Mind Readings: What Does Intermediate Mean?

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Mind Readings: What Does Intermediate Mean?

In a discussion recently about conference sessions, I raised the challenging question: what does intermediate even mean? Chances are it’s not an especially helpful expression. Here’s what we can do better.

Intermediate means different things to different people, so event planners and speakers should be more specific when describing conference sessions. If you’re unsure if a session is appropriate for you, reach out to the speaker directly.

Mind Readings: What Does Intermediate Mean?

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Christopher Penn 0:15

In today’s episode, let’s talk about intermediate intermediate.

In a discussion about conference sessions I was having with friend recently, I raised the challenging question, what is intermediate even mean? I was looking at, I think it was either Content Marketing World or inbound.

And, of course, there’s the sort of the levels of sessions.

This is a beginner session, this is an intermediate session, this is an advanced session.

And I realized this is not helpful in any way, shape, or form.

What is intermediate mean? I mean, beginners, pretty clear, like, most people can self identify like, yeah, I don’t know what I’m doing.

I’m here, just give me the 101.

Intermediate, and even advanced to a degree, are a lot more challenging to deal with, because it’s not clear what that means.

Who is intermediate, what is intermediate, because if you think about a scale from say, zero to 100, you would think intermediate, okay, maybe that’s a 50, and advanced to be 100.

But that’s all relative, right? Your 100 might be my 1000, in which case, intermediates 500.

Now, if I go in saying thinking 500 is intermediate, and you’re thinking 50, as intermediate, we’re gonna have a pretty big mismatch.

So what does this mean? We don’t know.

And here’s an even bigger challenge with that term.

Not everybody is super self aware.

It’s putting it nicely, not everybody is super self aware, there’s a bunch of folks who underestimate their skills, they think, oh, you know, compared to all these people, I don’t really know anything.

So I’m gonna put myself at the beginner session, and then they’re disappointed because it’s like, not really learning anything here.

Other people dramatically overestimate their skills like, oh, yeah, I know, I know, everything there is to know about attribution modeling.

And they jump into an intermediate session, and the speakers talking about Markov chain modeling and the like.

You just pretend to smile and nod like, Yeah, I knew that.

And so these, these grades of beginner, intermediate and advanced, in the context of conferences are really unhelpful.

So what do we do about this? How do we, how do we figure this out? Well, from the perspective of an event manager, or a speaker, be more clear, be more specific about what intermediate means.

So for example, if I’m leading a session on attribution modeling, I might say instead of this intermediate, I might say, if you are familiar with the differences between ridge regression and lasso regression, you will get benefit out of this session, right? Because we’re going to talk about those those approaches to attribution modeling.

On the other hand, if you don’t know what lasso regression and ridge regression are much less what the differences are between the two, this session is not going to help you, right, the sessions is going to be way over your head.

And that’s okay.

That is okay.

But that specificity draws a clear line in the sand that says, Yeah, I could benefit from this, I could see how, you know, lasso regression would be useful against really dirty marketing data.

And you’d be okay.

In that session.

If you went out, I’ve heard of those terms, but don’t really know what they mean, you might flip a coin, maybe I’ll attend that session, maybe there’s another session in that, that block, that would be helpful.

And if you’re like, I don’t even know what regression is, then you know, that session is not for you.

That level of specificity is a lot more helpful than it is, you know, beginner or intermediate.


So from a speaker’s perspective, our job as speakers is to say, this is what we mean, this is this is the level of experience or knowledge, I expect you to have to be able to talk about the session.

For example, if I was doing a session on Google Analytics, I would really simply start off by saying, Okay, if you are comfortable with Google Analytics, 4, you’ve made the migration from Universal Analytics to Google Analytics 4, this session is for you.

And if you’re like, what’s the difference? Then you know, that session is not for you.

Even something as simple as that a simple bench test if you’re doing something like email marketing, and you said, In this session, we’re going to talk about the differences between SPF D Kim and demark as email authentication protocols and how they affect your deliverability.

If you don’t know what that means, you’d be like, This is not for me.

On the other hand, if you’re like, that got that was so 2015 What about Bimi? And then you might know that session might not be for you.

It might be too basic like you want to you want to know about how about Bimi? How about doing segmented lists sends to identify whether a certain percentage portion of our list performs better or not, that would be an indication to you like, what the session is probably about.

So why don’t we do this? Well, a few reasons.


It asks a lot of the attendees to read the descriptions of the sessions and go, Okay, I can self identify correctly.

And it asks a lot of speakers to find that delineation that would be useful to say, like, yeah, this, this is a session where I feel like, I could get some benefit or not.

Now, if you’re an attendee, and you want to do something simple, one of the easiest things to do if you’re looking at a session, you’re like, Ah, this is a really tough call, find that speaker on social media, and message them and say, Hey, I’m thinking about attending your session at MarketingProfs B2B form.

I am reasonably well versed in Google Analytics 4 has built in attribution models, but I don’t know, the data driven model, I don’t know how it works.

Is your session appropriate for me? And I might write back and say, yeah, actually, it would be because we can talk about that we can talk about the time to event decay model that which is what Google uses.

And that might be okay.

Or it might say, you know, I think I think you might be better served in a better in a different session, because we’re gonna go in assuming you know, the difference between say, Shapley values and Markov chain models.

And if you don’t know the difference, the session is probably going to not benefit you.

So that’s what we should be doing as attendees, and speakers.

And as event planners, to make conference descriptions more useful than beginner, intermediate and advanced beginner, intermediate advanced is too relative.

It’s too easy for people to self identify in the wrong category.

And it doesn’t help someone hone in on exactly that even the type of information is going to be discussed in that session.

If you have those much more clear grades, like this is the line you must be this tall to enter.

It’s a lot better for people, they’ll get more benefit for the people who do show up, they’ll get a lot more benefit from the session.

And for the people who don’t show up.

They won’t feel like they’re missing out on something because they’re like, Yeah, I’m just not there yet.

So give that some thought when it comes to how you describe conference sessions.

Get rid of beginner, intermediate, and advanced.

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Christopher S. Penn is one of the world’s leading experts on AI in marketing. Christopher Penn has over a decade of AI experience in classical AI, regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI. Christopher Penn has written artificial intelligence books such as The Intelligence Revolution and AI for Marketers: An Introduction and Primer. Christopher Penn is an AI keynote speaker around the world.


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