with me on LinkedIn, buy books, ask to have books signed, and even tweet about the takeaways from the session.
Now as I've mentioned, I've spoken at many conferences over the years and there are always people that want to chat afterwards. There are always questions and people that want to shake your hand. That is one of the things I love most, interacting with people post-presentation, but what was even more amazing than that was the volume at which it came for a topic that I had never spoken on before.
I published my book in March of this year and honestly wasn't sure how it would be received. I was publishing a book about marketing like a human and eliminating (some) automation in favor of a human touch during the biggest growth period of artificial intelligence in human history. Yikes. It could have easily been a disaster, but to my delight it was extremely well received. I have even been invited to present at additional conferences and webinars around that same topic for a variety of different audiences and industries. My audience, they get it. They want to engage with their audience in a human-centric way. They want brands to engage with them that way too.
One of my biggest goals with writing Market Like A Human was to share my human-centric marketing message with as many brands as I could and that meant getting on the best stage in the marketing world — INBOUND. And I did just that. It wasn't perfect. There are definitely things I plan to do differently next year and there are adjustments that I've already made to some of the content, ideas, and philosophies that I presented, but I have to say that my first year presenting at INBOUND was a resounding success and something I'll remember for the rest of my life.
If you're interested in learning more about how INBOUND23 was for me and the HIVE team, downloading my slides, or watching my encore presentation, check out our INBOUND23 recap.