The 3 Biggest Takeaways from Kelvin Newman’s Reddit AMA

Yesterday, the mighty Kelvin Newman (@kelvinnewman) of brightonSEO fame did an Ask Me Anything on Reddit.

Kelvin Newman's AMA on Reddit screenshot
I’m a big fan of Kelvin, not only because he runs an incredible conference and has been crazy enough to let me speak at it (not just once, but twice), but because he’s a great guy as well. And as an SEO event organiser myself, I’m always curious to know the thinking behind brightonSEO, how he runs the event and where he wants to take it in the future.

To be honest, whether you’re an event organiser yourself, or just a big fan of brightonSEO (who isn’t?), it’s probably worth reading the whole AMA from start to finish, as there are tips and insights sprinkled throughout. But if you’re a busy guy/gal then here are my three biggest takeaways:

1) On starting a conference: start small and scale up

Kelvin Newman Prisma imageA few new SEO/digital conferences have sprouted up in the UK in recent months, which is fine, but to aspiring conference organisers, Kelvin’s advice is to start small:

I’d always start with something small and then scale rather than launching big. If gives you a chance to test and learn and make mistakes when not very many people are watching. Think of your first event as an MVP.

I can relate to this, as I’m not sure where to take Cardiff SEO Meet at the moment (an all-dayer event does sound tempting…), but at the very least, it’s good to know that small beginnings are the sensible way to go anyway.

2) On hiring speakers: seek out speakers (not vice versa)

It’s very easy to simply accept the speakers who approach you as an organiser, but Kelvin’s method is different:

Keeping an eye on blog posts people are sharing is a key one but I love scouring through our attendee list and looking for people who might have a good perspective and then stalking them online a bit.

Only giving slots to people who put themselves forward can lead to only attracting certain kinds of speakers.

I like this as it naturally leads to a variety of speakers, and perhaps those who aren’t even ‘natural’ speakers. And there is the risk that the people that approach event organisers offering to speak and doing so all over the shop – not just for your event.

However, if you do approach Kelvin and ask to speak (which – to be fair – is how I got to speak at brightonSEO both times), at least have a talk idea at-the-ready:

In terms of pitching to speak, have a talk idea ready to go. Much easier for me to say yes to a interesting talk title than a vague “I’d like to talk”.

3) On what talks to have: some SEO topics are important, but variety is good

This is an interesting one as I’ve always admired Kelvin for booking non-SEO talks at an SEO event, or at least talks that closely align with SEO (such as UX, etc.). But it’s still really important to have some types of SEO talks:

People expect decent technical talks and link building talks. If we don’t programme those people won’t come back.

However Kelvin argues that some of the non-SEO talks are the ones that stay with people – the problem with SEO talks (as is the case with some elements of SEO) is that there’s a ‘here-today-gone-tomorrow’ feeling about them:

Talks from people like Dave [Trott] and Rory [Sutherland] are the kind that sit in the back of your mind for years to come, whereas the learning about the latest SERP feature you’ll use immediately but it’s value will go down over time.

Our job is to get the right mixture between the practical talks and the inspirational/theoretical ones. Which is something I know we and other events have been criticised for in the past.

Kelvin’s clearly not backing down with this way of thinking, given what’s coming up at next month’s event:

Got three different academics talking this time round about machine learning that might not be mass appeal but pretty sure will get a great receptions.


Read Kelvin’s AMA in full here!

If you’re going to brightonSEO April 2017 then let me know – I’ll be there. 🙂

[Image credit – my own creation using Prisma]

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