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JobBoardGeek: Which conferences should you attend – and why

JobBoardGeek PodcastIn this episode, Jeff Dickey-Chasins of JobBoardDoctor and Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter talk about which conferences a job board owner or employee should attend – and why. They explain the differences between a HR-focused conference and a job board-specific conference, and why both can be valuable. Some of the conferences discussed include: JobBoardsConnect, TAtech, RecBuzz, HRTech, SHRM, and RecFest. The two job board geeks agree – if there was ever a job board conference out there, they probably went to it – many times!

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Transcript:

[music]

 

0:00:34.7 JD: Hello everyone, and welcome to JobBoardGeek, it’s the podcast about the business of connecting candidates and employers. I’m Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the Job Board Doctor. I am your host. And with me today, I have the sunny Steven Rothberg of College Recruiter. He is the co-host. Hey Steven. How’re you doing?

 

0:00:52.9 Steven Rothberg: I’m doing really well, Jeff. Thanks.

 

0:00:54.8 JD: Good, yeah, you’re sunny, like Shirley Temple, a reference that the vast majority of our listeners will not recognize at all, but that’s okay, I like to throw out unrecognizable references, so… Today we’re gonna do something kind of different, we don’t actually have a person that we will be interviewing today, but instead, Steven and I are gonna be talking about conferences that people that run and operate and work at job boards might be interested in, and this is something that both he and I get asked quite a bit about. We both have been involved in a lot of conferences over the years as attendees, as speakers, and we definitely have our own opinions about these things, so I guess I’ll start out… And Steven, jump in when you’re ready.

 

0:01:44.7 JD: I sort of think about the kinds of conferences that someone that runs a job board would be interested in as sort of falling into two general buckets, so the first bucket is a bucket that’s aimed at HR people, and there’s a lot of those conferences… There’s HR Tech, there’s SHRM, there’s RecFest, there’s Unleash, etcetera, etcetera. And to that category, I would add a conference that used to be considered a job board conference, but it’s not really in my opinion, any more TATech, so you’ve got those HR conferences that are focused primarily on all the stuff that HR people like, of which one thing is the job boards, and historically, you go to some of these conferences, particularly like HR Tech, and there would always be at least a half dozen of the larger job boards advertising and occasionally some of the smaller job boards as well, so you’ve got those conferences, there’s a lot of them, and some of them are very expensive. The other set of conferences are the ones that are job board focused and there used to be three, now there’s two in my opinion.

 

0:02:51.7 JD: So the one that disappeared is the Job8 Conference, which was ran one in North America and one in Europe and was pretty… They called it the job board Summit. There’s a new conference that’s just started up, led by one of the alums from Job8, Louise grant, and then someone that’s very well known, particularly in the UK, Louise Triance in HR and job board circles. So it’s called Job Board Connect, that’s gonna be happening in the Fall, and then another one that’s been around for quite a while, run by the AIM group called RecBuzz, and both you and I have been involved in that conference, and they tend to run their conferences in Europe, so they attract a lot of the European boards. So that’s the way I look at them. Steven, would you add any additional buckets there or…

 

0:03:40.0 SR: Yeah, no I think that’s a great way of looking at it. I don’t think you quite said it, but I think we’re probably on the same page that a job board owner, manager, leader, whatever will often come to you, to me, to other people and say, “Should I go to… ” fill in the blank. And I think it to me sort of also at a bit of a high level, to me, it always boils down to… It depends, it depends what your budget is, if any, and it depends upon what your goal is, there are definitely a bunch of job boards out there that do very, very well by going to conferences like SHRM talent management, where they are there, they buy a booth, maybe they’re speaking, they’re there to generate new business from employers or the representatives of the employers, ad agencies, RPOs, etcetera. And then the other ones, like the Jobg8 conference that you were talking about that no longer exists, the Job Boards Connect… The Recbuzz, which used to be called RecPlus, those conferences are more about job board to job board, recruitment marketplace site classified ads, call it what you will, but those ones are, “Hey, if you want to meet with an aggregator to see about sending them your jobs or them sending you your jobs or learn what new parsing technology might be available,” or, “Hey, we’ve been using MAGIX to power our site, and we’re thinking about either renewing with them or switching to another provider, or building it on our own and what are our options?”

 

0:05:14.9 SR: That’s a really different kind of conference. You and I have also been involved in organizing some of these conferences… And so the marketing of them varies too, when you were doing a lot of work with the folks, I think it was at Jobg8, and also I think at AIM too… I think you helped a lot with the conference they had a few years ago in Barcelona, who should the speakers be… Well, that’s gonna be driven by who the attendees are, and the attendees are gonna be driven by what the conference is looking for, but the AIM group conference that we were at in Barcelona, I don’t know if there were any employers there, right.

 

0:05:48.9 JD: It was probably 85%, 90% job boards, plus a smattering of sourcing tools and that sort of thing.

 

0:05:56.4 SR: Yeah, and so like you said, that’s really, really different than going to say HR Tech, where it’s gonna be overwhelmingly employers or even like you said also, and I thought that was really astute was that the TATech conferences early on, what… They’ve been around for a decade or something, that early on it was almost all job boards. And What that organization has really evolved those conferences into, in my mind is, it’s sort of a competitor to HR Tech, you definitely have job boards there, you definitely have loads of aggregators there, but they also want employers to come, so there’s a significant number of employers in the room…

 

0:06:32.8 JD: Your point there gets to the next thing that I wanted to touch on, because I think when you’re thinking about going to any of these conferences, apart from the financial and time issues, it’s really sort of like… Like you said, What’s your goal? And when I think about going to a conference, and when I’ve talked to my clients about this, there’s some general things that they come back to, so the first one is, well, okay, I wanna learn about X, Y, Z. I wanna learn about programmatic, I wanna learn about how to leverage my conversion rates on my side, I wanna learn about how to source new candidates, so a lot of that… I wanna know what the trends are. So the second thing is, I just wanna get out of my silo, I want to network with people, I wanna talk to people and not feel like I’m the only person in the entire world that runs a job board, because a lot of people feel that way. Even some of the mid-sized boards that have 20, 30, 40 employees, they’re still probably the only job board in town, so it’s not like we get together and go to the local Pizza Hut for an all you can eat lunch and…

 

0:07:38.6 SR: That sounds tasty.

 

0:07:40.5 JD: Right, yeah. Unfortunately, they tore the Pizza Hut down in my town. But I can still dream about it. So, then the final piece, which again, you touched on, which is to learn about vendors, so let’s say I am… I’ve been running a job board for a while, I’m really starting to feel restricted technically with what I can do on the current platform, I wanna look at some other job board software platforms, or maybe I wanna start offering a programmatic option, so I wanna talk to the vendors that do that, or maybe… There’s a lot of different things that can get rolled into what a job board offers to its employers, and sometimes a face-to-face is a really good way to do it, and then the final thing is simply to do deals. Well, I’m Steven Rothberg, and I’m going to this conference. Because I wanna…

 

0:08:29.4 SR: Oh, don’t go there. That’s not something you wanna do.

 

0:08:33.9 JD: I wanna line up some international customers for my capabilities, and you see… And you can see the other people at the conference sort of seeing Steven come around the corner and run away, but some people like that. But yeah, I think it’s useful. I’ve had this conversation with clients, I don’t know how many times, and it goes was like, “oh, you know, should I go to blah, blah, blah conference?” I’m like, “Well, so what’s the goal?” And they’ll say, X, Y, Z, and I’m like, No, don’t go to this conference, that’s not gonna help you at all or… Yeah, that’s gonna be dead on.

 

0:09:07.6 SR: I think you were starting to touch on it, and I guess another totally legitimate reason for going to conferences is just to drunk, get drunk and have a party. I hear that all the time. And when you were starting to talk about they might be the only job board in town or whatever, and there is something to be said for recharging your batteries, you know, I don’t need to learn or I don’t want to learn, but people go to Vegas generally to the conferences in Vegas, generally, not because they want to learn how to create a programmatic product, but because they want to get a tax deductible trip where they’re gonna go and get wasted and stay out till 4:00 in the morning and then need three weeks to recover from it when they come home. Not my idea of fun, but I know that I’m in a minority there where, Hey, when the sun goes down, I’m looking for my pillow, especially in Vegas, I get overwhelmed. It’s just like, it’s too much, but.

 

0:10:07.5 JD: Sensory overload, for sure.

 

0:10:07.9 SR: Yeah, I heard from a whole bunch of people who went to RecFest a few weeks back in mid-July in… Just outside of London, I heard very, very little about, I’m gonna take back to the office these three things and we’re gonna implement them, and I think that’s gonna increase our profitability by 25% to 50% over the next couple of years. I’m sure there was some of that, I have no doubt about it. But what I heard far more than that was, “oy, did I have a blast with people that I mostly just interact with for business, and they’re great people, and we built a great relationship or enhanced a great relationship. And I’m coming back to the office and I am raring to go.” There’s something to be said for that. And I’ve been to conferences where content is great for some people, useless for others, everybody has a great time, and everybody comes back to the office and for the next month or two, they’re just tearing it up, they’re just roaring ’cause their batteries have been recharged. I’ve also been to conferences where the content is fantastic and it doesn’t recharge your batteries, but boy, do you come back and you know exactly what to do, and an example of that would be that…

 

0:11:36.4 SR: RecPlus at the time, RecBuzz now Conference in Amsterdam, which my wife, your wife, you and I got to spend a bunch of time there. Barcelona is one of the greatest cities in the world. The actual conference was all about business, all about learning. Yeah, there was a nice dinner and there were some nice cocktails, but it wasn’t a party. I still am looking back at that conference since like we learned this, we learned that, we learned this, and it has helped our business tremendously, so different than like a RecFest where you literally had a ferris wheel at that conference, when you have a ferris wheel in the middle of an open field and everybody’s speaking at stages, and it’s basically an open bar for an entire day, you know that’s much more about a party, and if that’s what you want… Awesome, so Jeff, if I was a job board owner, let’s say a new small job board… And I was to come to you and say, I’m kind of new in the business, I wanna learn more. Or maybe I just hired a new COO or something, and she doesn’t really know much about the job board business. Which one should I go to?

 

0:12:49.4 JD: Yeah, I guess there’s probably two conferences that I would push you towards, one would be… TATech runs a gazillion conferences, I can’t even keep track of them all, but one of them that they have, that they ran, I think some time in May or April, they call it the Job Board Summit and basically… Whatever.

 

0:13:10.8 JD: And it changes from year to year, but the one that they put out, that they say explicitly is the job board conference is probably a pretty good one for you to try, if for no other reason than for the networking. And then the other one would be the one that’s starting up, although it’s never happened before, I know the two Louise’s that are running Job Board Connect, and I’m sure it’s gonna be a great conference because they’re both extremely versed in this, and it will probably be a very high contact, high networking type of conference would be my guess, both of those conferences are gonna expose you to a lot of different types of operators, a lot of different types of people working at different levels, from a one-person job board all the way up to a job board that’s generating $100 million a year and everything in between, and so I think when I talk to my clients about this sort of stuff, I say, You know, you really need to keep your mind open because you think…

 

0:14:06.0 JD: You know where you are right now, let’s say you’re chugging along generating $2 million or $3 million a year, but you may go to one of these conferences, walk back and say, actually, I have a ten million dollar a year business, I just haven’t… I didn’t understand how to get from point A to point B until I went there and started seeing these examples of other people doing stuff, and like you said, the other thing is that you’re gonna run into people and some of these people are gonna be people that you like and you stay in touch with, and they’re just gonna be good people to bounce ideas off of in the future, so those would be the two that I would send you to.

 

0:14:38.5 SR: Yeah, I totally agree. I think over the years, we’ve probably… Either me personally, or my wife Faith, who’s our CEO or other people on our leadership team, we’ve probably been to at least 15 TATech events, maybe 20, I think every single time we’ve gone, we’ve been happy that we’ve gone and that the return on investment is good. Like you say that the different events have different topics, different angles, so some of them are kind of general, and we’re gonna see a wide variety of people, including some employers. Years ago, probably five, six years ago. They had a couple of conferences here in Minneapolis on programmatic where we learned a ton and we had some real epiphanies from some of their speakers, I think those conferences more recently have been in Boston. So that makes it a little bit more expensive for us to go, and also we know a lot more now than we did five, six years ago, and so the returns on those sorts of conferences are diminished, not negligible, not negative. It’s still beneficial for us to go to those conferences, but it’s not as much of a slam dunk once you really know a lot about it. Now those programmatic conferences for us are more about the networking and less about the content, where early on, it was mostly about the content less about the networking. As our needs changed, the conferences have continued to be good, our needs and what we want of them have changed, the Job Boards Connect…

 

0:16:04.0 SR: We’re a sponsor, three of us are going. No way would we be doing that if it wasn’t for who’s running it. So like you were talking about the Louise’s as we call them, we know them really well, especially Louise Grant from her days at Jobg8, she’s also on our Board of Advisors, I will be absolutely shocked if that conference isn’t awesome, I think the only thing that’s gonna stand in its way is if a meteor hits the UK, but otherwise… But for people in North America, especially if you were the smaller job board or if you’re in Australia or something like that, that’s a pretty significant investment to jump on an airplane, go over there, you’ve got the hotel, you’ve got the airline tickets, you got realistically a week out of the office, it better be really good for you to do that. If you’re in Paris or you’re in Glasgow or you’re in London, that to me is an absolute slam dunk, I don’t know how you can’t go to a conference like that.

 

0:16:58.8 SR: The RecBuzz conference, we’re going to that also I’m gonna be speaking, and one of the things that I’m really looking forward to with that conference is that they bring in a whole lot of organizations that aren’t just strictly job boards, classified ad sites and part of what they offer is a job board, but a lot of them also might have real estate and cars or something along those lines, or they also bring in a lot more people who are investors or potential acquirers, and that’s something else that the listeners should think of too, if they have a job board and they’re looking for investment money or they’re looking to sell, conferences are a great place to do that.

 

0:17:41.1 SR: You get a lot of VCs, private equity people, or even just other job boards who are looking to do acquisitions. You’re sitting there and you’re having a beer with an investment banker, and they happen to be looking for a site that’s somewhat like yours, and you get into a conversation, there’s a pretty decent chance that’s gonna bear fruit, that’s kind of hard to do if you’re just stuck in your spare bedroom day after day after day in a town where there are no other job boards, it’s hard to make those connections.

 

0:18:10.7 JD: And Actually… And it’s funny, you just reminded me there is one other… It’s not really… It calls itself a conference, but it’s something that Chris Russell runs, I think once a year, and I wanna say he calls it the job boardathon or something like that, but it’s basically about three hours, four hours worth of live online presentations, taking questions from the audience, and that sort of stuff on a bunch of different topics and it’s pretty interesting. It’s pretty good. In fact, we picked up one of our people that was on the podcast a few weeks back, he presented first at Chris’s online conference. Peter Askew [0:18:53.7] ____, and so Chris is very good at sort of showcasing these people and talking about the different topics, and so I would say that even if, let’s say this year, it doesn’t really work out for you to go to one of these specific conferences, taking a look at Chris’s conference next year and possibly attending is not a bad idea, and the cost is much, much lower.

 

0:19:16.1 SR: That’s a great call out that it’s not just about the in-person events, it’s also about the online events, and I totally agree with you about including Chris’s events in the list and how you described it. What struck me about his event that and what was it two months ago, three months ago? Something along those lines that it was very different than a lot of the in-person conferences, I guess the word I would use is actionable, you walk away from those three hours and it’s like, okay, there were 40 things thrown out, 35 of them really don’t have much to do with me, I’m either already doing them, or it’s just not suitable for our site, but holy cow, these five ideas, I can immediately dive into them and they’re immediately gonna make a difference, it’s just very, very practical. So especially for the smaller job boards, the ones maybe $10 million and below in revenue, just somewhat of an arbitrary number. Those conferences are awesome. I can’t imagine that somebody from Indeed or LinkedIn are gonna tune into a typical online conference like that and come away with actionable stuff, that’s just not the target audience, another group that maybe we can talk about for a minute would be…

 

0:20:38.8 SR: Where the idea is hosting your own. We’ve done that 10, 11, 12 times with in-person events, we’ve done a bunch that are online, the in-person events, we usually have 100-200 attendees. You basically get a room full of your customers, of 100-200 customers in a room with you all day long. There’s nothing wrong with that. That leads to a lot of business. One of the reasons that we did that is it’s like if we go to SHRM, SHRM talent management, HR Tech, whatever, it would be a stretch for us to be able to spend any time at all with 100 potential customers, even 10 seconds. And it’s gonna cost us probably 5-10 grand between the attendance fees, airline tickets, hotels, meals, all of that, for the same money, we can host our own conference, and then we can have 100, 150, 200 of those people there for the day. It takes a lot more time, of course, it takes a lot of time to plan an event, get people out, do the ticketing and do all those arrangements, but one way that we minimize that and made it a lot more affordable is that we had one of our customers, with each event, a customer of ours would host the event, so the venue was free, they usually paid for the food, we didn’t have all the rip-off fees from the hotels. Oh, you want a cup of coffee for each person, that’ll be $12 times 200 people.

 

0:22:06.4 SR: It really gets very, very pricey, very, very quickly to have an event in a hotel, also having an event in one of our customer’s offices was really great because we were able to piggy-back off of their brand, and it’s like, “Hey, we’re associated with them, you know them, you like them,” that then spills over that good karma on to us. So that would be another thing, if you’ve got a site and you’re in a particular metro area or you target a particular industry or something like that, that would be something else I would look at is the idea of hosting your own event, and there are people out there who do that, that’s their livelihood, or maybe you can do that internally.

 

0:22:42.6 JD: I think that’s a good idea. And if you’re a job board of any size, certainly going to TATech or Job Board Connect or Recbuzz, you’re gonna get a high hit ratio, you may be like a lot of my clients where you only go once every two or three years, instead of every single year but like I said originally, it’s good to get out of your silo and push around, meet new people, shake off the COVID blues and focus on all the other Job Board Geeks that are out there like us, that are making a living doing this sort of stuff, so…

 

0:23:17.5 SR: Two more quick hits. So one thing is, if you’re price-sensitive, have a look at the event that you’re thinking of going to, who the speakers are, reach out to the speakers, almost always. They have discount codes. So for example, for the Recbuzz Conference in Amsterdam, we’re speaking, I have a speaker code, Job Boards Connect, one of us is speaking, we have a speaker code, and so you can usually save 10%, 15%, 20% for the cost of sending an email to a speaker, it’s good for the speaker, because then they all… The organizer says, “Oh, this speaker just brought in a paid attendee,” and so the Speakers love that. The organizers love that. That’s all great. The other thing is for the owners who have employees, even if the owner doesn’t wanna go, think about sending your employee, even if you don’t think that the conference is gonna be all that great for business to send an employee to a conference is a really big perk for most people, it’s like, “Oh wow, paid trip, I get to stay in a swanky hotel and go to this conference and have a free few bourbons with some pretty fun people.”

 

0:24:18.4 SR: It’s a really nice reward, and it might cost your company $3000, $4000 to do that. For most of these events, if you’ve got somebody who’s just been doing an awesome job for you for the last six months, a year or three years, whatever… What a great reward.

 

0:24:35.0 JD: Well, and particularly if you happen to send your business development person or your sales person, they might be coming back with some business in hand just because that’s what they do, so… It’s not a bad idea. Well, listen, Steven it’s been fun talking about this.

 

0:24:49.1 SR: Awesome.

 

0:24:50.6 JD: And of course, Steven and I are notorious when we’re at the same conferences for doing all the things that he was talking about, so luckily, I’m taking a COVID break right now, but I hope to be at RecBuzz and Job Board Connect and some of these other conferences in 2023. And if so, I’ll see you and say hi, and Steven will too. So Steven, if people wanna get in touch with you so that they can get that elusive code… How do they do that?

 

0:25:19.1 SR: Well, they can send an envelope stuffed with $100 bills to… No, maybe not. Steven@collegerecruiter.com. This has been fun. Jeff.

 

0:25:29.3 JD: Yeah it has been fun. So that’s it for this episode of JobBoardGeek. I wanna remind you to subscribe via Apple, Spotify or whatever you think you might happen to like as a subscription option. My name is Jeff Dickey-Chasins, the job board doctor, and you’ve been listening to the only podcast that focuses on the business of connecting candidates and employers. That’s all for now. We’ll see you again next time.

 

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