Real-World Education for Modern Marketers

Join Over 600,000 Marketing Professionals

Start here!
Text:  A A

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

by Ann Handley  |  
October 17, 2013

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!).

(video credit: Kerry Gorgone)

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.

(photo credit: Dave Cutler)

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:



MarketingProfs B2B Forum 2013 Wrap-Up


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

Chris Penn

Sign up for free to read the full article.Read the Full Article

Membership is required to access the full version of this how-to marketing article ... don't worry though, it's FREE!


We will never sell or rent your email address to anyone. We value your privacy. (We hate spam as much as you do.) See our privacy policy.

Sign in with one of your preferred accounts below:


Ann Handley is chief content officer of MarketingProfs, author of Everybody Writes: Your Go-To Guide to Ridiculously Good Content, and co-author of the best-selling book on content marketing, Content Rules. Ann co-founded, one of the first sources of interactive marketing news and commentary.

Twitter: @MarketingProfs and @AnnHandley.

Rate this  

Overall rating

  • Not rated yet.

Add a Comment


  • by Michael Gerard Thu Oct 17, 2013 via blog

    Great Wrap-Up Ann!! I love the pics. The speakers were "top of the class", and provided some great value. Thanks for a great event.

  • by Ruth P. Stevens Fri Oct 18, 2013 via blog

    Thanks for the review, Ann, which let me pick up the stuff I missed at the event. I was honored to be part of the program, and especially loved the winning combination of an energetic and cool vibe. Till next year!

  • by Jill Foster Fri Oct 18, 2013 via blog

    Thanks Ann for this chance to reflect on the #mpb2b experience all over again! I was uplifted by the intelligent insight and fun. It was better than a B12 shot to the arm.

  • by Doug Kessler Fri Oct 18, 2013 via blog

    Great round-up of a great event (and glad I helped find a narrative thread).

    Conferences are NOT supposed to be so much fun.

  • by Chris Moody Fri Oct 18, 2013 via blog

    I really liked this recap, Ann! Still stuck on using six words. Hope to see you next year!

  • by Zorian Fri Oct 18, 2013 via blog

    Ann, awesome recap and fantastic event!

    InsightSquared was excited to be a sponsor and look forward to next year.


  • by Tony Faustino Sun Oct 20, 2013 via blog

    Ann! Congratulations on executing a phenomenal and successful event! I mean Big WoW!!!

    Okay, I'll have to find a way to set aside some vacation time and personal budget to attend your 2015 event and the 2015 HubSpot Inbound Marketing Conference. It's time for me to step up and meet you, David, and Mitch personally. My mind is made up.

    I love the creativity and heart/soul behind all of this. Plus, the Academy Awards theme is sooooo cool. Be honest, how many times did you have to tell David while giving him his Lifetime Achievement Award, "You know @dmscott. I just wish the paparazzi would back up off me ..."

    Congratulations to you and the entire team on a remarkable and memorable event.

  • by Tony Faustino Mon Oct 21, 2013 via blog

    Oops! Meant to refer to 2014 (not 2015). Thank you. I'll be here the entire week ...

  • by Kate Liew Sun Nov 10, 2013 via blog

    Being in Singapore, there is no way I could attend the event or next event in Boston but your insightful recap sure makes me want to register for the B2B on-demand.

MarketingProfs uses single
sign-on with Facebook, Twitter, Google and others to make subscribing and signing in easier for you. That's it, and nothing more! Rest assured that MarketingProfs: Your data is secure with MarketingProfs SocialSafe!