Last Monday through Thursday, August 19th-22nd, 5300 people from 35 countries gathered at Boston’s Hynes Convention Center to attend HubSpot’s INBOUND 2013 conference. Now in its third year, INBOUND is considered the world’s largest inbound marketing conference, featuring over 150 sessions given by more than 140 experts over the span of four days.
The size and diversity of the crowd was impressive, but the vast range of backgrounds and experiences the speakers brought to the conference was what made it truly outstanding. Keynote addresses were given by best-selling author Seth Godin, Huffington Post President & Editor-in-Chief Arianna Huffington, charity: water Founder & CEO Scott Harrison, FiveThirtyEight.com Founder Nate Silver and HubSpot Co-Founders Dharmesh Shah and Brian Halligan. Bold Talks inspired attendees and Big Ideas were shared, Inbound Experts imparted their wisdom day after day and HubSpot employees were available around the clock for consultations and software demonstrations. Topics covered ranged from blog optimization, to inbound marketing for non-profit organizations, to “sh$% your marketing professor never told you.” Needless to say, there was no shortage of information to learn or events to attend.
Unlike many other annual marketing conferences, INBOUND does not adopt a specific theme from year to year, but rather grants its speakers the freedom to choose their own presentation topics based on their personal passions within the world of inbound marketing. The reason for this lack of restriction can be explained by the conference’s mantra: “Come together. Get inspired. Be remarkable.” Essentially, the driving attitude behind the INBOUND conference is based on the belief that when individuals come together to share and discuss fresh ideas, they generate excitement and develop new ways of thinking, which lead to growth, innovation, and progress.
While HubSpot’s INBOUND 2013 conference did not have a specific theme, it did have a number of unique aspects that set it apart from other marketing summits. The first – and perhaps most relevant – was its use of social media. HubSpot is known for its inbound marketing blog, which attracts over 1.4 million readers each month, and the company used this resource brilliantly to market the conference. “#INBOUND13” began to pop up all over the HubSpot blog, Twitter and Facebook pages back in May and the hashtag was mentioned and encouraged at every single session throughout the four day conference. The result? A trending Twitter hashtag, thousands of tweets mentioning the hashtag and an incredible amount of social media buzz. (Looking ahead an entire year, HubSpot even began to advertise #INBOUND14 on the last day of the conference, thanking attendees for attending #INBOUND13 and expressing excitement for next year’s event).
Next was the free INBOUND 2013 app that was created specifically for use leading up to, during and in the days after the conference. Once registered for the event, attendees received emails encouraging them to download the app, which was also advertised on HubSpot’s blog and social media platforms, as well as on the official INBOUND 2013 website. The app featured eighteen widgets, including a full schedule of events, a personalized “My Schedule” with which attendees could update and keep track of their own schedules, an opt-in “Up Next” reminder, an opt-in list of attendees, a messaging feature with which attendees could contact one another (as well as receive updates from an Admin), a map of the convention center and much more.
Finally was INBOUND 2013’s emphasis on connection. While it was not as explicitly advertised as the #INBOUND13 hashtag or as tangible as the INBOUND 2013 mobile app, conference attendees displayed a palpable excitement about the opportunity to connect and exchange knowledge with fellow inbound marketers. Networking events capped off each day of the conference, ranging from Happy Hours in the Hynes Convention Center, to so-called Boylston Parties hosted by conference sponsors at local bars and even an “INBOUND Rocks” concert featuring Grammy-nominated band OneRepublic.
Attendees left the conference excited, enlightened and eager to share their knowledge and experiences with their contacts, coworkers and clients. #INBOUND13 can still be seen all over Twitter, and SlideShare and YouTube posts of presented content continue to receive an impressive amount of views. Marketing luminary Seth Godin perhaps put it best in his conference-opening keynote address: “Right now, we have the ability to figure out how to do something different, something bigger, something worth doing… [And] building connections is the asset of the future.”