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In this episode of In-Ear Insights, Katie and Chris recap some of the highlights and major lessons of recent mega-conferences like INBOUND and Content Marketing World. They also tackle the revolving door problem that plagues conferences, perpetually keeping the majority of content at the 101 level, and what businesses who want to level up past 101 should consider in addition to conferences and trade shows. Tune in now!

Be sure to check out the visual data recap of both events as well.

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Machine-Generated Transcript

What follows is an AI-generated transcript. The transcript may contain errors and is not a substitute for listening to the episode.

Christopher Penn
In this week’s in your insights, we are all back from the first round of mega conference season last week, the week that recording this was the mega conference inbound, the HubSpot, user conference, and content marketing world, the content marketing conferences, one of the first round of several major conferences that happened in the fall. And so today I want to recap some of the key points, the highlights learnings that we took from each of these events. So Katie, I didn’t get a chance to go to inbound. Because until next year, these two events for the last few years have been clobbering each other for the same exact week. Next year. Thankfully, content marketing world is moving to mid October. So what were the highlights for you? What marketers were talking about at inbound in terms of things that were problems? Or that what speakers were saying? These are the today’s solutions?

Katie Robbert
Yeah, you know, it’s interesting. At the inbound event of lot of the speakers weren’t even really talking about marketing. One of the hot topics that came up was the paid family leave. And so one of the speakers was referencing that in their talk. And that ended up being something that was really buzzed about after the fact. I think it was, I apologize, spirit, his name, but I know. Yes, I was like, I know, he’s married to Serena Williams, but that should not be his claim to fame. So there was a lot of talk about that john wall, are their business partner and I sat down in chatted with a couple of folks, a lot of people are giving talks about, you know, finding your inner strength, and, you know, being confident with doing so it was interesting, the seams were kind of split.

So the themes were really kind of split with, you know, talking about a lot of the same issues, you know, proper lead gen how to master Facebook ads, but then also there was some sessions around artificial intelligence, there were some sessions around, you know, building your personal brand is big. So, there wasn’t anything like new and revolutionary for me, personally, it was a lot of the same. But I think it was a people’s new takes on the same themes, because it sounds like lead gen and advertising and those things are chronic issues for marketers.

Christopher Penn
What questions so you spoke about the use of AI and marketing? What questions did you get in your session? Did anybody ask any questions that were like, Oh, I haven’t heard that one before.

Katie Robbert
They did. A lot of people asked about the technology behind each algorithm. And so the questions were around. So one of the things that I talk about is a Markov chain model, which we use for two of the reports that we demonstrate within the talk, which is the digital customer journey, and the most valuable pages. And the question that I got from the audience was, Why can’t I use what’s baked into Google Analytics? What is the deficit with that? And so I thought that that was a really good question. And it was the opportunity to explain the limitations of Google Analytics, attribution modeling, with what you can do with Markov chain. Now that said, Google Analytics, attribution modeling, if you’re new to us, something is good enough, it’s better than not doing any sort of attribution modeling at all. But the one thing that people walked away from was really appreciating that for all of the five use cases, I told them, here’s the algorithm that actually goes into this particular type of analysis. And they said, the feedback that nobody ever takes the time to at least say that they always sort of like, breezed by it and say, You don’t need to know what this is, this is just magic. That’s, you know, sort of like the black box, you don’t need to know. But our goal at trust insights is to really help people understand, here’s what’s in the box. So that about my big takeaway was that, like, people are hungry to learn, they want to know what it is they want to know what’s in the box.

Christopher Penn
And that’s super important. Because one of the things is happening, the AI field in general is rightfully a huge emphasis on interpret ability and explain ability, which is you’ve got to be able to show what the machine is doing while it’s doing it, and show what the machine did when it’s done. And without that, you run into all kinds of regulatory problems, because legislation like CCP a GDPR, require companies that use machine learning to be able to explain how consumers data is being used.

Katie Robbert
And unsurprisingly, after my talk, or the questions I got was around ethics and AI, which, you know, is a whole separate topic unto itself. But in the probably 30 seconds, I had to answer the question, I really tried to encourage some sort of a governance documentation so that everybody who’s involved is on the same page, and that there’s a shared understanding of what this machine learning model is meant to be doing, instead of just guessing.

Christopher Penn
Yeah, yeah. Well, a content marketing world, like Social Media Marketing World, like inbound, like every show I’ve been to this year, has the revolving door problem, and it’s not the show’s fault. It is what’s happening is as people do their work, naturally, they get promoted, and somebody new comes in. And so, but there’s no institutional transfer of knowledge. There’s no internal training. And so you get a whole bunch of people who like, what is social media? Okay, what is good content, and these events get perpetually stuck in the world? No one. And so this year’s event, make great content, be more human in your marketing, said content that people care about. You should be on social media. And there’s a lot of that that. For me as someone who has been doing this for a really long time. Frustrating, like, oh, gosh, what was it? It was from the movie Batman Begins where Rozell ghoul is beating up Batman’s, like, familiar, don’t you have anything new? And it’s the same sort of feeling like where’s what’s happening on on the front edge? Where’s what’s unique? What’s different? Now one conversation I did have that was interesting was during the Odin session on b2b influencer marketing. I was sitting next to one of his account directors and chatting with them about so how are you folks tackling the changes in social algorithms and the recognition that social algorithms are being diminished day after day, right? You know, Facebook’s like, hey, a lot of people spend getting a lot of money and influencer marketing. So we’re going to take that away, because we want you to spend that money with us. And one of the interesting things they were saying that they do mostly b2b marketing, is they focus on SEO and traffic generation for clients. So they want an influencer to have a strong blog, they want to influence to have a strong email list so that they can move actual traffic to the client, rather than, you know, the amount of social chatter, I thought that was a very smart way of dealing with the fact that Facebook in particular, really wants you to not spend money anywhere else.

Katie Robbert
Mm hmm. Well, so I want to go back to your point about these conferences being stuck in this one on one cycle, because of the churn of resources and the lack of institutional knowledge. You know, this is something that we’ve tackled a little bit before, but in the context of a large conference, like an inbound or Social Media Marketing World, you know, one of our our problems is that when we go there, we’re not necessarily talking to decision makers. You know, we’re talking to people who are just getting started. How do we, I guess, what can we do to help perpetuate this like continual learning mindset so that when people are going to these conferences, they’re not just a blank slate?

Christopher Penn
Honestly, I think the, the solution there is that it needs people need to get out of the mindset of point learning. It means creating a culture within companies of continuous learning, you have to watch. And that’s something that it’s tough because the people problem it’s not it’s not a technology problem. It is, how do you get people to recognize the value of continuous learning, and then be eager to go out and get it? You know, one of the things I think we’ve seen, even in our own experiences is you need to provide people with a safe forum to ask the dumb questions. And there are no dumb questions. There are questions you just don’t have the information for yet. And you always ask questions to the limits of your knowledge. Having something like our analytics for marketers slack group, which shameless plug you can join it trust, slash analytics for marketers, gives people a not only a venue to ask questions, but you know, we have to help seed it, we have to have start conversations with it, to encourage people to remind people that this is an avenue for continuous learning, if you have a question, we can try to answer the question for you to the best of our ability. When you have individuals at companies they see like, Okay, I’m going to go do my continuing education, go to this conference, I did the conference, okay, I’ve learned stuff to get back to my work. And it’s not that mindset of, nope, I got some ideas at the conference. And now I need to go and research them. One of the things I think is such an interesting model, and I get this from tomorrow lights is you go to a seminar with a master instructor you learn you know, the 17 forms of tobacco a sword fighting. And after that event, you don’t know it, you’ve learned the patterns. And then the expectation, which is communicated to you by the master instructors is great, you’ve learned the forms. Now take 20 years, to disassemble them, practice them, learn them, take them apart, use variations until you, you know, come back in a couple of decades when you understand it, and will be ready to show you the next thing. But the expectation is you as the student will go on and learn and learn and learn and apply this stuff until you get it. We don’t have that marketing.

Katie Robbert
Well, and I i think it’s an interesting way to think about it. But I think the challenge with that is that addresses the people side of it with the continual learning, but it doesn’t address us as speakers having to give the same talk over and over again, because Okay, so let’s say in that example, you know, I show up to your conference, you teach me five use cases for artificial intelligence, I go away for the next, you know, 18 months to try to learn that. So I’m not going to show up at your conference next year, someone else is going to. And so you have to teach the same thing over and over again. So that doesn’t solve the problem of these conferences, sort of being stuck in a rut, with the same topics over and over and over again, lead generation Facebook ads, content marketing,

Christopher Penn
a part of it also is, and it’s it’s incumbent upon speakers, because I ran into this issue of content marketing world is communicating clearly expectations for a session. And for telling people, you know, here are the benchmarks for what constitutes beginning intermediate and advanced because a lot of cases like I advertise my workshop at content marketing world as an intermediate to advanced session for advanced content marketers. And one of the questions that I asked people in the pre event survey was, what languages do you know how to code and and of course, a whole bunch of panic responses came back saying we can’t go it at all, like, well, that’s my fault as a speaker for say, not saying, this is an expectation, when you say I am advanced, you had better know how to code, right? It’s like saying, I’m an expert, cool. If you’re an expert, I expect these expert level skills, and I did not communicate that properly as a speaker. So that was incumbent upon me. But I think it’s incumbent upon these events to be able to say like, yes, these, this is a checklist of this is what you know, beginner means, you know, nothing cool. Got it. If you can do these things, you’re probably intermediate, if you can do these things, you’re probably advanced, if you can do these things, you’re probably expert. And then the tracks are set out in such a way that you can say like, yes, this is expert level content, with the understanding, they may be five people in that session, right? It may be something that’s a better as a as a working breakfast. But for those five people who are at that skill level, they’re going to get benefit out of it. Because unfortunately, many speakers on the circuit today are more entertainment than they are education. Which is great. You want people to have a good time. But if you’re looking to learn, it’s it’s much tougher when one of the skills of a master instructor is I see this in my teachers in the martial arts, when they teach, there’s something for everybody. Right? No matter what level of skill you’re at you can you train to look for God, I never saw that before. Whereas in marketing, it’s a little tougher, because they’re not these complex hidden techniques. They’re, like, copy and paste this do this. What’s your take on that? How do you get as a speaker, you know, because you’ve been speaking now for for quite some time, at some of the biggest conferences and marketing? How do you communicate in ways that multiple people at multiple skill levels, get something out of what you have to say?

Katie Robbert
You’re right, it is a really tough challenge. What I try to do is make sure that the concepts, especially the more advanced technical concepts are broken down in such a way that, you know, if I explained it to my mom and my grandmother, that they would understand it, and not in a condescending sort of, you know, patronizing way, but just in a very practical, if you think about it this way, then you understand it, and it’s not, you know, this mythical creature, it’s literally just this. And so I always try to cater to the lowest common denominator, I always go into the talks, assuming that everybody is a beginner, but sort of up leveling enough so that if someone does go in with a general understanding of the topic, that they’re not going to be completely bored. You know, that’s an oversimplification of how we put these talks together, you know, a lot more thought goes into it than just that. But, you know, you really, I think one of the things that some speakers might be missing out on is really having a good understanding of their audience to your point. So if you’re going in expecting and an expert level group, but you have a whole bunch of beginners, and that actually happened to us. I think it was last year, at one of the conferences where we taught a workshop, we had an expectation that there was a certain skill level, around what we were teaching. And, you know, about a third of the way into the workshop, we realized that we were going over everybody’s head, so we had to stop and pivot. And so I think that that’s also part of it is, you know, a good speaker should be able to, in the moment, read the audience and pivot, because they either have a bunch of glazed over eyes, because they’re bored, or, you know, a bunch of, you know, gaping mouths because everybody’s lost. And so you as a speaker, need to just pull it back and not be on autopilot, because part of the speaking is that given take and reading the room. And if you’re not doing that, if you’re just like, okay, I’ve rehearsed it, this is what I can do, and I’m just going to give this talk, it doesn’t matter how people receive it, then you’re doing it wrong.

Christopher Penn
The other thing I think is important is particularly for managers, and directors and executives is to recognize that there are different learning vehicles, a conference is one of them. And it’s important as a good landscape view. It’s like that martial arts seminar where you see all 17 techniques in this mysterious scroll. And then, you know, you have a lot more homework to do. After that, you’re not gonna say I’ve mastered this, because I went to this event. with things like masterminds online courses, actually, in person courses and stuff, there are all these different venues for learning and methods for learning, where the conference is not the place to do a deep dive on a topic, you know, that is a course, or a mastermind or a mentor or something. So I think part of the issue may also be that people are coming to conferences for the wrong reasons, or because it’s literally the only training budget they can get. But it’s the wrong application, the technique. So for somebody like that, how do you counsel, that director that VP that executive like, know what your people have? Need? And and and how do you direct somebody like that?

Katie Robbert
You know, that’s a really good question. And it’s actually a very simple answer. So in the event that a, you know, a conference, like inbound or content marketing world, or whatever it is, is the only training budget you have for that fiscal year, make the most of it, don’t just say, okay, check the box signed up for a conference, that’s my training, take the time with the person who’s actually going to the conference, or if you’re the one going to the conference, and outline your goals ahead of time. Why am I going to this conference? What am I hoping to learn? Now, when you go to a conference like inbound is 25,000 people, plus some celebrities and bright lights and food trucks, like, it can feel a little bit like a carnival versus an event where you should be learning something, the goal, the trick there is to stay focused, and really do that work ahead of time. So you’re not trying to figure it out on the spot, because you can get sort of swept up in the accent bit of everything. So if you know you’re going to only the one conference, what do you need to learn that year? What do you need to master that year? You’re not to your Chris, to your point, Chris, you’re not going to master those skills at the conference. But it’s an opportunity to collect and gather more information about that specific topic. So go to the sessions that are about that specific topic and gather your information, stay focused on that track and your goals. And make sure like after the fact, you sort of you do a review, maybe you bring a recorder with you like a little audio recorder. And when you talk to people you say Do you mind, if I record this, I have a couple of questions for you. Or you make sure that you’re downloading audio talks and slides after the fact. And that’s really the best way as an attendee, to make the most of a conference to ensure that you’re learning the thing that you set out to learn because otherwise, these big conferences are just like a big overwhelming, you know, sensory overload. And I mean, the amount of people who after say, you know, my brain is melted, I’m overwhelmed at so many things. Yes, it is. But there is a way to approach it, where that won’t happen.

Christopher Penn
One of the things that used to do with our team back in the days we measure very large team was used to have people go to an event and then come back and then the next staff mean, they were required to present what they learned. I’ll talk a bit more about that quick.

Katie Robbert
Yeah, absolutely. It’s a way for people to sort of stay present in the moment, because as you are attending a conference, again, you have that sensory overload. And it’s normal as a human for like your brain to sort of like drift and shut down. But if you know that, your task is to gather information, and then teach it back to other people, you are more apt to pay a bit more attention and sort of stay focused. And so the goal with having people present at our team meetings was not to say, okay, you didn’t learn enough, or you learn to the wrong thing. But it was really to make sure that they were absorbing something from these conferences, and bringing it back the team, something that we hadn’t already been aware of, or what’s new, or what’s trending or whatever the thing is, you know, again, not that they’re the experts. So but it’s an opportunity for the team as a whole to say, Okay, this is the new thing this year, let’s all together in a supportive way, dig into this topic and learn it.

Christopher Penn
So to summarize, to wrap up the reason you’re not necessarily getting anything new at an event, maybe because you don’t have a burning question going into the event that you can go and ask speakers, your question for your answer. So if you feel like you went to these events, he didn’t come away with the gold, then maybe it’s time to bring the correct picks and shovels to whatever events you go to. And to know what learning vehicles match best. I will take this moment to again shamelessly plug our slack group trust insights, analytics for marketers in which you can ask questions. If you’ve seen us speak, and you’re like, Oh, you know, I didn’t get chance to ask Katie after session about this thing. Guess what? There’s a place where you could ask Katie questions all day long. The other places the other thing to do is to continually subscribe to training materials. Go check out the trust insights newsletter over at trusted says AI slash newsletter, and of course, our YouTube channels. Well, thanks for listening and we’ll talk to you next week.

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