Quick Review: SemCon 2011

SEMCon or Search Engine Marketing Conference is an event held yearly (since 2007) by Fiera de Manila together with organizers like YugaTech, iMV Solutions and SEO Philippines.

It’s basically a gathering of search engine marketers, strategists and consultants so they can teach other digital marketers, SEO practitioners, and different types of noobs like me!

This event is actually proof that direct mail still works. I almost forgot about this conference until I received an over-sized postcard that was sent to our office.

While SEMCon is obviously not as big as the IMMAP Summit – perhaps part of the reason why I didn’t hear (or read) much buzz around it, according to Fiera de Manila, both days still had about 90-100 participants.

This was my first time attending SEMCon so I’m not sure what the previous attendance numbers were as it’s now their fifth year doing this.

I’m going to do a quick run through of some of the main “conference factors.” Here goes!

1. Cost

I know conference fees aren’t something most attendees worry about as they’re usually from big local or even multinational companies that have huge training budgets.

But I can’t help but think about small business owners or freelance digital marketers. It’s not exactly cheap at P14,000 for 2 days.

For reference, I looked at the previous SEMCons and they started at P8,500 in 2007, P9,500 in 2008 and 2009, and then last year went up to P12,000. I’m part of that group hoping it won’t cost P16,000 next year.

2. Seminar Kit

This is how my seminar kit looked like:

That’s the 2-day seminar schedule printed on a folder, a tote bag, SEVEN sheets of ebay.ph fliers, 3 eBay buttons, my seminar badge, a flier ad for another event and a SEMCon branded notebook.

Let’s go back to those ebay.ph fliers I received.

I understand receiving one flier but SEVEN? Do they want conference attendees to go out and distribute fliers for them?

I asked one of the attendees I met at the conference and she told me she didn’t even bother looking at the fliers.

I, on the other hand, looked at them, took a picture (for this post) and off to the recycling bin it went. I have nothing against ebay.ph of course. I just feel it’s a waste of money and paper. Poor trees.

Same goes for the buttons. I’ve never been on ebay.ph so when I get a button like this…

I start to think whether they realized that some of the attendees might not have even bought, much less sell, anything on ebay.ph and just had them done without really thinking it through. Or if they believed this would entice me to sell on ebay.ph.

Either way, it didn’t help leave a good brand impression, at least not to me. Plus the buttons felt cheaply made. Like it was intended for people to look at for two seconds and then throw away without feeling the slightest tinge of guilt.

3. Venue | Food

They had it at the AIM Conference Center in Makati. I was pretty happy with the venue. It was easy to find and the place looked solid.

I’d rather just get the event schedule and my badge.

…That is until I looked up all the previous SemCon venues and they were all at the Hotel Intercon! I wonder what happened this year. Maybe they didn’t serve food last time?

Speaking of food, it was okay. Typical buffet catering service. I’d rate it as 2.5 out of 5 (as in it’s not bad but it’s also not good) but it was good enough in that I didn’t have to go to McDonald’s to eat lunch or leave the place to buy food elsewhere.

I would like to mention though that the catering staff was really friendly. I give importance to service so I suppose that makes up for the food quality.

4. Speakers

I loved most of the speakers! I’m planning on writing a separate post on some of them but for now, here’s a quick list:

  • Marc Macalua with his stoic but hilarious presentation on Google Panda
  • Hans Koch and his detailed report on the two group buying sites he worked with
  • Myles Vives with actual Facebook tips people can follow
  • Carlo Ople on social media tools and even some off-the-record bits
  • Allan Caeg advocating UX in the Philippines

The Verdict

So the food wasn’t exactly mouthwatering, the conference fee was a bit on the high side, and the seminar kit was slightly disappointing.

But why do people go to conferences anyway? Not to try amazing cuisine for one. (Although that would be a bonus.)

At the end of the day, the important question when attending conferences is always, “Did you learn about things you wouldn’t have learned elsewhere?”

And I did. Plus I met cool new people.

I told Abe of YugaTech (who is really nice and down-to-earth by the way) that I will definitely go next year and even bring some of my co-workers with me. I think it’s worth it.

Plus I’m sure it will be even better next year. I know it takes a lot of time and hard work putting all that together so I’d like to thank and congratulate the event organizers. I had fun! 🙂

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