I have to say, I always get nervous for Google and excited for the SEOs when Google sends a brand new representative to the search conferences. This SES Chicago, Matt Cutts was unable to attend, so in his place, Matt sent Charles Martin. The reason I get nervous for Google and excited for SEOs is because the new Googlers are more likely to slip up and say something that can get them in trouble. When Matt answers questions, you notice how he always throws in terms like, "in my personal opinion", "if I was to do it this way", "if I was you", etc. In addition, Matt has a tact of deflecting questions that he can not or should not answer. I believe the last conference I covered where Matt did not represent Google was SES Sweden 2004. At that conference, Google brought in Magnus and he said a thing that were misinterpreted as Google backlinks not counting anymore (or something like that).
So with this new guy, Charles, who I am told had two days of prep time, I did not know what to expect. When I first saw Charles, he looked like one of those guys who looks like he is from San Jose. Tall, longish blond hair (I think), huge smile, and very nice personality. Hey, he even had the same type of Apple PowerBook I had, so he had to be a standup guy.
I attended his two sessions, Q&A on Linking and Meet the Crawlers. Right away, Charles introduced himself to the other search representatives; Tim Mayer (an SES pro from Yahoo), Rahul (a lot less experienced then Tim, but still have conferences under his belt) from Ask Jeeves, and Ramez (MSN is a new engine, but he seemed to have done a conference before, normally its Etan) from MSN. Soon after, he saw me chatting with Tim and said that I looked familiar. Tim reminded him that Matt just posted a picture of me at his blog. So Tim took an other picture of me, I believe I was in the same outfit. And then the session started.
Charles gave the typical presentation. But the real test was the Q&A portion. Most of you know I don't stay for Q&A, but for his sessions, I made sure to stick around. Charles held his own. He answered questions accurately, as far as I can tell. He also knew his stuff cold. He told us he did his research by listening to some of the industry podcasts and reading some of the industry blogs. He even deflected the sandbox questions with tact. He made some funny jokes, such as when MSN's presentation wasn't working properly and Charles helped him out and got it working. Then Charles made a comment that Google can even fix Microsoft's products. The audience enjoyed that. The whole time, Charles seemed to have a good time and enjoy talking to the people.
Matt, nice choice on a representative to take your place this time!