Why we look to outside experts instead of conferences

by David Mannheim

posted on: March 7th 2017

Conferences are great. But...

As a business owner, sending some of your team to a conference is an expensive process. This is both with respect to the initial cost outlay, in addition to the transport, never mind the opportunity cost of a day (or two) out of the office. I didn't want to start with writing that conferences are expensive; I'm taught to think in value terms. So the cost outlay is higher than expected for the knowledge return. What is the return? Your team might come back, slightly enthused, share their learnings but they are mostly... facades. What did they actually learn? Are there any actions to take from this?

One more point to add to this; particularly true of the conversion optimisation conference circuit, the great speakers that are talking about their experiences and learnings (and the majority of them are great) tend to repeat their content. We might see Mrs. X talk 3 or 4 times within the year. It's like seeing a comedian do the same skit again; it's not funny anymore.

We've done them all. And whilst some are better than others, the entire process and notion of conferences lack actionability. It lacks the level of interaction required to genuinely learn.

These are some of the reasons why as part of our training program at User Conversion, we invite external experts to come into our home and spend the day with us. We call these UC sessions. We've only had a few of these sessions but can I say something? I've learned more and been enthused from a single day with the likes of Tim Stewart than any conference could have ever given me.

These people might be subject matter experts in their own right, as are we, however, we're not naive enough to think we're the best. What constitutes 'the best'? No, for us it's about improving and adding value to the work that we do for our clients in the most efficient way. Because of this, yes, the discussions are often advanced, but it's amazing what an outside perspective can do to any agency. Agency tunnel and mirage vision is something that we will not fall victim to, and to ensure that, we must continue to learn and evolve.

Whilst our sessions lacks the interactivity of networking like you would at a conference (although in my personal introverted case, glued to the canapes and coffee with my head looking at the floor), we split the day into 3 parts.

  1. Small talk and lecture by the subject matter expert
  2. Workshop to put into practice your learnings
  3. 121, AMA-style process haul. This is my favourite. As we work in T-Shaped specialisms, the outside expert can spend one on one time with the relevant people in the business.

The feedback from the team has been brilliant. As have the selfies.


A level of interaction and learning that cannot be replicated. We're really excited with who and what we have coming up - from big names in the industry to discuss strategy like Craig Sullivan, to small, albeit more specialist names like Karl Randay to discuss the impact of UX design. Even prospective clients - how do Ladbrokes or Office Depot organise their optimisation processes and structures, for example?

We're booked up for the next 8 months, sometimes with two UC sessions in one month. Please feel free to email us if you'd like to join us; these aren't just restricted to our team and we often invite clients and friends (although can only hold about 35 in our office area).

I have to add as well, that the only thing that comes close to replicating this is Conversion XL Institute's live courses - which, by the way, I thoroughly recommend.

Really recommend UC sessions. Feel free to email me if you'd like to attend, present or even replicate in your organisation.


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David Mannheim

David is an experienced conversion optimiser and has worked across a series of core optimisation disciplines including web analytics, user experience and AB & MVT testing.

Why we look to outside experts instead of conferen…

by David Mannheim Time to read: 3 min