Six Things I Took Away From the MarketingProfs B2B Forum #mpb2b

October 17, 2013 Ann Handley

Our flagship event, the B2B Forum, last week delivered equal measures of ideas, inspiration, fun, heart, guts, and soul.

Does it seem odd to talk about things like “heart” and “soul” in relation to a business conference? And if so, why? Because I think it makes total sense. Here’s why.

First, an acknowledgement to my friend and B2B Forum speaker Doug Kessler (and a hilariously sore loser (!)) of our first annual Bright Bulb Awards) for helping me sort out what made last week’s B2B Forum so special.

Last week, on the ground, in Boston, I could sense that something special was afoot. But I’m awfully close to it to have much perspective: It’s like asking a parent to articulate why her child is so spectacular a human being… You end up with an almost incoherent rush of words and feelings that’s capped with a lump in the throat.

Doug helped me find the narrative thread by offering me necessary perspective. Thank you, Doug.

So what did I take away from Boston last week?


Our speakers are simply some of the brightest people in marketing. We hand-pick them because of that, and because they love what they do. But, even more than that, our speakers are also interesting, generous in sharing their knowledge, and nice.

“Nice” might sound like a throwaway term. But it’s not. Truly it’s a quality we value in those people we put in front of our community.

Do you want to learn from a jerk? Neither do I.


A real benefit to in-person events is, of course, the education you get from the sessions. But it’s also something more: The jolt you get from being in the same room as like-minded people whose view of the world is similar to yours… but not the same. The kind of inspiration—as I’ve written before—that makes all the difference between a groove and a rut, as the songwriter Christine Lavin sings. (“There’s a very fine line between a groove and a rut; a fine line between eccentrics and people who are just plain nuts.”)

Thursday’s kickoff featured a surprise flashmob from the Boston hip hop group Phunk Phenomenon (a great group of kids who arrived at 6:45 AM!).

We knew we wanted a surprise to wake people up, but we also wanted to draw a connection between creating memorable experiences and marketing. We wanted our attendees to leave inspired to shake things up a little when they went back to their own organizations, sitting back at their own desks. The theme of the event was “Marketing Is Full of Choices,” and we want to help the marketers in our community to make inspired ones.

And speaking of inspiration, the sponsors definitely had it. Sponsors often don’t get enough credit for the hard work they do on the show floor. Our sponsors obviously helped defray the cost of the event by paying to exhibit there. But in talking to many of them over the few days, I realized that so many of them offered truly inspired products and services. They were a spectacular group.

Fun and humor.

Morning flash mobs. An Oscar-themed Bright Bulbs awards ceremony (complete with evening wear). Giant vinyl stickers in the bathrooms with funny sayings.

Photo booth.

Blinking cocktail tumblers.

Great swag and social giveaways. Superhero drawings.

Themed costumes at Profstoberfest—our version of Oktoberfest.

All of that fun added a sense of buoyancy to B2B Forum. None of it would’ve worked nearly as well if not balanced by serious learning in the sessions, by the way. Without the education, it would’ve been a fall version of Spring Break for marketers. But with it, we created a necessary equilibrium, I think. B2B marketing is a pretty fun place to be these days, no matter how serious your business is.


We built a few surprises into the Forum, which took guts to pull off. We didn’t meet the Phunk Phenomenon dance troupe until an hour before it was set to go on, for example. We weren’t sure attendees would appreciate our quirky touches. We weren’t sure David Meerman Scott would find the setup that Tim Washer and I put together for his surprise Lifetime Achievement Award and keynote (!) as hilarious as we thought it was. We weren’t totally sure that nominees of the Bright Bulb Awards would find the Oscar theme—and all the mocking of their excellent efforts—at all charming.

Also: One of my favorite sessions is the closing general session: “7 Minutes of Awesome.” Now in its third year, it features seven marketers speaking on a variety of subjects for seven minutes. But, really, the premise is far simpler than that: They tell stories I want to hear and share with our attendees. I admire the guts, courage, energy, and (sometimes) humor with which this year’s seven—(Andrew Davis, Jon Miller, Erika Napoletano, Marcus Sheridan, David B. Thomas, Tim Washer, Tamsen Webster)—approach those stories. It’s a warm and marvelous end to our event.

There’s a broader marketing lesson in there somewhere—it takes guts to do the things that aren’t a sure bet—but there’s also a lesson in there for event programmers.

Soul (and Much Gratitude!)

I get a lot of accolades from others on the success of an event. But so many people here at MarketingProfs contribute to the success of our events program, leaving me with tremendous respect and awe for everyone who is part of the MarketingProfs family.

Whether they were on the ground in Boston, out front or behind the scenes… truly everyone at MarketingProfs played a part in making this year’s B2B Forum the absolute best ever. But a special shout goes out from me and my B2B co-conspirator Sharon Hudson to what we think of as the Big Seven—Kathy Bushman, John Giunta, Daniele Hagen, Kristen Johnson, Corey O’Loughlin, Julie Pildner, and Jo Roberts—who put their own heart and soul into the Forum. Those seven people made us all look better, smarter, and cuter (or more handsome). A shout out to our sales staff, too, who understand what we are trying to accomplish at the Forum. (It’s not just about money.)

And finally…


I was pretty busy on the ground in Boston, and I didn’t get to attend a lot of the 32 breakout sessions and 6 half-day workshops at the Forum. So, ironically, I attended our own conference like many of those who weren’t there—vicariously, via the Twitter stream, Instagram, Facebook, and other social channels. You thought the prizes we gave for social sharing (“Social Superlatives,” as we called them) were designed to benefit non-attendees? Nope. It was all for me.

(Ha. I’m kidding.)

(Or am I?)

So, I appreciate all the social love—the social sharing, and the resulting blog posts:

Curata | MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013 Wrap-Up

Eloqua | Four Captured Moments From the MarketingProfs B2B Forum

Sam Fiorella |  Improve the Customer Experience Using Mobile

Veronica Jarski | Stuck in Elevators and Other Networking Disasters: Visual Sketchnotes of Jill Foster’s MPB2B Keynote

Christine Parizo | MPB2B: Tackle Three Networking Disasters to Avoid Being Stuck in Elevators

Christine Parizo | MPB2B: SMB Industry Domination Begins With Content Marketing Culture

Search Mojo | Live From MarketingProfs B2B: Creating Versatile Valuable Content for B2B Results

Search Mojo | Live From MarketingProfs B2B: Conversion Optimization Tactics for Lead-Generation Pages

Search Mojo | Live From MarketingProfs B2B: SEO PPC Tips to Grow Your Business

Social Media B2B | How to Build a Great B2B Community on Facebook

Social Media B2B | Five Smart Tips for B2B Content Marketing

Top Rank | 2013 B2B Marketing Forum Preview and a Cheers Plug

Top Rank | Marketing Automation Essentials for Small Businesses

Top Rank | Eight Things You Need to Know About Key Influencer Marketing

Top Rank | How to Build a B2B Community on Facebook

Top Rank | MPB2B Photos on Flickr

Amy Vernon | The Rise of Mobile and the Death of the Barroom Argument

Vocus | How to Create a Content Marketing Culture in Eight Easy Steps

Vocus | B2B Marketing Wisdom From #MPB2B

Please plan to come next year! Because if you miss it… well, you’ll miss out.

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