We all have our passions and interests. These are the things in which we invest our time, money and energy, among other aspects.

One of my interests is content marketing. It’s something I became curious about over the past few years, and I’ve worked to expand my knowledge, earn various certifications and become the best darn content marketing professional that I can be.

So that’s why this week, I headed over to the 2016 HubSpot INBOUND marketing conference to dive headfirst into the ultimate content marketing event and see what it was all about.

INBOUND was awesome. I got insight into a wide range of aspects not only with content marketing, but inbound, social media, SEO, video, podcasts…the list goes on. I got the chance to see some amazing speakers, network with other industry professionals (and learn some fantastic tricks of the trade) as well as score some nice vendor swag on the trade floor.

HubSpot's INBOUND marketing conference included a sleek tradeshow floor that definitely set itself apart from standard expos.

The HubSpot INBOUND trade floor – a great place to network and pick up awesome vendor swag.

Check out my recap below to find out more about what I experienced as a first-timer at HubSpot’s famous event for marketers and salespeople alike.

First impressions are forever

INBOUND exceeded what – if any – expectations I had. From the moment I walked in, it was clear this was an event meant to engage and inspire attendees. Held at the Boston Convention & Exhibition Center in the Seaport (which in and of itself is an incredibly impressive venue), INBOUND took over the entire space, with 19,000 attendees scattered throughout every room. Many sat in the lounge areas in between breakout sessions and speeches, catching up on emails or shooting videos to update their followers on the conference happenings. Vendors filled the trade show floor, handing out giveaways and demoing their services and technology.

HubSpot's co-founders share their knowledge on the main stage.

Co-founders Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah take the stage, fresh off their harrowing journey to the magical land of INBOUND.

The most impressive aspect was the main stage, which had a seating area for thousands of attendees and featured technology that would rival any Hollywood studio. The music, the lights and the visuals lent themselves to create an inspirational and entertaining atmosphere.

Spotlights and keynotes

Over the past few years, HubSpot has brought in several big names – including Amy Schumer and Chelsea Clinton last year – and the 2016 event was no exception.

This year, I had the chance to see the spotlight sessions of Tim Urban of Wait But Why, Serena Williams, Anna Kendrick, Michael Strahan, and the creators of the Netflix documentary series Making a Murderer, Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos. But there were several more, including Alec Baldwin, Angela Duckworth and Ta-Nehisi Coates, throughout the week.

The creators of "Making a Murderer" discuss their experiences at INBOUND 2016.

Creators of the Netflix hit Making a Murderer Laura Ricciardi and Moira Demos on their documentary experience: “If you don’t see it out there, that doesn’t mean there isn’t an audience” for your content.

However, one of the highlights of the entire event was catching the keynote speech from HubSpot co-founders CEO Brian Halligan and CTO Dharmesh Shah. I went in thinking this would be a stodgy presentation filled with words, maybe half of which I wouldn’t understand. But I was surprised and ended up enjoying this event the most out of any that I attended at INBOUND.

Brian and Dharmesh presented the audience with their thoughts, research and predictions as to where the industry has been and where it’s headed. They included eye-catching visuals (not to mention some great GIFs) and peppered their speeches with humorous anecdotes. A few insights I picked up from their keynote:

  • Prospects want to live in video as this medium is soaring in use, so any company looking to boost its online presence should adopt use of video.
  • Don’t think in terms of B2B or B2C. Think of B2H – business-to-human.
  • Toss out ABC (Always Be Closing) and focus on ABH (Always Be Helping).
  • Businesses want to know how they can extract value from their customers, but it should instead be about adding value to their customers. (Today, supply outstrips demand, and because of that, companies should never outgrow adding value to their customers.)
  • The way to win at SEO is to center on HEO (human enjoyment optimization).
  • Chatbots are the next big thing. No, really, they are!

To sum it all up

For anyone reading this wondering if INBOUND is worth it, I can tell you that it is. I networked with fantastic people, I was inspired by the electric atmosphere and I got to enjoy happy hour (hey, I just want to be honest here). For anyone who is interested or involved in the content marketing industry, the benefits and knowledge gained from attending HubSpot’s INBOUND are ones that you will take with you throughout your career.

Tressa Sloane is the Sr. Manager of Editorial Development in Boston. Born a Southern belle, she now resides in the chilly (but wicked awesome) Northeast, and when she's not learning everything she can about content marketing, she's obsessing over Elvis, Auburn football and France.