Lee Odden

Speaking Publicly About Online Marketing

They say you should face your greatest fears head on and public speaking has been one of mine since I was a kid. Being shy didn’t help during those school speech assignments one bit. Anyone with me on that one?

Having worked in the search marketing/web dev business since 1997, it was only 2 years ago or so that I began to speak at events about SEO, marketing with blogs and online public relations. I think there were 3 speaking events that first year. This year it looks like 16 and there are already 8 events booked for 2008. Things can change quickly in internet time.

My first presentation on SEO was in front of a local interactive marketing group (thanks to Kristina Halvorson) 2 1/2 years ago and now it’s a situation where decisions need to be made about which events to do and which to turn down. The number of paid speaking engagements has risen significantly as well.

Providing companies a 1/2 day workshop on search marketing and online PR is literally a brain dump of information. The goal is to give as much practical advice and value as possible. People often ask, “Why give so much away?”. First, that’s what they’re paying for and second, nearly every one of these situations has turned into a long term consulting engagement.

This good fortune can in part, be attributed to the kindness and risk taking by people like Heather Lloyd-Martin for including me in DMA events and Brett Tabke for Pubcon. Even Danny Sullivan warmed up after a few years. 🙂 Peers and friends in the industry like Greg Jarboe, Jamie O’Donnell, David Berkowitz and Peter Himler nudged a few doors open as well.

Speaking publicly about various aspects of online marketing in combination with blogging, social networking and developing good distribution channels for messaging has been instrumental in building our credibility and visibility. This combined effort accelerated what might have otherwise take many years to achieve. That is the power of the web and social networking – both online and offline, something TopRank does both internally and for clients.

However, there’s still a ways to go. We have many goals to reach as an organization including staffing. Right now we’re hiring for several positions including an Online Marketing Manager, viral marketing specialists and a web designer/developer position. The way our teams are developing and stepping up to the plate when they need to is really amazing.

One of the exciting things in development is a project and contact management system for scaling search, PR and email marketing campaigns through a single application. No more about that – at least for now. There’s a lot changing in the way we do online marketing and that’s reflected in the systems we’re developing and the topics of the remaining conferences this year.

Speaking of conferences, coming up later in November and the first 2 weeks of December is a short marathon speaking run. Things start out with the Advanced PR Technology workshop in San Francisco on November 30th with a panel on driving search traffic to corporate web sites with myself and Bill Barnes from Enquiro. Then a session at the same conference with Jamie O’Donnell and Sally Falkow on press release optimization.

After San Francisco it will be Pubcon Dec 4-7 with the “Search and Blogging Reporters Forum” which includes Andy Beal, Michael McDonald, Rand Fishkin, Loren Baker and moi. Now THAT will be a fun session. This will be followed by the “Press and Public Relations Campaigns” session with Robin Liss and Joe Beaulaurier from PRWeb. Due to the time conflict I won’t be at SES Chicago, but many people will. In fact, there are quite a few people trying to go to BOTH!

Pubcon is a great way to end out the year but MediaPost is hosting the Search Insider Summit in Park City, Utah at the Stein Eriksen Lodge. Part conference, part networking event and part fun in the snow, I’m looking forward to doing a panel session on Universal/Unified Search. Lots of brands and top level agency execs at this event make it a perfect mix of smart networking and strategic insight.

Facing fears and taking risks is part of growing with your business and without that, there’s little reward. Being able to work in such a dynamic industry that keeps moving, changing and evolving is very satisfying especially with the new and interesting problems we get to solve for clients. Thanks to tackling the public speaking thing, (but certainly not mastering it) the rewards have been far more than I anticipated. Have you faced any fears in the search marketing biz and realized unanticipated rewards?

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Lee Odden About Lee Odden

@LeeOdden is the CEO of TopRank Marketing and editor of Online Marketing Blog. Cited for his expertise by The Economist, Forbes and the Wall Street Journal, he's the author of the book Optimize and presents internationally on B2B marketing topics including content, search, social media and influencer marketing. When not at conferences, consulting, or working with his talented team, he's likely running, traveling or cooking up something new.


  1. Great post.

    It’s commonly bandied about that most people rank “Public Speaking” above “Death” on their List of Fears.

    It’s never really been a problem for me, but I do tend to worry about presenting at a function, or even telling a story at an industry mixer, and being a bit too… informal, for lack of a better word.

    As far as facing my fears goes, it basically meant going to these mixers and not being worried about my credibility or my reputation and whether or not I “deserved” to be in the company of these other industry bigwigs.

    After projecting enough confidence in front of these guys, I’ve gotten heaps of referral work, and have even been offered to partner up in other business ventures, despite the fact that my company is so new and my clientbase so small. It’s worked out beautifully.

  2. Excited to see you are speaking at PubCon. Already marked down your times and looking forward to those presentations.

  3. Great example Judd. It’s amazing what confidence and good intentions can do.

    Looking forward to meeting you Michael!

  4. Avatar Kalena Jordan says

    Hi Lee – oh yes, I remember the school presentation stage fright well and it’s never left me. I’ve only done a handful of public speaking gigs since I began working in this industry, but it gets easier the more often you do it. For me, the smaller the group the easier it is. I’m also finding that preparing video tutorials is a great warm-up to public speaking roles.

  5. That session at Pubcon is the one I’m looking forward to the most during my time in Vegas. Expect me to be in the front row mocking you all. 😉

  6. Hear that guys? Be afraid. Very afraid.

    Tell you what Lisa, you wear that little thing from Halloween and you can mock all you like. 🙂

  7. Oh, I am never going to live that down, am I? 🙂

    Seriously though, I’m so stoked for the Search and Blogging Reporters session. It’s going to be one of the best of the show, at least for me.

  8. Yup … as I understand it, public speaking is the #1 fear of people in general. However, the better you know your material, the less its a phobia … and you know your material!

    See you in Las Vegas Lee … hopefully we’ll catch up for a brew!

  9. Hey Jeff – definitely Vegas. It should be a good conference.

  10. I can relate to that fear. I get nervous just talking in front of a room full of friends. It is great that your tackling this fear because you always benefit when moving out of your comfort zone.