5 Things I've Learned from the Internet Summit
Two weeks ago, our company had the opportunity to attend the Internet Summit (ISUM16) in Raleigh, NC. Two of my colleagues and myself from the internet marketing department ventured 2 hours north for our second annual pilgrimage. And I've got to say, this year, the organizers did a fantastic job in arranging a wide variety of speakers and class sessions. From your classic SEO and Email strategies to in-depth Facebook ads seminars, as well as new classes for designers and developers, Internet Summit 16 is shaping up to be the premier internet conference in the southeast.
With an opening keynote from Rand Fishkin of Moz to the headliner of Morgan Spurlock (Supersize Me), the folks at Internet Summit did a great job in centralizing the theme of content strategies and your will of making it happen. This year's event was much larger than the year previous with several of the downstairs convention rooms opened up to allow for more speaking engagements. One thing we noticed that was different from last year was the introduction of more aisle seating. Last year, many of the conference rooms included large, circular tables that sat near the front of the stages for attendees to be able to work from their laptops or notepads on. This proved not to be ideal because it left several people sitting at tables with their backs toward the speaker. With a larger attendance this year, organizers did the smart thing by removing the round tables and replacing them with long rectangular tables up front while also including more aisle seating behind the areas with tables.
I wanted to share some of the key takeaways we had from this year's summit:
1. Susan Wenograd is the Queen of Facebook Ads
Susan Wenograd is a G! A clear and brisk speaker, Susan doesn't mince words or advice, rather she cuts through the waffling and directly explains what tactics work and which do not. Susan also manages PPC and Bing Ads however, Susan's session this year focused solely on the ins and outs of Facebook ads and their ever-evolving changes. As a social media manager, Susan's presentation hit virtually every question I had going into her session with precision, real, measurable tactics and real examples of successful campaigns as well as unsuccessful targeting strategies.
Susan managed to include 60 minutes worth of content in a 30-minute session with precision, focus and most importantly--in a manner that anyone who has immersed themselves within Facebook ads, could understand. She left me wanting to dissect her brain even further and I admired her candor and her ability to not self-promote her services or products (as others did quite brazenly) You can follow Susan on Twitter (@SusanEDub) or see many of her presentations here.
2. Don't Be Afraid To Walk Out
There are a lot of sessions at Internet Summit and each session is only 30 minutes. Time management is key. Upon browsing the agenda, you might find yourself pining to attend two or three sessions, scheduled for the same time. Don't fret. What I've found is that, within the first 3 or 4 minutes, many of the sessions are predictable. If you don't feel like a particular session is the one for you, don't be afraid of going to another session right next door. A good speaker should be able to deliver their thesis or goal within the first 2 minutes of their presentation and if they can't, don't waste your time and your (or company) money on their meandering.
3. The SWAG
Stuff We All Get. Please take advantage of all the vendors hocking their gear your way. While I myself only managed to get 2 t-shirts, one of my colleagues managed to rope in 5 t-shirts, a notebook, and several assorted pens and koozies. And while yes, this is always good branding involved in vendor SWAG, it's also free merch for us marketing peasants. So if you attend next year, we suggest you make a game out of it with your company. See who can get the most, free SWAG by the end of the conference.
4. Bring More Than Just Your Marketing Department
This year (more so than last), the Internet Summit offered a larger variety of sessions. Sprinkled throughout the litany of Email and SEO sessions were highly specific classes dealing with UX, design and future technology. While these classes didn't delve into high detail, it is important that you include other departments from your firm, if for nothing else but to immerse themselves further into the marketing department's role and overall goal. You'd be surprised at how many times a developer or designer is completely left in the dark with client strategies and Internet Summit did a great job this year of discussing such disconnects.
5. Keyword Stuffing is Not Just For Websites
Holy mackerel were there a lot of long-winded session titles. If I had a dollar for every time the word "millennial" was in a title or mentioned within the first 3 minutes, I'd have...(please hold) fourteen dollars. There's a reason speakers use this word. It's to drive audiences to attend their session. The problem I have with this strategy is that often, speakers haphazardly use this term without ever saying why this is important. For the record, a millennial is defined as anyone between the ages of 18 to 34. That's a huge age range! It can be safely assumed that between the ages of 18 to 34, a lot of very different life experiences take place in that time span. By using the term "millennial" speakers lump such a diverse age range into a set category that just isn't accurate.
Be aware of keyword triggers in titles. After all, each session lasts about 30 minutes. If your speaker cannot focus on one or two main talking points, chances are you're gonna receive a quick 101 overview.
One of the biggest things I've taken from this year's Internet Summit is that all of my questions weren't answered, and that's okay. Look for one or two key sessions on each packet that best suits either your exact industry or job duties and see what they are all about. For me, it was worth every single dollar spent on going to Internet Summit this year just for Susan Wenograd. Not only did her session include caveats that I am now implementing for our clients, it introduced me to an industry pioneer who I will be following on social media and the web for the unforeseeable future.
You won't know who that person might be until you attend a conference such as Internet Summit and for that, I say, thank you Internet Summit for bringing a bunch of like-minded people together.