Choosing a Great Web Conference

Lucky diva that I am, I recently was told that I could go to any conference I wanted to (within reason, of course). It was one tough decision, though. The last few days I’ve been the proverbial kid in a candy shop.

To help (at least in theory) I came up with a process. First, I gathered a folder of possibilities. I’ve actually been doing that for several years. Every time I see a conference that interests me, I put it in the folder. As well as going through those, I also reviewed Laura Carlson’s terrific list of web events and conferences.

Next I brainstormed possibilities with my supervisor, focusing on what the Cancer Center needs most. The topics we came up with were: Search Engine Optimization, Analytics, and Usability.

Finally I narrowed the list down to these five, including several training opportunities as well as conferences.

For Search Engine Optimization (SEO)

(1) Search Marketing Expo
This conference is run by Search Engine Land, my favorite newsfeed on SEO. I’ve been following Danny Sullivan for years. As far as I know, he’s the foremost expert on this topic. Three days in Santa Clara cost $1195.

For Web Analytics

(2) Introduction to Web Analytics
The University of British Columbia offers four online courses, building towards certification called the “UBC Award of Achievement in Web Analytics.” The Web Analytics Association highly recommends this series. Each course is four weeks and participants usually spend about six to ten hours per week on it. The cost is $675.00 (Canadian), with no travel or lodging expenses.

For Usability

(3) Practical Usability Testing
Human Factors International offers four 2-3 day courses in various cities, including Atlanta, Columbus and Chicago, which are all reasonably close to Nashville. A friend of mine went to one of their courses last year, and not only raved about it, but came back with a huge notebook of information I drooled over. The cost is $1195 per person.

(4) Usability Week with Jacob Nielsen
Jacob Nielsen is THE guru of usability. I’ve been reading his since its inception, and find his insights and research remarkably helpful. His Convince Your Boss page is compelling not just for management, but also people like me trying to decide what to attend. The cost varies depending on how many days you attend: 1 – 6 days, $776 – $2,999.

General Web Conferences

(5) South by Southwest Interactive
I can’t begin to tell you how often I’ve read about SxSW. People clearly love it, and I can see why. Five days in Austin in March is a pretty powerful draw just in itself. Add to that that it’s only $400, plus I have dear friends who live in Austin, and you can see why it’s in my top five picks, even if it’s not as on topic as the other four.

Which would you choose? I’d tell you my choice, except I’ve already gone on too long. So stay tuned, and I’ll let you know soon.