Mozcon Feedback & Erica’s Letter to Speakers

I’ve written before on this blog about how we’ve been working to make Mozcon a remarkable outlier in the field of marketing conferences. Today, I received my feedback scores from Erica McGillivray, who (along with Charlene & Jen) did most of the organization and speaker wrangling for the event. I wanted so share that letter here on the blog, as I think it does a good job of showing the strengths and weaknesses of the show, as well as my performance there. I’ll start with some of Erica’s broad analysis of the feedback survey:

  • 60% were extremely satisfied with MozCon, and 31.7% were very satisfied. No one hated it.
  • 62.9% said they’d absolutely attend MozCon again! And 61.8% would wholeheartedly recommend it to a friend.
  • 69.3% said this was their first MozCon. (22.4% were here for a second time.)
  • 86.9% thought the presentations were perfect, not too advanced or too basic.
  • 70.4% loved the community speaker format.

And here’s the letter Erica sent me (something similar will be going out to the other speakers soon):

First, thank you so much for being part of MozCon 2012. Overall, our conference was hugely successful with 92% of attendees either extremely or very satisfied with MozCon. And you were part of that magic. Here was some great things our attendees said about the speakers, in general:
“I thought all of the presentations were NEW (that’s a big deal to me), engaging, super-duper-advanced, but also tactical – I could go back to work and implement stuff. And I didn’t want to see pitches of any kind. Those were also my expectations going in… and that’s pretty much exactly what you delivered. AWESOME JOB WELL DONE!!!!!”
“Sorry to rate all presentations as ‘awesome’ but they were. All presenters were excellent speakers, all of them had unique presentations that matched the MOzCon audience and all had nuggets of knowledge I could use in my work. I loved that you included Analytics and Excel presentations.”
“Probably one of the most eye-opening learning experiences I’ve had since I’ve been an SEO. Great presenters and the friendly banter of the community made it even more enjoyable. Will definitely be coming back next year :)”
“I enjoyed the wide range of technicality in presentations. Some very advanced, some relatively basic but each was engrossing <—-Don’t change that. Engrossing=FTW.”
“I love how MozCon gets me fired up to return to my SEO work! The conference is such a great motivator and really gets you excited about SEO.”
As far your specific performance, speakers were rated on a scale of 1-5 (5 being “awesome”) with 211 of 650+ attendees rating via survey. (There were 750+ people total at MozCon as ~100 were SEOmoz staff/associates/speakers/guests.) Your specific scores were 4.19 for your MozCon Introduction and 4.31 for your How to Build a Content Marketing Strategy presentation. You definitely made the whole audience cry with your Seattle Children’s Hospital video. Congratulations on the big success of getting them more donations!

For comparison of your score:

  • Top-rated speaker: 4.71
  • Lowest-rated speaker: 2.89
  • Median rating: 3.81
  • Average rating: 3.79
We found that our strongest speakers used actionable tips, had real world examples that extended to different business types and industries, and challenged the SEO industry status quo to do better and/or dream bigger.
Some people left feedback specifically for you. Here’s what they said:
“Give it up felt like a throwaway this year. Rand’s tip was pitch perfect. It wasn’t blackhat (which is kind of absurd after a conference that went to great lengths to profess doing #RCS), but it was an under the radar tool/tip.”
“Finally: I think it would be interesting to see Rand not speak besides the opener. Not that I’m tired of Rand or that he’s somehow not delivering (I’m not and he totally is), but for the sake of getting new voices out into the community, it’d be interesting to see someone else at Moz who we don’t know as well (Adam? Keri? Ashley? Aaron?) walk us through their work or something else that can help us through our challenges. Hey, BTW I’m totally nit-picking here. THIS WAS A GREAT SHOW. YOU DID AN AMAZING JOB. IT WAS THE BEST EXPERIENCE I’VE EVER HAD AT A CONFERENCE. YOU ARE AWESOME.”
“The head-to-head was really interesting, but very flawed. As a former agency person, I can tell you this: SEO companies are not agencies, and they are not PR firms. Not even close. I’ve seen persona development almost 15 years ago at DDB that was light-years ahead of anything I’ve ever seen in the internet world. SEO is much closer to direct marketing in reality. SEO is marketing with results, in the internet field. 99.9% of SEO people will never be creatives – nor should they try.”
“Honestly (sorry Tom and Rand), the head-to-head was entertaining, but I wrote NOTHING DOWN in my notes.  Tom and Rand have more in-depth fascinating and useful knowledge than half the rest of the speakers put together.  Would rather have had each of them present something like Paddy’s list.  It’s like you used 2 gold mines in the Klondike to showcase landscaping techniques.”
“Rand rocks :)”
“Talking to other attendees is great. Add more marketing to the mix as in 2011. Interesting to hear Rand on how this area is evolving.”
“I loved when Rand interacted with Marty. It was awesome them sharing their ideas about the speech.”
“More Rand! Love his presentations and another one from him would have been great.”
“Rand, Wil and Tom were the best speakers at the event. I would rather see better speakers for an extended period of time vs a more diverse line up where the median stage presence is lower. While the content is good at the end of the day the vast majority of this info is still available on the web, a big part of the value add here should be the delivery of the information and because were not in the self-help/sales industry many of the speakers aren’t mature or naturally gifted at speaking.”
“More head-to-head speaking (like Rand vs Tom)…it was awesome”
 While I have closed the speaker survey, please let me know if you have follow up questions or feedback about MozCon.
Have a wonderful weekend!
Erica McGillivray


I think Erica did a terrific job with this email, and with the speaker selection in general. Next year, our job is to make the quality of speakers and presentations even better (though I’ll admit that an average of 3.79 will be a challenge to beat).

Some other personal thoughts after reflecting on the show for a month:

  • The following quote (from above) perfectly encapsulates what needs to change in our field: “99.9% of SEO people will never be creatives – nor should they try.” I want to work hard over the years ahead to help inspire and enable more creativity in the SEO world. I believe it’s actually the best way to do SEO and to win in marketing overall.
  • The head to head format is fun, but can also be a bit non-TAGFEE. This year, Tom Critchlow threw out his slides and delivered a very well rated talk that was more a combative attempt to refute the presentation I’d given just prior. As a result, the audience didn’t get the tips-focused ending to the conference they should have. We’ll need to work on that format more in the future. While Tom’s talk was one of the highest rated of the show, it also was one of the most polarizing (all 5s or 1s) and it wasn’t the note I wanted things to end on (which is not to say he didn’t do an excellent job with a unique format).
  • Wifi issues sucked. After the Westin Seattle promised us last year that they would upgrade the wifi and be able to support 800 attendees, we reluctantly agreed to use them for another year. We shouldn’t have trusted them. In 2013, we’ll be moving the show. To be fair to the Westin, virtually everything else about the event was excellent.
  • We had too much overlap in speaking topics. Although the design and assigned subjects were solid, many, many speakers gravitated their presentations to the similar theme that SEO, particularly on the link building side, is moving much more toward content marketing and the earned links, citations, and social shares that come with that. It made a few of the presentations feel repetitive, even though their titles and technical subjects were about different things. I don’t blame the speakers – it will be our responsibility next year to make sure there’s greater diversity and more focus on the assigned topic.
  • We’re still experiencing the frustrating gender-bias issue I’ve brought up in the past – that women speakers are generally given lower scores than their male counterparts. I wish that was purely based on the merits, but I know it’s not. And perhaps the most disturbing part, female attendees have tend to rate women speakers lower than male attendees. There’s a weird cognitive biasing going on, and I’m not sure how to address it, but I know it shouldn’t be ignored and swept under a rug.
  • In general, I want to broaden the scope of web marketing addressed at Mozcon. A handful of great talks on SEO should always be there, but, as an attendee noted, most of that information is available online. I’d love to see more on design, UX, broader web marketing campaigns, CRO, email, etc. But, I know those talks will receive criticism from highly focused attendees who’d love nothing more than another set of link building tactics. It’s a tough balance.

I’m a big believer in optimization, obviously 🙂 And I think that even when something’s a smashing success (as Mozcon clearly was),  there’s a lot of room for improvement. I’m excited to make those improvements happen, and I know Erica, Charlene, and the Mozcon team are, too.