September 2023 marked my 6th trip to Brighton's now bi-annual nerd fest (It's okay, I'm allowed to say It because I am one), more commonly known as Brighton SEO.
I’ve executed many a write-up on interesting talks, trends and general musings at the 3-day long conference so this year I thought I’d change it up a bit! Having an attendee list of over 5000 people, it can be an overwhelming experience so a little bit of prep and knowing-what-to-expect goes a LONG way. So here’s my guide to not only surviving but thriving at the UK’s largest Search Conference.
Prep, prep and prep some more
Whether you are new to Brighton SEO or part of the furniture, there’s one piece of advice that no one in their right mind should overlook – the prep. If (like me) you are an SEO in it’s purest form (an over-thinker to the Nth degree), then planning as much as possible will help ease you into the experience with a reduced level of anxiety. My Brighton SEO pre-game checklist looks like this:
- Take a look at all of the speakers at least a month before you attend the event. Write a list of who you’d like to see talk and make sure you get a good mix of things you need to upskill on (or would like a fresh perspective on), methodologies you are already familiar with (these will be your comfort blanket for when you watch a talk that makes you feel like you may be a little out of your depth) and a few wildcards that just pique your interest. I always really enjoy the Digital PR talks as they are FULL of creative ideas that definitely get my SEO juices flowing. This year’s Digital PR tangent was sponsored by the incredible Katy Powell the Co-founder and PR director of Bottled Imagination, who not only slayed her talk but also wore this year’s best outfit with the most spectacular lime green jumpsuit (yes, some SEO geeks like fashion too). Write this list with dates and times (if you are attending more than 1 day) and also locations at the Brighton Centre e.g. Auditorium 1, Syndicate 3&4 etc. Share this list with your cohorts. Make sure said list is easily accessible on the day/s you are attending so you can move freely between talks with gay abandon!
- Pre-book a place to eat in the evening. Brighton SEO is a pretty large conference so naturally there will be lot’s of other people looking for restaurants on the evening’s you are also attending. Indulge Google beforehand and pre-book so you aren’t wandering from place to place getting turned away like Mary and Joseph on the 24th of December. My favourite place to eat in Brighton is A Taste of Sahara which is so nice, I’ve visited two years in a row! Its Moroccan, it’s BYOB, the staff are amazingly friendly and the food is incredible. What’s not to love?!
- Bring your exercise gear. Even if you aren’t someone who exercises regularly, bring your gym kit. The seafront is an absolute sight for sore eyes and after a long train journey or even a long day of sitting and listening, your crampy buttocks will thank you for a bit of action. Even if you forget your gym stuff, try and get a nice walk in on the morning of your second/third day – it’ll help you dust off the cobwebs and get back in the proverbial saddle.
- Get your bearings. Figure out where your hotel is in relation to The Brighton Centre and how long it’ll take you to get from your chosen mode of transport to your chosen hotel. Call ahead to the hotel to enquire about things like early check-in, concierge service etc. These are all things that you then won’t have to worry about on the day – these are also things that I personally had to learn the hard way about upon my first visit (okay maybe second too)!
So you’ve done your prep and the whole conference is starting to feel like a bit of a holiday (especially if you have children at home). But here’s a few more things to help you get the most out of the conference on the day/s;
- Bring a buddy. If you can of course, bring a fellow SEO that you can tolerate being tied to for 24 to 48 hours. This way you can discuss any thoughts you have about talks you watch together (which will help you bank any valuable insights) and if there are multiple talks happening at the same time (and you can’t decide which one to attend), you can divide and conquer. And by this, I mean split up and then share key points when you reconvene in one of the many breaks.
- Freebies. Take advantage of the awesome freebies! Talk to the people on the stands, they may have the exact tool/software that you need to solve all of your SEO problems! Also, the free sweets/ice cream/coffee/beer and merch will keep you alert and hydrated (mostly)! This year I managed to snag one of the coveted Yellow Brightlocal hoodies by playing their Google Maps game which was actually, REALLY hard! I also added to my enormous sticker collection and got a pretty great Screaming Frog flask too. Can you tell I love freebies though?
- Stay hydrated. Because air-con makes you feel dry.
- Don’t be afraid to leave. If you are not enjoying a talk or maybe you lost the thread and don’t know how to get back in the zone, don’t be afraid to go out to the foyer and have a breather. It’s obvious that you want to make the most out of your ticket, but not so obvious that you might be feeling a little frazzled after a day of tech heavy talks. Have a breather – it can be a pretty intense environment!
- Don’t get wasted on the first night. This is arguably the most important tip. I spent my first 4 years of Brighton SEO almost completely unable to absorb information on the second day due to the colossal hangover I was experiencing after over-doing it on the first night, followed by the anxiety of having wasted my second days ticket. Not only do hangover’s just suck in general, but let me tell you, having to absorb intellectually curated tech SEO content with a hangover is nothing shy of pure torture. I’d rather spend a day hungover with my toddler (IYKYK). If you really want to have a fun night out in Brighton and end up in Pop world at 3am, wait until the Friday night – plenty of people stay for this night too!
Failing all of that, just wing it! (Don’t). And obviously, remember to enjoy yourself and get loads of freebies!