7 Things We Wish We Knew Before Going to Inbound 2023
Ahhh, Inbound 2023…. such great memories and inspiring talks. From sports legends and movie stars to comedians and immersion in AI education, what more could a marketer want?
If you haven’t heard, Inbound is an annual conference from HubSpot that brings together marketing, creatives, business leaders, and sales professionals from over 160 different countries to learn and network face-to-face. (There was a virtual option during the pandemic, but sales and marketing folks love to chit-chat in person! So it was retired in 2023, with just a few keynotes available virtually.)
The idea of the Inbound conference was the brainchild of HubSpot Co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah and the first held back in 2011. Today, it continues to draw a large number of marketing and sales professionals with a jaw-dropping 11,000 in-person attendees this year and a total of 70,000 attendees globally.
A few members of our sales and marketing teams here at CallTrackingMetrics were fortunate enough to attend and be part of that crowd.
If you weren’t able to attend this year’s Inbound in Boston, our team wants to share what you missed, what we learned, and (most importantly) what we wish we’d known before getting on that plane to Boston! After all, while we all had a fabulous time, there were a few things we wished we’d known ahead of time and wanted to share with you so, in the hopes you get to go in the upcoming years, you’ll be prepared.
1. Lunch and Food
Yes, despite all the icons, like Derek Jeter, Reese Witherspoon, and Andrew Huberman, who appeared and shared their knowledge at Inbound, this list starts with food–because everyone needs to eat, right?
Boston offers an array of delectable food options, but when a small crowd of about 11,000 people descend on an area it can present a challenge–and it did. During prime times the wait was long everywhere we went. One line for to-go coffee at a local establishment at about 8 a.m. was about 25 people deep and didn’t move in over ten minutes!
While most of the local restaurants were usually crowded during breakfast and later dinners, if you hit these places early (and I mean early –like 7 a.m. for breakfast and 5 p.m. for dinner) there were little to no waits.
However, lunch was a whole different story.
The convention center where Inbound was held also has a Boston-famous outdoor courtyard called Lawn D, where food trucks come during the weekdays to provide lunch to the local businesses. The food is good and there are a ton of options, with everything from jerk chicken and falafel plates to handmade pupusas and BBQ. But…
Unless you go early, like 11 a.m. (when not all of the trucks are even open), the lines are insane. And when I say insane, I mean these lines wrapped around all over the place to the point where you couldn’t tell where a line ended or which line was for which food truck.
And did I mention it was in 90s degrees Fahrenheit – and humid?
One of our team members waited nearly an hour in the sweltering heat for a mediocre meal. Unfortunately, heading inside to the food area, which I did, wasn’t much better. These lines were long too. In addition, many places ran out of food and bottles of water, etc.
Needless to say, if we were to get to our next sessions there simply wasn’t time to deal with lunch challenges. Some of us skipped lunch that second day and came prepared with some snacks the next day.
Which is a great segue into the second thing we wish we knew about Inbound 2023.
2. You Can’t Be in Two Places at Once
We did know before we went that we couldn’t be in two places at once, but what we didn’t know is that Inbound planners expected us to be. What I mean is that the scheduling of sessions at Inbound was often confusing and full of overlapping time slots (and with that many great speakers, overlapping sessions were not ideal).
Attendees were able to download the Inbound app prior to attending the conference to register for certain limited seating sessions, and there were also sessions you could attend without registering. So what’s the issue?
Many of these sessions not only overlapped with each other (with one ending at the same time another session started), but in a few cases, if a registered attendee wasn’t in line 15-20 minutes before a session started they lost their seat to someone in the ‘standby’ line.
And yes, this happened to every one of CTM’s team attendees!
This is another thing we wish we knew. For every session that required pre-registration, there was also a separate ‘standby’ line. In most cases, they would only let people in from this line at the last minute, but there were a few times when we got to the session five minutes early and were told it was full.
While I know Inbound organizers were determined to offer a ton of great options (and they did!), the overlap and standby lines made it harder to get to the sessions, even if you were registered.
Future me knows now that you can get in standby lines if you didn’t get into a certain session you wanted or if you don’t register for any of the sessions in time as certain ones fill up fast.
3. People Walk Out–a lot! #awkward
This was one thing that surprised everyone on our team. Despite some sessions being in high demand and full, early in on many sessions people would just get up and walk out. Not just one or two people, but, like, a lot.
Rooms would go from standing room only to a third full before the session was halfway over. I’m not sure if this was from the numerous overlaps or wanting to get in a standby line early, but it was definitely distracting for engaged session attendees and felt disrespectful to the speakers.
4. Women Leaders Take Center Stage
This year at Inbound, the strong presence of women leaders speaking in sessions was cool. As a woman, it was inspiring to hear and learn from them. They all had so much to share and I soaked it all up, as did my female coworker.
From V. Boykin discussing equity for women in tech roles and Reese Witherspoon opening up about why she started, Hello Sunshine, (a platform for stories that focus on women’s experiences) to Amy Porterfield entrepreneur and marketing greats like Nancy Harhut, women speakers shared messages of wisdom and strength along with insightful educational tips and hard-hitting research for marketers and sales professionals.
5. Everyone Wants to Talk about AI
Not only were Inbound’s many seminars inspirational, but they were also filled with tons of new educational information on marketing, sales, behavioral science, and personal productivity. As you can probably guess, Artificial intelligence, or AI, was at the forefront of most conversations.
HubSpot announced their new AI-powered chatbot (check out CTM’s ChatAI virtual agent feature) that you can embed directly on your website, updates to the AI content assistant, and their new AI website builder. All exciting updates that will make sales and marketing professionals’ jobs a bit easier.
Unfortunately, many of the conversations and promotions around AI were somewhat surface-level with limited actionable takeaways and heavy does of speculation. AI has taken off very fast, so we’ll have to wait to see how these evolve and support teams.
6. Tons of Education and Learning, So Rest Up!
As mentioned, there were a lot of sessions and a ton to learn. We went from early morning to late at night, and most of that time was spent learning, networking, and eating lobster rolls, of course! We were tired – more tired than we expected. There was not much downtime so if you can, sleep at least an entire week before you go so you’ll have the energy to do everything you can.
7. Awesome Energy and a lot of Fun
Speaking of energy, the energy at Inbound was upbeat, fun, and positive. Everyone was smiling, learning, and connecting. I not only learned a ton and was inspired by the speakers, but I was also uplifted by the amazing energy of the attendees, convention center and HubSpot employees, and the entire city. There were loads of free coffee, tea, and hefty snacks to wake up tired marketers, Instagrammable spots for photo ops with new friends and colleagues, and helpful staff members.
And honestly, this amazing atmosphere wasn’t something I expected! The atmosphere was full of good, happy, and positive energy–it was a breath of fresh air.
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