The 2011 Yellow Pages Association (YPA) conference is fast approaching. This annual event will be held, Saturday April 16,to Tuesday, April 19 in Las Vegas, NV, at Caesar’s Palace.
This year’s theme of “Search Starts Here,” emphasizes the pivotal role that local search is increasingly playing in our industry. New offerings, new partnerships, the growing role of social media and continuing print to digital media conversion will all be hot topics in 2011. YPA President Neg Norton indicated that the Search Starts Here theme was selected “because 2011 is such a pivotal year for our industry and it sets the tone for great discussions about the shift towards digital integration that we’ve been talking about on our blog and in our other member communications.”
As a result this year’s agenda is also more diverse, with a lot more around social media and mobile. Neg indicated that the agenda is a “better reflection of what our members are doing these days and where they see growth opportunities. We have several new supplier members from outside of the traditional Yellow Pages space. Print Yellow Pages will still be an integral component and major focus but the social media part is reflective of the change we are seeing around us.”
We asked Neg why in the midst of tough economic time which has reduced travel budgets, why should people from the industry plan to attend? He noted the three main objectives of the conference:
- A focused, strong agenda which will give people specific ideas to bring back to the office.
- Numerous networking opportunities to let people connect. It is one of the few opportunities that people in industry have to connect with their peers to understand the challenges they are also facing. Currently attendance is tracking about the same as last year so a turnout in the 450+ range of attendees is expected
- Have some fun
A strong lineup of speakers has been assembled. A recent addition is a keynote address from former Governor of Minnesota Tim Pawlenty, who has formed an exploratory committee regarding a run for President. Coming from very humble roots, Pawlenty has always been a strong supporter of small business, a key customer of the Yellow Pages industry. Through a balance of innovation and leadership he helped Minnesota balance its budget, cut spending, reform health care, and improve schools without raising taxes. Attendees will also be receiving copies of his new book, “Courage to Stand”, which you can get signed immediately after the close of the General Session on Tuesday, April 19th.
Some other key speakers include:
- Dan Danner, President, National Federation of Independent Business
- Yvette Liu, Facebook
- Rachel Pasqua, VP Mobile Group, iCrossing
- Marc Tellier, President and CEO, Yellow Pages Group
- Martin Tobias, CEO/President, Tippr
Instead of the traditional exhibition hall format, YPA will again offer a unique concept used last year of “Strategic Exchange Sessions”. The new format was hugely successful at last year’s conference, and will continue in this year’s event. With an SES location, companies can make appointments with industry executives and set the stage for profitable business initiatives. The meetings are held in a suite, by the pool or in private table areas arranged for by the YPA staff. Norton noted that “many of the suppliers found it to be an incredibly productive business development effort. The opportunity to sit down with a key decision maker is what makes this structure so unique.” Of course, the level of interest in a supplier’s products or services will be the ultimate gauge for how successful these sessions are for suppliers and potential customers.
Another staple of the conference are the Industry Excellence Awards which are the annual recognition point for excellence in the industry. Categories this year have been revamped to reflect the increased importance of digital media.
All work and no play leads to a very dull industry event, so there are a few activities to have some fun and network further such as the BuyYellow.com Tennis Tournament, and what would a Yellow Pages industry event be like without a golf tournament such as the BuyYellow.com Golf Tournament which will be held at the Arroyo Golf Club.
Environmental efforts by the industry have grabbed a lot of the headlines lately. Neg indicated he will provide an updated status on these efforts as part of his presentation. Neg seemed optimistic that some resolution in several of the key discussions YPA has been pursing could be achieved by conference time. “We’ve had a very strong, diverse coalition come together including small businesses in San Francisco to help put pressure on the Board of Supervisors. We’re working very hard in Seattle to get the recently passed opt-out legislation overturned. Optimistically, with success in these two efforts we will be recognized as an industry that can’t be taken lightly. The industry IS doing a lot of the right things to be responsible corporate citizens and doesn’t need additional regulation.”
We also asked Neg about the struggles some in the National channel are having. He commented that “CMRs that invested in their businesses over the years and diversified their offerings to include online while not abandoning print are doing fine. They are in a good position to serve their clients more effectively.”
While the conference will also be an opportunity to understand more about the efforts of the YPA staff over the last year, Neg commented on one new effort that will be covered at the conference – a social media campaign test through Twitter that is underway with several national advertisers. It would drive ads to the front page of Twitter with links to a special landing page. To find out more you have to be there.
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