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Three Big Takeaways from #Unspam

Most people who have been in the email industry for any time have found their way to Really Good Emails‘ blissfully simple and helpful website, where they can see what other email marketers have done recently that’s, well, really good. Whether you’re searching for inspiration as you build a new campaign or just like to see what your colleagues are working on, it can be an addictive site to scroll through.

So when the RGE guys decided to throw their own conference — dubbed Unspam — over an April weekend in downtown Greenville, S.C., it was intriguing. We knew it was going to be a relatively small event, but what would it feel like? Every conference takes on a personality of its own. What sort of atmosphere would it be? And what would we learn?

Back home in Atlanta, I wanted to reflect a bit on the weekend, the many conversations and talks, and what the RGE team fostered in that little conference room in Greenville. Here are the three biggest takeaways I’m left with after Unspam:

Laughter opens doors

There couldn’t have been a better way to open the conference than with RGE’s Cate Blouke, a former English professor who does a lot of ghostwriting but has found a bit of a home in email. When she started the weekend by asking, “Why did the chicken get banned from sending emails?” and answered, “Too much fowl language,” it set a tone that this was going to be a little bit different from most conferences everyone had attended. She went on to discuss the importance of communicating in a way that conveys the message you’re trying to send — We can’t please everyone when we don’t know who we’re trying to please. Her talk was an invitation that seemed to carry over, from the full RGE team to speakers like Meghan Sokolnicki and the various panels, that email marketing can be fun, and we don’t have to stiffly sit in our seats and politely clap. Laughter is a good thing.

Communication (and clarity) is everything

If there was a theme that tied almost every one of the talks together, I think it was this — Clear, concise communication is essential with successful email marketing. From Cate’s talk about communicating like a real person to Meghan’s thoughts on how best to use design to effectively deliver messages to Jorge Selva‘s tips on scaling up personalization with a small team to Matthew Lloyd Smith‘s passionate plea to make sure every part of an email is doing its job to reach the customer, communicating your message was the key. And email has the potential to accomplish that as well as — if not better than — any other medium out there.

This community is kind of amazing

Hearing the passion and love this group of email geeks had for their industry and each other was pretty inspiring. I’ve personally not been around email for a lot of years but, through social media and Slack, I’d gained some appreciation for the closeness of this community. This weekend, though, was basically my initial first-hand exposure to just what the email geek culture is all about. The intimacy of the venue and the event probably contributed to the feel of it. And you have to imagine the type of person who will give up their weekend to travel to Greenville, S.C., to learn about email is likely someone who’s extremely passionate about the topic. All that contributed to an amazing outpouring of love from the people in this community, who love what they do and learning how to do it better.

And that answered the original question: What would it feel like? It felt like a coming-together. A small reunion of sorts. When Matthew asked people to stand up in the closing minutes to express gratitude to whoever they wanted to, you could see the tears from so many in the room, thinking about what this community meant to them and their professional (and personal) growth. Multiple people stood and said “This is more than just a conference. It’s just so much more.” Maybe that’s the final takeaway.

Jeff Haws

With 20 years of experience in journalism and writing, Jeff brings an expertise in producing impactful content, identifying audiences, and writing in a way people will want to read. He’s focused on helping businesses better understand who it is they’re talking to, and helping them reach those people via the power of words.

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