How To Network Like a Pro: Building Connections at BrightonSEO

04 September 2023

Posted in: BSEO Events

It all started in 2010, in a tiny room above a pub. What began as a few friends mulling over the latest SEO trends and techniques has since morphed into a staple fixture on the industry’s now jam-packed events calendar. BrightonSEO — or if you’re part of the in-crowd, BSEO — is the SEO conference; the Glastonbury of search marketing. 

Similar to Glastonbury, the event (or events — BSEO takes place twice a year now) is spread over multiple days, and crammed with stars. And while these may only be the stars of the SEO world, BrightonSEO’s main arena is nevertheless accompanied by an air of prestige akin to the Pyramid Stage. Just replace rock stars in tight jeans with thought-leaders in business-casual…

With BSEO now attracting upwards of 5,000 biz-savvy attendees, it’s no surprise that the event has become the holy grail of digital marketing events. Everyone who’s anyone is in attendance and — provided they’ve got the budget — they’re likely to have their own stand, too. Industry giants like Ahrefs, ScreamingFrog and SEMrush — as well as us here at Seeker, of course — all have a presence at the event. Whether it’s their logos splashed across the walls or dedicated areas populated with sales-focused spokespeople and branded freebies, they’re there to be seen, heard, and admired.

Perhaps you’re getting prepped for your first ever BrightonSEO, or you’re gearing up for your annual pilgrimage — in any case, networking is likely to be high on your agenda. You might be a freelance SEO hoping to get your name out there, or an agency professional with dreams of bagging your next big client. In either case, the thought of swimming among BSEO’s sea of marketing sharks might seem intimidating. Like any corporate event, every interaction counts — a fact that’s as exhilarating as it is terrifying for some. 

Well, fear not — in this post, we’re going to impart some of our networking knowhow gleaned from years of experience in attending BrightonSEO. 

Put in the groundwork

Attending BrightonSEO is a bit like having a bottomless brunch: absolutely pointless unless everyone on social media knows about it. But it’s not just about blogging while you’re there. If networking is a priority, we’d recommend ‘working the room’ before the event even begins.

If you’re yet to take the plunge, have a good look at BrightonSEO’s speaker list. From there, pick out your chosen speakers, and put them into your own personal roundup blog. This ‘ones to watch’ list can then be posted on your personal blog, and shared on LinkedIn et al. Tag the guest speakers you’ve mentioned in the post and — bam — you’ve broken the ice before BSEO has even opened its doors!

The good folks at BSEO have also arranged a variety of dedicated networking events to complement the main event. If you’re an early riser, book a ticket for Yoga in The Lanes, or sign up for the pre-conference 5k Seafront run — just don’t expect to bump into this writer while you’re out there! 

Here at Seeker, we’re big fans of BSEO’s staple beach clean mornings, too — they’re a great chance to take in the sea breeze, make a positive impact, and get chatting to some of Brighton’s brightest attendees. And of course, there are all manner of boozy events to pop along to once the sun sets. A word of advice, though — any promises made at a karaoke bar should be taken like a shot of tequila: with a pinch of salt. 

Dive in headfirst

Playing the mysterious stranger won’t work here. Whichever way you spin it, networking events don’t tend to favour wallflowers, so if you’re the type to shy away or let someone else do the talking, BrightonSEO is the ideal opportunity to break out of your shell.

We get it, talking to people (especially strangers) can be tough. The main course of every conversational banquet is likely to be your industry expertise, and this often leads to even the most informal of chats feeling like an impromptu job interview. But let us offer you some reassurance — and stand by for a cliché here — everyone is in the same boat.

If you’re new to BrightonSEO, let us paint you a picture: you’re standing in a conference hall, a speck among a crowd of people wearing blue lanyards. The vast majority are clinging to BSEO-branded canvas bags bundled with all manner of brand-emblazoned goodies. Some may be pacing away from you, desperate to nab the best seat at their chosen talk. Others are sat cross-legged, laptops tethered to awkwardly-situated power outlets, their screens a mess of tabs as they frantically organise their notes or rehearse their opening speeches. Everywhere you look there are marketers. Marketers queuing up for coffee. Marketers liveblogging. Marketers marketing their marketing services

What I’m trying to explain is that in an environment like this, it’s completely natural to be nervous. Even I — a self-confessed extrovert — sometimes find BSEO’s atmosphere a little overstimulating. The key is to take it in your stride. 

Attendees at BSEO generally fall into two categories, neither of which are mutually exclusive: those there to learn, and those that are there to dispense their knowledge. This is a boon to other professionals, because (provided they’re not preoccupied with navigating through the crowds on their way to a talk) most people will be more than happy to have a conversation with you. It’s up to you to make the first move though, so don’t be shy!

Be a party starter

Ask any of member of the Seeker Squad what their favourite part of BrightonSEO is, and they’re likely to respond with one of three answers:

  1. The talks (duh!)
  2. The freebies (SEO-themed beer, anyone?)
  3. The Seeker BrightonSEO dinner party!

But what is the Seeker dinner party? Well, it’s an invite-only (ooh, fancy!) soirée which serves as an informal way for our SEO specialists to get acquainted with some of the most talented people in the industry. Held at one of Brighton’s finest eateries, the guestlist usually consists of old friends and loyal clients, sat alongside new faces; individuals and teams we admire, speakers we resonate with, and founders we’re fond of.

“Always full of friendly faces, amazing pasta and good wine, Seeker’s dinner party is one of my favourite parts of attending BrightonSEO. The meal has turned into a bit of a tradition over the years as a relaxing way to cap off a busy day of talks. Being able to catch up with familiar faces in the industry over good food is always a pleasure. It’s also getting bigger every year, with people from all different backgrounds and a range of expertise. I’ve loved sitting down and getting to know everyone in a laid-back setting away from the busy conference floor. My menu recommendation: Beef Ragu!”

— Charlie Warner, Digital PR Specialist at Seeker Digital

Of course, if you’re thinking of hosting your own unofficial BrightonSEO banquet, the number of people you invite (and where you host the meal) will depend entirely on your budget. If you’re a fresh-faced freelancer, it’s probably a better (and far cheaper) option to host an evening at the pub instead, but the overall idea remains largely the same — build meaningful, memorable connections with your peers. 

Follow up (but don’t be needy)

If I’m to offer one piece of advice, it’s this: don’t be disappointed if your newfound BSEO buddies don’t immediately flood your inbox begging you to work your marketing magic on their websites. Remember — you’re the hunter here, not them. Chances are, they’ve already had to endure countless offers from all manner of SEO salespeople, and if there’s one way to turn them off completely, it’s by spamming their overloaded inboxes with messages pleading for attention.

Do follow up, but don’t jump the gun. It’s a little like dating: you’ve had your first date, things went well, and now it’s the next day… When is the right time to send that all-important post-first-date message? Too soon and you’ll come across desperate, too late and you’ll seem uninterested. As a general rule, we’d recommend sending a casual follow-up message around 2-3 days after the conference is finished. Play things cool. This way, you’ll avoid being lumped-in with the likely hundreds of other digital marketers all clambering for an opportunity to gain some work.

It’s about sending the message to any potential clients that your first priority is to help them. Now, whether they take you up on this offer isn’t unimportant, but you mustn’t give them the impression that you’re hanging on to their every word. Trust the process — if rejected, simply thank them and move on. If they accept, give yourself a quick pat on the back and get ready to make good on your promises — your reputation depends on it!

Gathering together a bevy of the finest minds in digital marketing as well as the next generation of SEO virtuosos, Brighton’s bi-annual search marketing conference provides a unique opportunity to hobnob with the best and brightest in the biz. And while networking may put the fear of god into some, it’s a lot easier if you’re willing to put in the pre-work, let go of your inhibitions, and embrace the post-event festivities. If you can learn to network like a pro, you can turn small talk into big opportunities.

For more BSEO-related insight, check out Seeker’s comprehensive guide to getting the best out of BrightonSEO.

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