Another year another a4uexpo. I still can't believe it has been a whole year since the last one. This was my second Expo, and any reservations about how similar this one might be to the last one were dispelled as soon as I saw the brochure. New speakers, new sessions, new exhibitors not to mention a brand new venue. I arrived on Monday afternoon full of optimism and armed with about 250 business cards.
The New Venue
The venue was the London Hilton Metropole, a huge hotel on Edgware Road. It was much easier to get to than last year's Excel centre but then I guess that depends on where you live. It was a great idea to have the Expo in a hotel like this - excellent conference facilities plus the convenience of being just a couple of minutes from your hotel room. There was also a spa with steam room and sauna, gym and a load of excellent restaurants within the hotel. Overall a fantastic venue.
I found for the second year running that the A4u team really go out of their way to make sure delegates have everything they could possibly need for a productive conference. I can't imagine the kind of hard work and preparation they must put into organising an event like this. The little touches impressed me the most - first class food, plentiful soft drinks and snacks, a free bag for all the freebies you can pick up in the exhibitors' room, loads of meeting areas, free wi-fi. Even the floor plan was well designed - I was aware of where everything was within about 10 minutes of arriving.
The networking events are a key part of the Expo experience. Monday night's pre-event reception was held at a bar in Soho called Grace. It was an excellent place to network with a free bar all night and music which wasn't too loud! Another benefit of attending this was that you could register and receive your conference wristband, saving you time the next morning. I unfortunately missed both the Webgains speed networking and the main party at Foundation in Covent Garden through illness - maybe someone can review these events in the comments section below?
The exhibitors at the Expo were the usual mix of affiliate networks, agencies and some affiliate and software companies. The Affilinet stand stood out with it's Oktoberfest theme and large seating area. As an affiliate it's really worth spending time talking to the people at each stand, as you never know what business deals can emerge from it. Most of my time is spent working from home doing business via email or phone, so it's great to actually meet people you deal with in the flesh. The main Expo hall had a more 'serious' feel this year, less of the driving games and casino and more of a focus on business, which is a good thing.
The presentations I attended were generally interesting, informative and right at the cutting edge of the industry. My only gripe being that in one instance there were 2 sessions I was very keen to attend, both taking place at the same time. All the presentations will soon be available to watch online so it isn't really an issue. The speakers are a very clever bunch and they don't disappear after their talks - there are plenty of opportunities to have a good chat with them.
My overall experience of the a4uexpo was very good, despite the sickness bug which forced me to miss about half of it! I returned home full of new ideas about how to grow my affiliate business, coupled with a sense of urgency about making sure I don't get left behind in areas like mobile which are clearly moving at a ridiculous pace. Last year QR codes were the next big thing - this year they are old news, soon to be defunct! I will definitely be returning to the a4uexpo next year, and possibly attending the European one too.