If you've never attended Marketo's Summit, or just felt pulled in a thousand different directions by all the inspiring content on tap, then this post is for you.
For the uninitiated, Summit is a smorgasbord of not just all things Marketo, but really all things Marketing. This year's event will take place in Fabulous Las Vegas from May 9th through the 12th (although I assure you, the shenanigans will begin as early as the 7th), and will center around the theme of "Tomorrow's Marketer." Being this fresh into the new year, I'm sure you're seeing all the "2016 predictions" blogs about MarTech, Stacks, Personalization, and a litany of other up-and-coming marketing tools, terms, and technologies. Marketo has done a great job of soliciting participation from solution providers and thought leaders in the past, and for the first time ever, Summit will be a whole day longer... which means that there will be waaaaay more options for sessions to attend and things to learn about. Apart from all the sessions, they also play host to a small tradeshow where you can experience the truly odd feeling of walking a show as an attendee rather than an exhibitor (read: you'll get drunk on power). There's also plenty of other opportunities for networking and partying. Really can't emphasize those last two enough. ;)
With all that information and energy compressed into a few days, approaching Summit is a fairly daunting prospect. After all, you're investing a lot of time (and money) just to attend– so it's critical that you come away edified. So, with that in mind, here's a bit of friendly advice to help you get the most out of your attendance!
He who plans, wins
Last year, we had 106 sessions to choose from. These were organized into general interest tracks based on goals/objectives or trends (you can see last year's offerings here), which is something I expect Marketo will continue. My point here, though, is that once the sessions go up on the Summit site, you should spend a little time reviewing what will be available and try mapping out your week. If you're old school and like to map everything out on spreadsheets, you can download my planner here. It has the time slots mapped out, you just need to fill in the sessions you want to attend.
Alternatively, Marketo usually unveils an interactive app closer to the event that enables you to automatically sync up your calendar. More on that app in a second...
Find a krewe
If you're one of the many that ends up attending Summit alone, know this: it doesn't have to stay that way! Last year, I left without knowing a single soul in the Marketo community, and due to personal circumstances, no one on my team was able to attend either. I definitely don't consider myself a social butterfly, but here's where Marketo's Summit app comes into play.
In the weeks leading up to the event, there was a lot of banter and giddiness occurring within the app. Think Facebook, but on a much smaller scale, and with an audience exclusively comprised of nerds like you. Suffice to say, if you're looking for friendly faces to hang out with, odds are pretty good that you can meet like-minded marketers through Marketo's app. And in the unlikely event that you're still having trouble making friends, please by all means join #mykrewe. We'll be easy to spot.
The benefit of connecting people at Summit is simple: it's awesome networking. That, and I think people are genuinely awesome, and sharing an experience with others generally means you'll get more out of it. If the app doesn't sound like your game, though, consider joining your nearest Marketo user group.
If you're like me, finding time in your normal schedule to take the Marketo Certified Expert exam is pretty much impossible to do. Luckily, you can plan to arrive to Summit a little early on Monday (or dare I say, Sunday?) to knock this one out before the week gets started. I can personally attest to the fact that becoming a Marketo Certified expert has been the gateway to a lot of cool professional opportunities– I can't even tell you how many times I've had to tell a recruiter "no thanks, I'm not looking for new opportunities right now" in the past 6 months. If you're interested in joining the Champion ranks, this is a pre-req, so get it done!
As far as prep, be sure to take the practice exam until you can ace it in your sleep! You'll be fine, trust me. ;)
Flex dem thumbs
As I mentioned, the app has been a fantastic networking tool, so I really hope they bring it back again this year. Beyond networking, it also helps you organize your calendar, and review how sessions really were. This is an important bit, as your participation here will help make Summit even better in future years.
They've also gameified the experience in the past, but... I don't know much about that. Promise. #dontjudgeme
I say this not just because it's good manners... but you'll likely have a hard time finding a seat in some sessions if you don't arrive on time (or a little early)! Obviously, Vegas is a new venue, so it might be different than prior years... but the keynotes are especially important to attend, and 6000+ marketers will all be vying for the same front row seats. Plan accordingly.
Don't try to do it all
Relax. Within a couple weeks of Summit ending, Marketo will post recordings of all the sessions so you can view them all on-demand. Something that helped me last year, though, was sharing an Evernote Notebook with other attendees, and swapping detailed notes from sessions the other was attending. I fully advocate this divide-and-conquer approach, especially if other members of your team are attending with you!
Make time for shenanigans
Any experience is only as good as the stories you can tell about it. With the wealth of information you're going to come away with, it's important to keep some balance and have a little fun while you're at Summit, too. Whether it's sight-seeing, getting your grub on, hitting the blackjack tables (I mean, it is Vegas...), or whatever else gets your motor running, your brain will need to disengage and decompress at the end of each day. What you'll actually find is that this helps you stay more engaged as you move from session to session. The conversation and fun stories that result are an excellent side effect, though.
Sidenote: I'm looking for a krewe to join me for the best Japanese in CONUS.