“Do you want to go to a conference in Vegas?” a colleague asked me about a month ago. I had mentally booked my flight and hotel room by the time he actually said, “We have a spare ticket for the MarketingSherpa Summit at the Bellagio.” Talk about knowing your target audience. Honestly, I didn’t know what to expect. Having just been to the Email Insider Summit in Park City, Utah, I assumed it would the same intimate conversations and ongoing exchange of information and business cards.
It couldn’t have been more opposite. From the second we walked in, we were overwhelmed by the glitz and glamour, the branded booths and the herds of people eager to learn about data, insight, optimized creative, A/B testing, and email marketing.
The first day opened with a bang and ended with a club. We kicked off with Flint McGlaughlin (MD at MECLABS Institute) who talked about creating and testing effective marketing. Then it was a blur of coaching sessions (my colleague David Schey, Head of Analytics for Acxiom Impact, held several coaching sessions), roundtables (I participated in two roundtables: How One-to-One Personalization Has Changed The Way We Do Business and Sales and Data: Which Comes First). People were going back and forth to main hall and side hall and the booths. There was a hands-on live test lab about designing for brand conversion. In case there weren’t enough distractions, this guy named Darth Vader came out with a light saber and literally stole the show.
The day ended with two featured speakers: Karen Thomas-Smith (VP of Optum) and Pulitzer Prize winning author and NY Times best seller Charles Duhigg, who won the crowd with his banter and his book signing event. Then onto Happy Hour inside and an outdoor Official Summit pool party outside with a DJ who sounded like he just flew in from 1988. 14+ hours into the first day, and our team decided grabbed sushi and called it a night.
Day two was a lot less frenetic. The highlight was the extremely charismatic and charming Morgan Spurlock. I’ve been a long-time fan (OK, let’s call it what it is – I have a massive crush on him) so I went early and claimed our front row seats like a bad tourist on vacation.
Knowing his target audience and that he was in the “Hangover Slot”, he opened with his the video of him getting sick from SuperSize Me. From there he went to explain his view at a radical empathist and impactful storyteller. His view of creative content as creative marketing changed the way that we all thought of him and his craft. The highlight was when he demonstrated his history with one simple slide, “Now is the best time in history to be a storyteller.” After that, I had two more round tables and David had more coaching sessions, which flew by.
After 32 hours of being inside a dark conference room in the Bellagio, we decided to wonder to the Vegas strip for dinner. And that’s where the real Vegas happens. That’s where Elvis can be 80, toothless and have a George Hamilton tan, but still charge tourists for photos. Where Olaf can be a 20-something guy chugging Pepsi with his head on the ground during his break. Where tourists walk around with massive roadies looking to get into just the right amount of trouble.
The rest of the night was a whirlwind: dinner with clients, a ride on the High Roller ferris wheel, live music in the Planet Hollywood, meeting a nuclear physicist who had chatted with the President about his work, and a German named Lars in a white Welcome to Lars Vegas suit. On two hours sleep, I had time to reflect on my return flight. There is always a need to learn, to connect, to share in our industry. To meet the competition and then hopefully get ahead of them. To have a presence for clients and for potentials leads. To truly and proudly get our story out there. All of us went in with our own goals and all of us accomplished what we wanted and then some.
So if anyone ever asks you “Do you want to go to a conference in Vegas at the Bellagio?”, my recommendation would be to immediately say yes.