As you all know the search marketing conference season 2011 kicked off – be it in the UK with SES or in the States with SMX West. Also in Germany we got the first one in 2011: The SEO Campixx. Since I spent the last weekend attending the Campixx which took place at a beautiful lake called “Müggelsee” (close to Berlin) I thought it might be nice doing a little re-cap. And as a bonus I also got the chance to sit down with organizer Marco Janck to get his view on this year’s edition.
First of all let’s have a brief look at the conference itself: Campixx took place the third time in a row (once a year) as a two-day event and this time had around 460 attendees. Since the conference content is and was purely German it’s needless to say the crowd also was – more or less – purely German-speaking. If you compare the Campixx to SMX or SES (in Germany) there are some differences I want to point out:
1. The idea behind SEO Campixx is “give and take” – like the old bar camps some of you might remember. Sessions are usually more like “hands-on workshops” versus “plain and simple PowerPoint’s”.
2. To strengthen that even more the location has been chosen to be quite a bit outside of Berlin – so nearly everyone stays at one place during the event. You almost anytime meet someone at the bar, outside on the terrace and stuff – which is really, really nice because you’ll have HUGE networking opportunities and a lot to talk about.
3. The amount of workshops is ridiculously high – this year we had around 120 workshops in total (yes, in just two days!), most of the time in between 8 to 12 running in parallel. That makes it really hard to choose. But if you do want to attend (and not do networking all the time) you’ll almost find something interesting at any time. This might not be the case with the “classic conferences” running just one, two or even three sessions in parallel. And also the communication part within that group seems to be working way better.
I did like this year’s Campixx quite a lot – especially because it’s not just another conference. This is great because – to be honest – we do have enough of those “classics”, in Germany and also word-wide. Organization went smoothly, no queues during registration, clearly marked areas, good food (a big improvement compared to previous editions) and all in all a very positive and sharing atmosphere. Nice. But maybe that just me – let’s hear what event organizer Marco does have to say:
Hey Marco – thanks for your time. I’ll try to keep it brief: In three sentences – what’s your view on this year’s Campixx? Are you happy with how it went?
Hey Bastian – my pleasure, thanks for the interview. Well, it’s kind of hard to cover the full SEO CAMPIXX with just three questions. First of all: The SEO CAMPIXX is not a pre-made conference concept – it’s more like a project. A project trying to enabe better sharing and communication within the SEO community. Most people experience online marketing as a one way, consuming experience – also from a conference perspective. In my opinion this is just not enough and in times where you often hear something like “Well… there was nothing really new at this conference” or “I did not learn anything today” there had to be something more and I was seeking for another solution. I think the SEO CAMPIXX might be this kind of solution – but only if attendees are willing to “take the same path”. You as an attendee have to adapt and change from just being a consumer to become someone who does also share his thoughts on specific topics being discussed. That’s a lot of work. It’s all about participation and active contribution to workshops, talks, etc. – but at the end of the day this does help everyone being involved. But the good thing is – doing so – you’re building up a profile and reputation for yourself. And if you start providing knowledge it’s also way easier to go out and ask for help, because someone who used your input is more likely to provide input back versus someone you don’t even know. I really think the concept has a lot of advantages – if you make use of it.
For example this year we saw a very good increase in workshop registrations which caused even more content (well sometimes this may have happened because it was necessary for some attendees to be able to participate in SEO CAMPIXX at all – but that’s not important for now…). In the beginning there is this “I do want to actively contribute”-thing which is great – and maybe also something like “And I don’t want to look too stupid so I have to perform”. We had around 120 workshops this time – I think it’s a very good foundation and we surely can build up on this. Even though I have to admit that the quality of content was not the main focus – to be honest it was secondary. But I’m pretty sure the quality will increase over the next years. People have to learn this “special” kind of “un-conference”. That’ll take a while. But since I believe in the concept I’ll take my time to let attendees get used to it.
All right – to sum it up: I’m really happy. We had some issues but they were mainly behind the scenes and organization related. Good thing is they were not important for participants. And based on all the recaps out there it looks like people had a good time and also some take-a-ways. So let’s call it a part-time success ;-). Sorry, but I’m a perfectionist – that’s just my thing.
Wow, a little more than just three sentences! I know the Campixx just came to an end – but looking at the feedback from the attendees, what do you think is most likely to be changed for next year’s edition?
For me it’s really important that the success of the event does also support a good cause. So I’m sure we’ll have another charity topic for next year’s edition. This year we had a supporting cause for the rain forest; next year it’ll be something more dramatic. That is because we also do want to support things within the social environment. That being said we’ll move forward and see how we can help there.
Besides of that we’ll start opening the registration way earlier – to have more time to come up with topics and workshop organization. Because six months is almost nothing to come up with an in-depth planning. In addition we do want to support the workshop organizers more than we did during this year. However we’re not going to change the amount of workshops. A lot of workshops do support the idea of having smaller groups – which should enable an even better communication. What we would like to do as well is trying to teach the concept of those workshops a little more up-front. That might even include that workshop attendees might prepare upfront before joining the workshops.
Again, as mentioned above: It’s not about a one-way consuming experience but about communication in both directions. Haha… ya, it’s still going to be a long way. Let’s see how much we will succeed with this idea.
Do you have plans to also extend the conference to an international audience? The organizers of SMX München and also SEMSEO/PubCon Hannover seem to think it’ll work in Germany (both planned their conferences for this year to be international with various non-German panelists). Do you think that might work for the Campixx as well?
We really had a lot of discussions before SEO CAMPIXX 2011 regarding international speakers. But I do believe the SEO CAMPIXX is pretty well accepted within the German-speaking market – and with the setup we have. I think right know it’ll not be an added-value to have international speakers. Ok, let me put it another way: Looking at the arguments for international guests like for example Rand Fishkin or even Matt Cutts (sure, it would be awesome to have them) I they’re not really “supporting” the concept we currently have. Since SEO CAMPIXX it’s all about sharing and the talks in-between sessions, on the hallways and stuff – that might not be possible than. Because as we know there would be a huge amount of people “chasing” those “online marketing stars” – which would more or less cut all communication going on. And obviously that’s also not so nice for the speakers themselves.
Looking at this from a marketing perspective it really leaves the question on what value it would provide for now. I do not have to market the event – it had been sold out in a blink. So for now we keep it like this and just do our “German-stuff”. Looking at the growth in online marketing and SEO there’s a lot of work to be done within the German speaking market and because of this, at least for now, I don’t think that we’ll be going international. But who knows what’s happening during the next months. I do listen to a lot of people all the time – and sometimes I do even accept their arguments 😉 So let’s see.
Well Marco, thanks a lot for your time and all the insights – really appreciate the work you’re doing with SEO Campixx! See you next year.