Making the most out of the 2023 Adobe Summit
Summary - Maximize your Adobe Summit 2023 experience with Pierce Ujjainwalla's expert tips on sessions, networking, and essential conference strategies.
I’m very excited to be heading to Las Vegas for the Adobe Summit business conference that takes place March 21-23.
The conference is a major annual B2B trade show for the marketing industry. I’ve been attending for years, and what makes this one particularly exciting is that it’s the first time I’ll be there in person since the start of the pandemic. (The last few conferences have been virtual, and there is also a virtual component to this year’s meeting.)
Because it’s such an intense event, full of interesting speakers, useful sessions, fun parties and fantastic networking opportunities, I want to share my experience about how to make the most of it.
(While this post is about the Adobe Summit conference, most of the tips I’m giving here will be useful to people going to any big trade show.)
Choose and register for sessions in advance
The conference will present more than 200 sessions designed to allow attendees to polish their skills and discover the latest trends. I strongly advise taking the time to go through the program well before arriving and registering for sessions you want to go to. Some sessions will fill up, and you don’t want to find out at the last minute that you can’t get in.
Once you have registered for your sessions, put them in your calendar so you look up information on your phone. The conference can get hectic and you don’t want to be shuffling through papers at the last minute to find your session.
You can also favourite sessions as well as you’ll probably find there are multiple sessions you’d like to attend that are happening at the same time (or at least this is what happened for me). If you favorite them they will also show up in your calendar when you download it so you can potentially change your mind last minute.
I will be joining 2 of our customers from Meta and OneTrust to host a session at the Adobe Summit conference.
‘Scaling Enterprise Campaign Creation Across 100+ Marketers,’ the session looks at how to bring campaign creation under control, cut costs, and decrease time to market. Joining me as speakers are Paul Wilson, VP Marketing Operations and Technology at OneTrust, and Don Le, Marketing Automation Lead at Meta.
The session takes place on Thursday, March 23, from 11 a.m. to noon. I hope you’ll join us!
Get on the guest lists for parties
Lots of vendors, agencies and tech partners host parties at the conference. You can get on the guest lists for the parties by registering. I suggest registering for each party. Then see which parties the people you meet (or want to meet) will be attending and go to those.
We are hosting a party on the evening of Tuesday, March 21, with our friends from Chili Piper, 6Sense, Revenue Pulse and Goldcast. Tickets are limited; you can sign up here. The party is right at the Venetian. We chose the location for easy access because we know you’ll be walking a lot. This brings me to my next point.
Pack comfortable shoes
The dress code for the conference is ‘business casual attire.’ But I know from experience that days at the conference are long and tiring and that you walk a lot. In fact, I have probably never walked as much in my life as I have at these conferences. So make sure your business casual attire is comfortable. And above all, pack good walking shoes. Your feet/back/body will thank you.
Set up meetings in advance
If there’s anyone you want to meet up with in Las Vegas, set things up in advance. Everyone will be planning meetings, and people’s schedules get full.
Don’t be afraid to message anyone you want to connect with. The worst they can say is no. As a technology CEO, I am always happy to meet with any marketers who want to pick my brain or want to learn about a topic I think I can help them with (emails, landing pages, Marketo to name a few).
Have business cards, real or virtual
Some people like to hand out business cards, and if that’s your style make sure you come to the conference with stacks of them.
But there are virtual options. My favourite is the QR code available on the LinkedIn phone app.
It allows people to immediately connect to each other’s LinkedIn profiles through their phones.
I think this is way better than a business card!
Bonus: If you learn how to use the LinkedIn QR code before the conference, you can have fun showing people how it works if they don’t know already.
Prepare your elevator speech
People will ask you what you do and who you work for. Take some time before the conference to come up with a quick and simple explanation of what your company does and how it can solve people’s problems.
By ‘quick,’ I mean 20 seconds or less; no one wants to listen to a two-minute speech.
I usually say something along the lines of: “Knak is a platform that makes it ridiculously easy to make emails and landing pages for major Marketing Automation platforms like Marketo & Adobe Campaign.”
Stay at the conference hotel
This year’s summit is being held at the Venetian Convention and Expo Center in Las Vegas. Though it can be cheaper to stay at other hotels, I strongly recommend staying at the Venetian. Las Vegas is big and any other hotel is liable to be a long distance away. It’s not worth the time and the effort to stay elsewhere. Plus, if you’ve forgotten something in your room, it’s easier to retrieve it if you’re at the Venetian.
By the way, Adobe sometimes releases blocks of rooms at the conference hotel close to the start conference, so if you’re a last-minute attendee, it’s worth checking.
Be strategic about arrival and departure dates
The conference gets going on Tuesday, March 21. I suggest arriving the day before so that you can hit the ground running. Remember that Las Vegas is in the Pacific time zone – the same as California.
And don’t be in a rush to get home at the end of the conference. I recommend not scheduling a return flight until at least 3 p.m. Thursday.
You will be exhausted by the end of the conference. If you can manage it, stay one extra night in Las Vegas and rest up a bit.
Tell people at work you’ll be unavailable
The Adobe Summit conference is a gold mine of knowledge and contacts. Every attendee should be fully engaged with what’s going on around them. Yet I often see people doing work when they should be listening to a speaker or chatting up a new contact.
Why bother going to a conference if you are going to work there!?!
My advice: Tell your work colleagues and clients you are going to be unavailable for the duration of the conference. Easier said than done, I know, but it will help you get the most out of your conference experience.
At the conference
Don’t miss the opening
The first item on the agenda is the opening keynote. It’s a big deal, and you should not miss it. It will feature Adobe’s executives and they will usually make some kind of big announcement during this presentation. My prediction this year is that they will spend time talking about how they are incorporating AI into their product line.
Attendees will find themselves vying for seats with about 20,000 other people. If you want a good seat, get there a half-hour early. Otherwise, you may end up watching the proceedings on a big screen at the back of the room.
Don’t lose your badge
Your badge is your key to the conference. Don’t leave it in your hotel room (it will be a long walk to go back and get it), and don’t lose it. They’ll charge you a lot of money to issue a new one!
You are going to get bombarded with an incredible amount of interesting and useful information – and you will forget most of it if you don’t take notes.
Use your phone to take pictures of slides, write things down on paper or type into a laptop. Do whatever works for you – but be sure to record anything you really want to remember.
Don’t spend your time at the conference with your work colleagues. Go out and meet people! And not just at networking events, either. In sessions or at keynotes, go sit beside someone you don’t know and introduce yourself. You never know who you might meet!
If you are an introvert (as I am) you will need to push yourself. It helps if you realize that you have a lot in common with everyone at the conference. Most people are willing to talk, and many will be happy to help solve your problem.
If you’re still tongue-tied, have a list of questions ready – basics like ‘Where are you from?’ ‘What do you do?’ ‘What company do you work for?’ and ‘How are you finding the trade show?’ These will get things going.
Talk to speakers afterward
Don’t be afraid to go up to someone after they’ve spoken at an event and ask a few questions.
As an occasional speaker myself, I know I love it when people come up and ask me questions after a presentation. Speakers are generally willing to oblige. Those who really don’t want to talk will be whisked away.
A word of caution: If you are a vendor, don’t rush up to a speaker as they step down from the podium and try to sell your product. It’s not the time or place for a pitch. Speakers should be fielding legitimate questions, not sales pitches.
Don’t hide at the back of the room
Too often, people attending a session will sit at the back of the room or stand against the back wall, leaving plenty of empty seats up front.
No attendee should be afraid of coming to the front for a seat – even if it means walking up the centre aisle while someone is talking.
Follow Summit live on Twitter
Twitter is the best place to take the pulse of the conference in real-time. Follow the conference hashtag (#AdobeSummit) and tweet using it; you will quickly get a sense of what’s trending.
Work the Community Pavilion
The pavilion is huge, and it’s a great way to connect with people and learn new things. Everyone in the pavilion is there to help attendees with marketing. Vendors in particular will have a lot to say.
I find it helpful if you go into the pavilion with a particular problem (or list of problems) you are looking to solve. When you meet a vendor, present the problem and ask how they would solve it. That will help focus interaction on things of potential use to you.
There’s also useful information to be had by looking at how people in the pavilion present themselves.
As a marketer, I love seeing how other companies entice passersby into their booths. I look for ideas we can use. Why is one particular booth busy? What things stand out? What ideas can we use to improve our business? I love pavilion and expo halls for that!
At the pavilion, companies will be giving out a lot of swag. Don’t feel you have to take everything that’s offered; it’s OK to say no. But if you are collecting swag, make sure you have a way of carrying it around.
One final note about the pavilion: You need to be aware that every time you let a vendor scan your badge, you are giving them permission to send you emails or make a sales call.
Work the parties
The parties, happy hours and social events are a big and very important part of the conference. They allow for fun and networking and also stimulate discussions and the free flow of ideas. So don’t sit them out.
But don’t think your workday has ended because the partying has begun. You’re not on vacation; this is a business conference, and partying has a purpose. Be mindful of alcohol consumption. The people around you are your professional community. Your paths will cross often. You really don’t want to do anything that will hurt your reputation. Stay in control. But let yourself have fun, and take advantage of the connections social events can bring. I’ve had fantastic business conversations at 2 a.m.!
Conferences like these are a marathon; pace yourself. You have to think consciously about how to get the most out of them. That includes knowing when to call it a night.
Follow up with people you’ve met
It’s a good idea to send a follow-up note to people you’ve met at the conference, to remind them of what you talked about or to explore new ideas or ventures. I like to do the follow-up through the LinkedIn app.
Those are my tips. At the end of the day, you will get out of it what you put into it. After a long hiatus, I am super excited to be heading back to Vegas for Summit. See you at the conference!
Co-Founder & CEO, Knak
Pierce is a career marketer who has lived in the marketing trenches at companies like IBM, SAP, NVIDIA, and Marketo. He launched Knak in 2015 as a platform designed to help Marketers simplify email creation. He is also the founder of Revenue Pulse, a marketing operations consultancy.