Last week’s Search Engine Strategies in Chicago probably holds the distinction for being the coldest SES on record. This presents some interesting logistical problems, such as how far can one walk to a restaurant before losing feeling in their extremities? How can you be sure to get the cab driver who is NOT on their first week on the job? And other critical entertainment related questions.

Because of the location, the cold weather, and the logistical interest of hosting parties on the other side of the city, I’ve decided to give away unofficial marketing awards to the companies at Chicago SES that I thought stood out from the rest by their ability to market, get attention, and cause a stir. There were a hundred vendors in the exhibit hall, but how can you distinguish yourself?

Exhibiter Award
The exhibit hall award goes to OneUpWeb. By purchasing sponsorship and using it to pitch a white paper on Corporate Podcasting, I thought they created a unique voice from the rest of the vendors. With a low-pressure approach, they delivered a mini-disk with a Guide to Corporate Podcasting, Podcasting & SEO, Podcasting Tour, and Testimonials. The content is engaging, very well done, and understandable to the layperson. I know because I showed it to my father. If he gets it, then . . . .

Something Different Award
Laura Thieme of BizResearch told me about her idea this summer, and I thought it was brilliant then, but then to see it in action was very cool. Laura invited 250 attendees to lunch one day. Anyone who has ever attended an SES knows the joy that is the box lunch. Laura offered up a hot buffet lunch, complete with an ice cream sundae bar.Laura had a chance to tell her story, which is impressive and explain more about her company, BizResearch.

She didn’t hold the people that only came for lunch hostage either. After her introduction, she invited those to leave that were only there for lunch – even more surprising is that not many left. Laura had the attention of a large group of attendees and evaluated websites, answered questions and built up some solid goodwill.

Chicago Blues Award
Maybe this one should be named after my friend, Jake Baillie. After all, it was he and Webmaster Radio that put one of the best SES parties ever at Buddy Guy’s club last year. Not to be outdone, Jake and TrueLocal took the party to B.L.U.E.S. on the other side of town. The only drawback was that BLUES is 1/10th the size of Buddy Lee’s. The crowd was huge, but I didn’t hear anyone complain about the cab ride, the cold, or being in a packed club. I credit that to the band, and most of all, the guitar player: Chico Banks.

Lee Odden got some video of Chico’s cover of Voodoo Child – which was awesome.Chico has to be one of the best rock/blues guitarists that I have heard in a long time. It was a real pleasure to go back to BLUES later with ClickTracks and hear Chico again as part of Big Ray and Chicago’s Most Wanted.

ClickTracks had a great party, as they not only paid the door, but they also provided some great bar-b-que. I think the band was happy about that as well. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen John Marshall dance. ClickTracks gets the honorable mention simply because anyone who has a party at a Chicago Blues club is OK in my book. That’s it.

Don’t expect this all the time, as this is mainly the result of inspiration on other people’s part. If these companies didn’t look at SES and think “what can we do different?” than this blog post and these pseudo-award don’t exist. Congrats to the idea-makers at these companies and their willingness to try something different.