internet-summit-2013Last week I was fortunate enough to participate in what’s arguable the Southeast’s largest digital industry conference – Internet Summit 2013 at the Raleigh Convention Center. The event was from November 12-14 and had over 2,000 attendees. I had heard about it for years but never made the move to purchase an event pass, despite the fact that it’s literally in my backyard. Coming from New York, my focus was always on conferences like AdWeek and SES. The ones I’d need to travel and get hotel accommodations. Internet Summit 2013 was a no brainer for me and i bought my tickets weeks ago. Then, I got a call (well, email) last Thursday. “A speaker dropped out last minute. Would you like to speak at one of our panels?”

This was a welcomed email as I’ve always wanted to speak at a major conference. Up until now, my only speaking engagement was the Durham Chamber of Commerce. I am slated to speak a the ShePower Business Week & Expo in March but generally, I lack experience in that area. All that was about to change as I got to present a case study on using multi-channel analytics for e-commerce success. More about that later. Let’s back to the conference.

Internet Summit 2013 Overview

For those readers that don’t know what #ISum13 is, it’s a major conference for the digital industry. This year’s conference included companies and speakers representing marketing, analytics and technology. It’s a fantastic mix and an exciting display. I was amped to meet new people and learn about a lot of the companies I’ve read about and personalities I’ve only gotten to know through social media. It was a 3 day event consisting of workshops, panel discussions, presentations, keynotes and of course, parties. What would a conference be without a party? Or two, or three?

The Conference Floor

The conference was broken up into two sections: Tech Summit and Internet Summit. Tech Summit was geared towards the startup industry while Internet Summit was marketing, media and technology focused. I spent a decent amount of time visiting the various booths and learning about the many companies we have right here in the triangle. I must admit, I thought there would be more booths, but I didn’t go last year and learned that it has grown a decent amount. There was a broad representation of groups that included marketing associations like the AMA and Triangle Interactive Marketing Association, analytics companies like Adobe, tech companies like Mobile Webie and a number of supporting services to marketers and entrepreneurs.

Coffee-gate

One of the biggest “complaints” of the conference was the coffee running out on day two. If you look through the tweets, you’ll see a good number of people highlighting that oversight. Not a huge deal in my opinion. The real issue was the lack of snacks and food which they remedied on day three with box lunches and salads. I was just so hungry Wednesday afternoon that I was mad there was nothing there to eat. I eventually gave up and went across the street to the deli.

The Opening Keynote w/ Gary Vaynerchuk

This had to be the second best part of the conference for me. Gary is a great speaker. Gary is also very blunt and unabashed. Let’s just say that his keynote was full of color and f-bombs. Despite the delivery, the message was clear. “Market in today’s world.” My interpretation is that he means that we as marketers have to really understand the driving forces of today’s consumers. We need to accept that old forms of marketing like display and even email are less effective. Social media is the center of the marketing universe but even in that space, you have to be particular in your approach. Understanding the behavioral differences of Facebook users versus Pinterest users makes a huge difference in your approach. In order to succeed in today’s world and rise above the noise, you must market in the “now.”

Twitteriety

I of course tracked down the conference’s hashtag and began Tweeting like a madman at the first session I attended on Tuesday. One of the Tech Summit for entrepreneurs talks on financing your startups. I warned my followers that live-tweeting was about to happen and jumped right in. Basically, I like to grab important and valuable sound bites to Tweet. Sometimes I can use a full on quote, other times I have to paraphrase. I use the hashtag on all tweets unless I forget. And I do my best to mention the speaker. It’s fun, but my thumbs can get fatigued after some time. The cool part is that someone was watching and I was highlighted as a top 5 tweeter by Seen Feed:

seen-feed-mark-f-simmons-internet-summit-2013

Now, there’s more to it than recognition as I never expected that to happen. I knew my industry colleagues across the country couldn’t attend and tweeting like this helps share the insights to all who care to learn. It also ended up being a form of crowd note-taking. People tweeted about being able to attend more than one session because of twitter. I also used it to catch up with some people as a sort of instant messenger. Twitter – many many uses!

 

Speaking mark-simmons-internet-summit-analytics

This conference was my first major speaking opportunity. And it almost didn’t happen. I submitted my information to be considered a speaker for 2014, fully not expecting to get selected for this year. As luck would have it, I got the email a week before I was to present. Of course, I jumped at the chance and began outlining my Powerpoint deck. Prior to my session, “Multi-Channel Analytics & E-Commerce Success: A Case Study”, I was pretty nervous and excited. I did my best to watch other panels to get a feel for the format and the size of the crowd. That preparation eased my anxieties. The day off, I thought I’d be late and we shuffled the order placing me last. I’d have preferred second, but ultimately, it didn’t make a difference. I knew my material and it wasn’t my first public speaking appearance, just as a professional in my field. When all was said and done, I felt that I gave a good presentation and the audience seemed engaged. I did get some positive feedback from a number of participants and I look forward to following up with anyone who’s interested in talking more about the topic. I’m glad I submitted my info before the conference and I’ll grateful to have been given the chance. It was actually fun when I think about  it now.

The full deck can be found here:

Ask followup questions in the comments…

Conclusion

I’m glad I pulled the trigger and bought my pass for this year’s conference. It was well worth the trip and getting selected as a speaker was icing on the cake. I enjoyed the few sessions I had time to attend and would like to commend the organizers for putting together a great conference. I think next year, I’ll take off more time to attend more sessions. There is definitely a huge opportunity to learn from industry colleagues, the speakers and it was a great networking opportunity. I’ll be sure to attend at least one party next year so I can hang out with the likes of Coolio 🙂

What was the most memorable part of Internet Summit for you? Please leave a comment below!