Content Marketing World 2016: A Clevelander’s First Experience

Image Credit: Content Marketing World

Content Marketing World 2016 was an experience to remember for this local Clevelander. From the very first moment, a strong sense of excitement arose while walking through the front door of the Huntington Convention Center. The entire convention center was adorn with orange and Star Wars themed graphics. (Joe’s favorite color is orange for those that have never followed Content Marketing Institute or Mr. Pulizzi.) Visitors were getting dropped off by an Uber drivers, checking into hotels, and getting ready for the first learning experience of the conference. Anticipation sparked on everyone’s face as they were excited for the days and nights ahead.

Day 1: The Wait is Finally Over!

The first day of CMWorld was all about the workshops and the evening kickoff party. The workshop I selected by Andrew Davis, titled Content Marketing: ROI Simplified, provided new methods for tracking the return on a content investment. Mr. Davis, both an author and brand marketer, is a personal favorite as he brings energy, insight, and entertainment in his presentations. After spending four hours learning how to measure the ROI of content, the event transitioned to the kickoff party at FWD Day+Night Club in the newly renovated East Bank of the Flats.

Never having attended this particular venue before, there was no better way to enjoy the first experience than with a bunch of newbies from around the world. People were dancing, drinking and mingling throughout the night at the elaborately laid out nightclub on the Cuyahoga River. Personally, it was great to meet new colleagues and friends from around the country and the globe. For the Clevelanders, it can’t be stressed enough how impressed the visitors were with the first night in town. For many previous conference attendees, they felt as if they had witnessed a Renaissance of Cleveland from year one until now. The evening concluded with many of the guests headed back to their respective hotels, while my drive home was full of anticipation for day two when the main conference officially began.

Day 2: Main Conference Commences

Upon arrival on the second day, the energy in the building was surreal. For some the attendees, this was their first day at the conference. All the vendor booths were set up in the main hall, breakfast was available, and networking was commencing. While walking around, I was a sponge soaking up knowledge from the vendors and attendees. The morning kicked off with an inspiring keynote by Joe Pulizzi, founder of Content Marketing Institute and CMWorld. Sitting front and center to start the meeting felt like I was aboard the Starship Enterprise. The stage was built out to provide the feel that we were getting ready for an adventure into deep space.

Following the keynote, everyone broke out into their sessions for the day. Keep in mind that the conference had over 150 learning sessions, making it impossible for one person to attend them all. (Quick suggestion, purchase the videos for post-conference to watch all the action with your team.) As a first-time attendee, there were a lot of favorite influencers, such as Rand Fishkin, Paul Roetzer, and Robert Rose, who were on the personal must see list. They did not disappoint by any means. After the breakout sessions, it was back to the end of the day keynotes, headlined by Ann Handley and Mitch Joel, who both wowed the crowd.

Shortly following a break in the action, it was time for the CMWorld Party at the Cleveland Music Hall with a private performance by Cheap Trick. Meeting up with a few attendees I had met the night before, we enjoyed the concert talking and sharing experiences. The crowd was pumped for this performance, and rightfully so. For most conferences, this is not typical, but Content Marketing World is not most conferences. After the concert was over, the CMWorld Afterparty kicked off at the Hilton Hotel. The entire fifth-floor bar was closed down for attendees. Upon arriving at the entrance, there was no shortage of orange to go around with glow sticks, lights, drinks, and more. In true Joe Pulizzi style of course. As the evening came to a close, I bid farewell to my newly met friends and returned to my humble abode fifteen minutes down the freeway.

Day 3: Starts Slow, and Closes with Excitement!

Day three came around, and one could tell people were moving a little slow after the night before. The continental breakfast brought everyone back to life, and the day began. A keynote panel discussion moderated by Robert Rose helped the audience understand how to make “change management” real. Following up Mr. Rose and the panel was the comedian, Michael Jr. Many might be wondering how a comic plays a role in content marketing, but just like comedy, content is all about the setup and the punchline. Anyone suffering from the night before had their blood pumping from all the laughter included in this keynote presentation. Similar to day two, the third day had breakout learning sessions where I found myself staying solely in the Future Keynotes presentations. It was a goal to see all my favorite influencers, and on this day it was filled with Marcus Sheridan, Jay Baer, Jay Acuzno, and Scott Stratten. Although it was a long day, there was no shortage of inspirational ideas and actionable advice.

At the conclusion of the breakout sessions it was time for the big moment we had all been waiting for, Mark Hamill’s (aka Luke Skywalker) keynote presentation to conclude the main conference. Similar to the main conference kick-off, you could find me at the front of the line trying to get up close and personal seat for this once in a lifetime opportunity. In Mr. Hamill’s keynote, he highlighted how content played a considerable role in his entire acting career. Since his role in the original Star Wars Series, Hamill has done voice overs for cartoons, performed in plays, dabbled with writing, and even had a few roles in television shows and movies. Needless to say, the man got a standing ovation to close out the conference.

After the keynote presentation, this was an evening where everyone could disperse on their own and check out Cleveland for themselves. On this evening, I chose to call it an early night to get some rest for the last and final day of this engaging experience.

Day 4: All good things must come to an end!

On this morning there was a noticeable difference as many had left the night before or early that morning. The last remaining day of the conference focused on Industry Labs tailored towards specific fields. I selected the Professional Services Industry Lab, presented by Jonathan Kranz of Kranz Communications. This session was probably one of the most beneficial parts of the conference, where Mr. Kranz helped an entire room full of marketers develop a brainstormed content marketing plan. The process he provided was simple, yet effective. After six hours of fun and learning, the conference came to a close. At this point, the rush felt upon arrival was gone, and an anticipation for 2017 was already building.

The Final Word

First things first, the conference was worth every penny of the investment. The four days of networking and education was extremely beneficial and proved to create many new relationships. One of the most rewarding pieces of this conference was only something a native Clevelander could feel, and that was a complete pride in our hometown. Attendees from all over the world had nothing but great reviews about their experience at Content Marketing World 2016. Many do not realize that CMWorld is the largest recurring conference that comes to Cleveland each year, and it is steadily growing. For those in the area that have a passion for marketing, this is the event to attend. It doesn’t get much better for a marketer than having a world-class content marketing conference right in your backyard.

A big thank you goes out to Joe and his wonderful staff for organizing this fantastic event. Until next year CMWorld. See you in 2017!