Rooftop party for online marketing connects businesses, students, faculty

The warm summer air of old town Portland’s skyline was abuzz with music and conversation. Online marketing professionals and amateurs flocked from across the city to Embassy Suites to attend the Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland’s sixth rooftop networking party held on Thursday, Aug. 12, 2014.

Beer from west coast breweries, a live DJ, food and an opportunity for attendees to connect were all available at the event. To Alan George, a PSU alumnus and president of the local nonprofit, the party is more than a venue where attendees trade business cards.

The rooftop social for online marketers is a community of marketing and technology professionals, as well as creatives, according to George.

As the president of the group hosting the event, George drew attention to his nonprofit’s long term objective.

SEMpdx, just to make sure that people know what it is, is the Search Engine Marketing Professionals of Portland and its mission is to educate the local community on search engine marketing and authorization on social media,” George said. “And we do that through monthly educational events and also an annual SearchFest conference every February.”

Though he has been the president of SEMpdx for a few weeks, George has been with the group for several years and shared what he found to be some of the group’s finer points, including an eagerness to share.

“It’s an interesting group that is really dedicated to the mission of helping the local community become educated about search engine marketing and digital marketing,” George said. “It’s an interesting group because it’s really giving.”

George sees networking functions like his nonprofit’s not only as indispensable tools for making new contacts in the industry, but also as marketplaces for ideas. In his experience, there is a lot to be learned from just listening.

“I think on the basic level, instead of thinking of networking as finding your next client or finding your next job…you’ve got to put that in the back seat and you’ve really got to think about what you can learn from people,” George said. “Maybe listen more than you talk when you network and really get a feel for what’s going on in your community and in your industry, and I think that that will lead you down the road to find what you’re looking for.”

For those who missed the sixth annual rooftop networking party, SEMpdx will be holding a number of events and educational sessions in the future—many of which will feature discounts for students who might otherwise have trouble affording to attend on their limited budgets.

SearchFest will host keynote speakers from Google and Facebook, plus more than 30 additional speakers focusing on digital marketing and social media, according to George. It will be held on Friday, Feb. 27, 2015.

Michael Weinhouse, another PSU alumnus, who is also founder and co-CEO of Logical Position, a local Internet marketing company, vouched for the value of networking events as useful venues for innovation in his field.

“Some of the best ideas I’ve had in the business were generated at events like this just by talking to other people,” Weinhouse said.

He added that neophytes to the field of search engine marketing could get a lot out of attending functions like the networking party.

“SEMpdx is a great place to start,” Weinhouse said. “You come to an event like this and you’re going to meet the who’s who in the industry. It’s a great place for people to find potential agencies to work for and just meet some good people.”

For other attendees, like Tia Vincent, an integrated media account manager at KOIN-TV, the party provided a chance to get her name out.

“What brings me to the SEM networking event is just the ability to network with other marketing professionals in [the] online world of search—which is all so crazy and ever-changing,” Vincent said. “You just never know who you’re going to meet that will bring that next opportunity.”

Several Portland State students and faculty members were also at the event. Reese Glasscock, an office assistant at the PSU Center for Executive and Professional Education, who helped run a table for the center at the networking function, shared his experience as a first-timer to a marketing event.

“We do more of an educational background versus a lot of the other companies that were there, [who] are more for social networking,” Glasscock said. “So, out of the crowd, it was really interesting to see a lot of people that approached our table [who] were really curious about what we could bring to the table as far as digital marketing and social media marketing.”

Even while representing an academic perspective, he saw a lot of value in the attention that the PSU CEPE got at the event, particularly in terms of interest in taking a few classes at the university.

“All the people that were there are either people that are heads of their field at the digital marketing program or they’re people that are working to try to get into the field,” Glasscock said. “So for us, that not only brings us the value of gaining students that might want to gain more skills—or professionals that are looking to brush up their skills in current trends—but that also brings us the opportunity to reach out to different companies.”

Tia Vincent, who is an alumna of PSU, offered advice to current and future students alike.

“I would say, you know what, take advantage of the connections because Portland State is such an urban campus,” Vincent said. “There is an amazing wealth of opportunity; from professors, to getting involved in committees and organizations.

She said that through the American Marketing Association, she was able to establish an internship and her first job right out of college.

“I stayed there for eight years and it was a really successful career,” Vincent said. “So I would definitely suggest networking as much as possible.”

To learn more about SEMpdx, visit their site at

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