SES Nanjing.

Much as I had to retrospectively blog ad:tech Shanghai last November, same applies for SES Nanjing. Yes, Blogger is still blocked in China. So there’s most likely quite a bit of retrospective blogging about the SEM community this week.

I had a nightmare start to the event. Having been on the road for weeks before it (SES New York, ad:tech, Dallas) I had to swiftly pop back into the UK for a one day event in London. Strategically, this wasn’t so much of a bad thing, really. One problem that I always have is that, my passport is always with me when I’m travelling, so there’s often no time to apply for visas.

I spoke with a London based agency specializing in visas to China who said they had a same day service (costs a fortune, of course!). So, I thought I’d drop my passport and application form in first thing in the morning and then collect it on the way back to the airport. The London event was on Tuesday afternoon and I was flying to China from my home city of Newcastle via Amsterdam on the Wednesday. It meant the visa thing was tight, but it was the only way I could do it.

So, you have no idea how stunned I was when I got a call from the agency, mid afternoon at the London event, to tell me that the Chinese Embassy wouldn’t be releasing my passport until the following morning.

That certainly blew my plan out of the water!

So, there was nothing else for it. I had to fly back to Newcastle on the 8.00 pm flight from Heathrow which I had originally planned to do. But then I had to get out of bed at 4.30 am the following morning and fly back to London to go to the Embassy myself to pick up the passport.

Then, I’d catch a flight from Heathrow to Amsterdam and hopefully, all being well, hook up with the flight to Beijing that I had originally booked.

Fortunately, plan B came together with military precision. And later that afternoon, by the skin of my teeth, I was relaxing upstairs on a 747, sipping a well deserved glass of champagne and breathing a huge sigh of relief. Whew!

This was not the end of the saga though. After a very long flight, I arrived in Beijing at 10.30 am local time. My connecting flight to Nanjing wasn’t until 1.00 pm so I drank litres of black coffee to try and stay awake as I had not slept at all well on my flight from Amsterdam.

When I eventually did board the Nanjing flight, I had one of those wonderful “small world” events. As I sat dozing in my seat, I felt a hand from the seat behind tap me on the shoulder. It was my friend Eddie Choi, from Hong Kong, who was also heading to SES. This was great for a number of reasons. In the main though, it meant I had someone to share a cab with from the airport. And also someone who could speak both Chinese and English fluently.

So I drifted in and out of sleep for about 90 minutes until we landed. Straight out of the airport and into a cab we went. Coincidentally, Eddie and I were both staying at the same hotel. So I was delighted that I was heading directly to my room and bed.

I suddenly began to realize, after a long time that, it seemed to be taking even longer to get downtown Nanjing from the airport than it did to get from Beijing! It was 5.00 pm when we eventually got to the hotel. And there was a speakers cocktail and networking event at 7.30 pm. But I just had to get some sleep. When I got in my room, there was a problem with my internet connection. I called the front desk and they said they would send an engineer. I also asked if they could send housekeeping as I had a suit and some shirts which needed pressing.

I then realised what the problem was with the internet connection and fixed it. I called the front desk and told them the engineer wasn’t required. And then, I fell exhausted on the bed. Having been on the road for weeks and in so many different time zones, I was wrecked.

Just as I slipped into the land of nod, there was a knock at the door and in walked the engineer to fix the connection. Much as I gesticulated to let him know that I had fixed it, he still felt that he should check it over anyway.

He left and I slipped back into bed. No sooner had my head hit the pillow than the door went again, this time in came a woman form housekeeping to collect the items for pressing. And yes, she needed a check list and a signature. Off she went. Thank God I thought, now maybe I can get just half an hour before getting ready for the speakers reception.

I was certainly asleep. And I was dreaming that there were two Chinese men in my room at the foot of my bed. As I slowly woke up, I turned and looked at the foot of my bed. And sure enough, there were two Chinese men looking back at me. One of them had a room key which he was waving at me and seemingly trying t tell me that I was in his room.

However, I was the one on bed – not him. Therefore, sorry pal, this is MY room!

They both left with their suitcases and just as my head hit the pillow again, my alarm went off. Yes, time to get ready for the reception. Oh no. I was just sooooo tired.

Shak sent me a txt to tell me he’s arrived at the hotel directly from Shanghai, so we arrange to meet in the lobby. I do the rounds and shake hands with friends old and new and eventually make my excuses to leave. I head back to my room desperate to get some sleep. I switch on my computer to have a quick email check and… Outlook flags up the reminder for the deadline of my ClickZ column. Oh no. Oh please, no!

I write two paragraphs and that’s all I can manage. I write a short note to Erin, my editor and beg for a little extension to the deadline. I then climb into bed and do the perfect impersonation of someone who is clinically dead for the next few hours.

In the morning I awake, rattle off my column and head for a cab to take me to the conference centre.

This is a large exhibition and conference centre.

One of the things I loved about China, last time I was there, was signage. I mean, why have a building with a dull old entrance, when you’re offered the opportunity to slip into a…

The elevator provides an excellent do and don’t guide. No skipping in this elevator and flammable crack is most certainly out of the question.

My first session is moderating a panel on keyword research. The first presenter is from Microsoft. He delves deeply into how an inverted index is built. But says nothing about keyword research. Another panellist owns an agency and explains how he can get a better ROI than any of his competitors. But hardly touches on keyword research or research tools at all. Finally, the Google rep gets up and does a pitch for AdSense. And no, he didn’t mention keyword research either.

In the evening it was Google’s turn to entertain. I caught up with their keynote speaker and President of Sales and Business Development, China. I had breakfast with Johnny Chou in Shanghai the first week he took the job on. So naturally enough we got together at the Google dance for a beer and a catch up.

The following day my session is the usual link basics presentation, followed by a strategy presentaion by Marc Maculua. I’d never met Marc before and this was his first time presenting. At SES. He was good. Very good. And his preso had a lot of excellent takeaways. Yes, I’ll work with Marc again, anytime. And yes – here’s my usual pic for the audience to link to.

Our session was so dynamic that one member of the audience became overcome with emotion as mine and Marc’s presentations were just too much for him.

Later we went to lunch. I just clipped Ian McAnerin’s head on this shot (on the right). Ian and I don’t get much time to hang out. But at this show we had a good old catch-up. At the top of the table is Marc Macalua. Also in the shot is Miles with his lovely wife Sirinee, both next to Ian. On the left at the front of the shot is Mikio Matsuo from Nokia. And I can’t for the life of me remember the name of the other guy (sorry!).

When I was in Shanghai last year, I met a remarkable young lady by the name of Jingyi Xu. She is a scientist par excellence and largely responsible for the development of a huge chunk of MSN’s AdCenter. She is also a complete babe, and very huggy. We have become close friends.

Here’s a picture taken by Marc Macalua, who, like many in China (although he is from the Philippines, not China) smokes at any opportunity. As you can tell, he used this as a method of creating a special effect for this pic of me and Jingyi ;–)

I took a little time off on the afternoon of the final day of the show to have a little look around Nanjing. It’s different city to Shanghai and Beijing, that’s for sure. Our hotel was named after the lake which is the focal point of the city with it’s islands and parks.

The hotel which we’re in has circular restaurant on the 20th floor. It looks right over the lake. It also provides an interesting view of the China contrast. Poverty and great wealth living side by side.

And here’s a pic of the hotel and it’s circular restaurant from the lake.

I bought a ticket and took a look around the lake and the park through the traditional Chinese gate.

At weekends, the good folks of Nanjing take a relaxing walk through the park or take to the water (regardless of the weather it seems!).

The park and lake are very scenic. Of course, when you’re the one taking the shots, rarely could you ever be in them!

I’ve been aware for some time that many things are banned in China. But I never realized that trumpet playing was.

Okay, Beijing next.

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