David Vogelpohl is the Vice President of Web Strategy at WP Engine, a WordPress digital experience platform. WP Engine is a global leader in open source focused technology. Since 1996, David has been building teams which create and market digital experiences for the web, mobile, and beyond. David’s teams at WP Engine focus on WordPress development, WordPress core contributions, and performance marketing. David’s speaking style is focused on actionable-insights inspired by the most recent advancements in digital marketing, seasoned with over 20 years of know-how, and backed by relatable and relevant real-world examples.
Travel Products & Places mentioned:
- VPN (even works in China)
- USB power strip
- backup batteries for USB devices
- Affiliate Summit
Business Travel Hacks Episode 13 show transcript:
[00:00:00] Actually if you listen to the scene that shows Silicon Valley they actually did an episode on this where you know I’ll tell you my own personal story about this but I was at a major marketing conference I won’t mention it by name. This has nothing to do with them it just happened at this conference but we’re sitting there with a speaker a gentleman named Ben. He’s joined from the U.K. and he says that of one of the Def Con kind of guys and he pulls out his computer and he’s like oh my god there are six pineapples here at the conference and despite my my poor British accent there was a pineapple is basically a router a backpack router it’s connected to a battery and everything and the people will walk around with it in their backpack and what it does is it mimics the conference Wi-Fi and what happens is your computer thinks it’s the conference Wi-Fi it will say marketing conference Wi-Fi or something like that. Your computer will automatically connect to it. They will then proxy your your Internet traffic back out to the Internet. So in other words you don’t have any idea what’s going on all your and that’s working just like it expected to. But in the meantime there can a man in the middling new meaning that they’re kind of pilfering your unencrypted information as it goes through their pineapple or there and clone of the Wi-Fi network. And this is actually super crazy stuff and at this one conference again there were six of them present.
[00:01:24] So it’s a really prevalent problem not just of marketing conferences but in general even in coffee shops and so on and so forth. And so the way that I recommend that the way that I go about going around this is I really have to use the conference Wi-Fi which of course we all know generally slow anyways but I use a VPN virtual private network and there’s a bunch of providers out there that will provide it to you. But I’ll use a VPN which essentially fully encrypted the traffic between your computer and their server. So this man in the middle attack is less of effective. The other thing that I actually prefer to do is to hardwire my laptop into my phone or personal hotspot and then connect through my cell providers signal essentially back to get my internet connection so I’m not you know leveraging the Wi-Fi at the conference for that purpose. Pineapples are a big deal if you’re going to be using the company’s Wi-Fi definitely again. But my preference is hard wired to your phone or is it something like a personal hotspot you buy from your phone provider.
[00:02:56] I’m David Vogelpohl I am the V.P. of Web strategy at WPEngine and I travel a lot mainly to speak at conferences but also to meet new partners that we deal with in the wordpress ecosystem.
[00:03:07] I’ve known you for quite a while I know that you are a a conference junkie you know not only have you been attending them for years but you’ve also exhibited at them.
[00:03:18] You’ve spoken at them and I gotta say you know just being around you for some of them it’s definitely got to be one of your travel superpowers. Would you agree that that is your travel superpower today?
[00:03:34] I think so. I’ve been going to conferences running teams that have been responsible for exhibiting and getting the most out of them for many years. And so yeah I think it was one of the areas I excel at in terms of travel hacks is how to get the most out of it.
[00:03:49] So can you share with us listeners some of your best tips to get the most out of the conference?
[00:03:55] Sure absolutely. I think for me you know really there is a lot of investment that people make to be at a conference and so then how do you get the most out of that if you are exhibiting. So for me that’s kind of the governing principle as I think about all the different strategies that evolved over the years to get the most out of our conference. And I think one of my more interesting ones you know I was working a booth as a young person you know trying to get leads that was a boring time. And a lot of people are discussing how to get people to stop at the booth. And actually had picked up a test on landing page optimization from a friend of ours Roger Dooley‘s and in the landing page optimization test he said pick an image where the person is looking at the call to action that kind of neuromarketing principle of you know people work where other people are looking.
[00:04:43] And so I said well what happens if I stood in the aisle of the conference here and just stared at the device like it was this interesting thing on earth. And sure enough people would stop and also look at the booth and that was an opportunity for me to say hi to learn about the business and I might be able to help them. But it was basically pulling in this notion from landing page optimization to say how can I get people to look at my book and pay attention to it so I literally just sit there and stare at the booth during slow times like it’s most interesting thing on earth and people will actually stop and stare there at the booth with me.
[00:05:17] I think another interesting thing that I like to do or like to think about is you know in those conferences when you have a day in the conference hall there’s the carpet in front of it. Most of the time is actually red. And so just like in football I call that the Red zone. Meaning the area of the walkway in front of your peers. When I think about booth management I think about the spending that red zone how can I make sure that I’m getting those values out of the area in front of my booth. And so one thing you can do is you can monitor the red zone flow and I do something what I call funnel standing. I remember at one conference there was a coffee station in front of our booth. So for most of the conference I stood on the other side of the coffee station creating sort of a physical barrier isn’t really getting people’s way I was just standing there.
[00:06:04] Subconsciously they would go to the other side of the coffee station right in front of our booth and so monitor for that flow in front of your booth is a big tip I’ve been able to use over the years. I also think about when I talk to leads and where am I. Where am I talking to. And I establish what I call the talking posts generally they’re the little divider posts on either side of your booth so I’m talking to a lead or kind of guide them over to the what I call the talking post those at the edge of the booth. So that way I can keep the area in front of my booth clear. And then another thing will pop up as people long lost friends will run into each other right in front of you booth. And they’ll start a conversation and they’re kind of blocking access to your booth from some other people but I used another technique called casual boxing which is basically where I pull up my Phone. I turn around to a back to the people that are having a conversation and every 30 to 60 seconds or so I take a tiny step back and I don’t bump into them or make an uncomfortable but just the more you close that casually over time they’ll naturally kind of shuffle away from your booth. So it’s kind of a neat way to get people to move without being rude or without making that fairly obvious what you’re doing. But the main thing that drives all this for me is the not just the cost of being there like you could take all your travel costs rookie’s cost divided by the amount of time say each minute in the booth cost me this much.
[00:07:27] But I don’t do that I calculate my revenue per minute. In other words of my day is block if that red zone is filled with people people can’t get to my base how much revenue per minute I’m losing. And when you start to think about it in that place there’s only a limited amount of time that these conferences as you start to realise how important every minute is to making sure a show is a success for you.
[00:07:48] Bryan have you had any of those experiences being conferences or being at a booth? Oh absolutely. I mean I see it all the time. Being blocked by people and you can’t kind of get in and try to get a sense of who they are and you just walk on by the same thing you know you see people having conversations and they’re blocked in the book and you can’t get anyone’s attention because they’re facing away to them and they’re not monitoring what you call that red zone. So I think those are the critical pieces to making sure you know your booth life is great.
[00:08:16] What about just making the best out of the conference and networking and just staying connected while you’re at a conference?
[00:08:23] You know networking is interesting I think you know when you’re in the booth your job is to get leads right we talked about this notion of revenue per minute. But I think when you’re networking when you’re at an event, a happy hour. Now a lot of times the instinct is to also go on this kind of card hunting mode. But I actually don’t do that. I get a card. Great but really what I’m there and networking event for is to forge a relationship.
[00:08:48] I want to become friends with someone and I want to learn more about their business and really doing that through the lens of you know establishing relationships that will eventually bring value back to me. Matter of fact I went to a networking event here in Austin for over a year without getting a lead. When I ran an agency in the past and then on the 13th month I got six leads that came to me. I didn’t go and seek them out. People had gotten to know me realize that some of their friends or they themselves felt and then they all brought the lead back to me. So that’s the long game right focusing on those relationships focusing on things that will drive value for you. So you’re not just trying to be as many people and get as many cards as possible.
[00:09:29] There’s another technique I use and this one is really helpful for introverts. You do want to of course meet a lot of people. Sometimes it’s hard to go meet strangers. So one of the things I’ll recommend is to have not 10000 relationships but a thousand or a hundred or whatever powerful relationships. In other words people that have highly connected networks themselves and you can think of this like bait and track networking where you’re hanging out with highly networked individuals. And then as people come to them and talk to them and you’re also able to leverage that so like you know being introverted person and not trying to go out and talk to a bunch of people all in one go try to establish powerful relationships with connected individuals. It’s a little easier to meet people that way.
[00:10:12] But again remember the networking event for me anyways is not about getting business cards. It’s about establishing relationships. A lot of the times those relationships you establish are more valuable than a bunch of cards to collect one evening of hustling an event.
[00:10:25] Do you have the favorite travel gadgets for must have apps when you travel?
[00:10:33] I think my favorite travel gadget has to be my USB power strip super simple and should that happen at home. But it’s you plug it right into the wall. It’s got 6 I think they are two points four amps ports on them. So they had a supercharger devices back just to have one thing I can plug in and get all my devices into without carrying three or four different charger cords. That’s a huge deal for me.
[00:10:59] I think additionally the backup batteries you get for your USB devices are super critical and it’s so funny that things are so common that so few people travel it’s evidence that there are super super valuable and I can’t count how many times I wound up those back up battery things. Matter of fact that my wife at a conference said I don’t pay for one of those things. And that was one of the reasons I got to talk to her the next day. But you never get the help. I think with one of the USB backup batteries but also of course for yourself. Just to have that freedom in case your powers is dwindling down so bring one of those with us. OK I want to let you mine at the next conference.
[00:11:38] What or who has impressed you during a travel experience?
[00:11:41] I think there’s so many different things people do that are clever in terms of travel. But I think kind of getting back to the conference thing. I think one of the things that really impressed me was Affiliate Summit, Shawn Collins and Missy Ward and really their attention to detail especially when it comes to things like food. And when you get to a conference you expect the food to be kind of bad maybe. But that was one of the things that stood out for me when I traveled I went to a conference that had really had good food. Kind of like Affiliate Summit does. It just I don’t know. It’s a small thing but it really is such a compelling part of that experience for me. And be able to sit down and have a good meal. I’m at the conference not access necessarily wait for the night out to have a good meal. I don’t know if it’s me that was really impressive.
[00:12:53] I think the best lesson I learned in the business travel is really just as I as I meet people as I get to know them start to understand what our connections are. I talked earlier about how relationships are big part of my networking strategy in a big part of that for me as I need to get to know them as I travel is highly connected. So one of the things I like to do is I want to play Six Degrees of Separation.
[00:13:16] How do I know this is where are you from where have you worked. I do this first before I talk at all about business because I want to try to establish that connection with them. I have a bunch of interesting stories around weird coincidences but I think one of the ones that stands out most for me was I was playing six degrees of separation with a guy named Shawn Hesketh of W.P. 101 and come to find out Shawn’s wife and I went to high school together and later that night he tells her the story and she pulls out my yearbook photo from the ninth grade. And so that was that was the connection that Sean and I hadn’t had a silly and coincidental. But there was a connection that helped to forge a friendship. And I really appreciate Shawn’s relationship and his business and what it does for WordPress and also the business relationship we have. There was that one moment connecting on a personal level that really moved our relationship to a level beyond business. So I think for me that I think about travel I think how to engage in the future. That’s the that’s the number one trick tips which is how do I connect with people. What things do I already have in common with them. How can you use as commonalities to gain a new friend and then maybe even gain a friend that helps me in my business life.