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I’m still catching my breath after a week in New Orleans at the Email Evolution Conference, sponsored by the Email Experience Coalition and the DMA.

It was a phenomenal celebration of the email industry and all the ways we have advanced the practice of email marketing over the years. We packed a lot into three days – informative and thought-provoking sessions, great parties and the kinds of bonds that can be created and strengthened only when you come out from behind your computer screens and sit down in the same room together.

I have to give props to the eec and DMA staffs and especially to the EEC18 Planning Committee – Chair Alyssa Nahatis of Adobe, eec Member Advisory Committee Chair Dennis Dayman, Return Path, and MAC Vice Chair Len Shneyder, SendGrid – for the care and concern they put into conference programming and events, which reflected the increasing sophisticated of our industry.

As I walked around the conference, jumping into sessions, chatting with marketers and vendors, three things struck me about this year’s event:

The content and networking were stronger and more innovative than ever.

From the keynotes, including the story of the film Pioneers in Skirts, to each of the presentations and specialty sessions, there was plenty to consume for every marketer, whether they come from large or small companies, whether they work on the B2B or B2C side, have attended every Email Evolution since our first gathering in San Diego way back in 2008 or came for the first time this year.

No marketers attended the conference could have walked out of EEC18 without learning something crucial that could help them improve what they’re doing. Anyone who has ever planned a conference knows what a tough act that is to pull off but our group did it. Again.

I loved one of this year’s innovations: the 3-minute speed rounds.

Speakers could sign up to talk about anything that was important to them: a case study, their most important email lessons – whatever was on their minds. The only restriction was that they had to keep their talks to 3 minutes.

The speed round was a great way to shake up the traditional conference structure, and the 3-minute limit forced speakers – including me! – to cover only the most essential aspects. I was grateful once again for advice from a mentor years ago: If you can’t pitch it in 3 minutes, you need to rethink it.

The conference strengthened my faith in email and our industry.

I’ve been involved in planning many eec shows, whether with Adestra as a title sponsor (3 years in a row now) or as an MAC officer. Whether I was in and out of sessions, enjoying the cruise down the Mississippi River that Adestra sponsored for attendees or just hanging out observing the activity, I saw more marketers from different companies and experiences talking together.

At most conferences, people from the same companies tend to hang out together throughout the entire show. This year, I was happy to see more intermingling – the kind that builds connections throughout the industry, helps us grow and makes us stronger.

When I would ask people how they knew each other, more often than not they said, “We met in a session and have been hanging out since then.” Or, “This person presented at a session I was in, and I wanted to find out more, so we’ve been talking since then.”

This struck me as a strong statement on the power of community within this industry. Our conference brings the most advanced marketers in the world. They aren’t content just using batch-and-blast and turning email into a discount-driven channel. They go the extra mile and then want to learn how to go even farther.

They’re using segmentation to target messaging. They’re using data to understand their customers and to shape the messaging to show their customers that they know who they are – they aren’t just a faceless mass of email addresses but individual customers with their own needs and wants.

These marketers aren’t satisfied with the status quo. They want to do better. They want to learn from their peers, and they want to share their knowledge of what works.

We’re already thinking about next year

The ability to contribute, to talk with others, to share our experiences and help each other grow in knowledge and to raise the level of professionalism in this industry is amazing to see. If you weren’t there this year, I’m sorry you missed out.

But you can start planning for next year! We are moving the show to Savannah, Ga., and it’s exciting to see what we can bring to the Hostess City of the South. I’m confident that the sharing, information and community we’ve developed over the years will be there, too.

The eec continues to be the best place in email to learn, share ideas and make friends. Come to Savannah in 2019, and see for yourself!