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What Did We Learn at Internet Summit 2013?

Another Internet Summit has come and gone in Raleigh, NC. While there were some very entertaining speakers – Kevin Pollak had us all laughing to the point of tears, and surprise guest appearance by North Carolina State University’s Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried was a great touch – I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t overall a bit of a letdown.

Don’t get me wrong. Anytime you are able to share ideas with colleagues that you may not interact with on a regular basis is always a great way to reinvigorate your work life. Phil Buckley emphasized that in his recent post You’re Stretched Too Thin and About to Get Fired. However, many of the breakout speeches were lackluster and rushed.

I realize reaching an epiphany in 20 minutes is not realistic, but it would have been nice if more of the sessions had great takeaways instead of self-promotion and a bit of disconnect between the speakers. Plus, the shock and awe factor of dropping the f-bomb in a professional speech has completely turned me off. Gary Vaynerchuck is quite entertaining and I enjoyed his message two years ago when he was promoting The Thank You Economy. But after about the 10th f-bomb, I lost attention. A great message or speech doesn’t need 30-plus words of profanity.

It’s hard to cater to a large and diverse audience, and this crowd was no different. There were entrepreneurs who have developed applications and are incredibly tech savvy sitting next to marketing managers of banks and manufacturing companies who have never heard of schema tags before. I also believe the age range was broader this year, from professionals in their first job out of college to those on the verge of retirement. Digital marketing was a common theme, but the one thing I think a range of people would agree upon is that they walked away with “nice to know/refresher information” versus the “I have to get back to work and put this into action immediately.”

There were quite a few buzzword topics that everyone was sick of hearing by the last day:  big data, storytelling and automation. But I think millennial takes the cake. Members of that group don’t like to be part of a group label because they think of themselves as utterly unique, and people outside that group are tired of catering to their “unique” needs. I wish I had started a word count for that word on day one.

Despite all of this, here are a couple sessions and speakers I truly enjoyed, and a short summary of each:

NCSU Head Basketball Coach Mark Gottfried – Guest Opener for Keynote
Coach Gottfried is a bit of a local hero considering he’s taken the N.C. State basketball team from bottom of the ACC to NCAA Tournament challengers. Plus there were quite a few N.C. State graduates in the audience who couldn’t wait to tweet up a storm and brag to their friends. As a University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill graduate, I wasn’t as thrilled, and then I had to admire the coach.

He got up on stage and said how much he liked living in Raleigh (brownie points). Then he admitted he wasn’t tech savvy, but he knows it is part of daily life now and social media is here to say (honesty). And then, what a concept, he took responsibility for leading his players (ethics). We’ve heard so many stories of NCAA violations and regrettable posts or tweets from athletes and young adults at this point. My personal opinion is that you can’t be a leader of your team without knowing what they are doing in their social life. What Coach Gottfried admitted about social media was that you can’t know how to control it or advise on it until you’re active yourself. So there was a 49-year-old, self-admittedly tech challenged coach tweeting along with 1500 Internet Summit attendees.

Co-founder of Reddit Alexis Ohanian – Keynote Speaker
Another keynote speaker on a book tour…there was a theme this year I think. However, Alexis Ohanian’s speech resonated with me because he is my age. The difference is that he and Steve Huffman created Reddit the year after they graduated college and are thought leaders at age 30. Needless to say, I’m not quite in the same boat. I can’t tell you a lot about what he said, but what I did like was that he was going around on a bus tour to college campuses telling kids to start thinking and using the resources they have to create.

While 30 years is not comparatively old, it certainly feels like I look at college kids, and those fresh out of college and think, well what the heck are you doing you entitled little….? These (I’m sorry for this) millennials are sitting around and using social media, their iPhones and all these other gadgets, but what are they producing? I think the best part of Ohanian’s message is that he’s telling young adults they have the benefit and resources of all of this technology, don’t just use it; create more with it.

Co-founder of Predictive Science Seven Tedjamulia – The Next Break Through In Marketing Technology
Thank you Steven Tedjamulia for introducing me to an intelligent business man I had never heard of, Thomas Petterfy, during this session. Tedjamulia told this story of how a Hungarian immigrant succeeded at the New York Stock Exchange. Surrounded by Ivy Leaguers, Petterfy wrote the first predictive data program for buying and selling stocks (which now make up a large portion of all stock exchanges). Then he had the social savvy to place attractive blondes on the floor in order to get in front of all the white males and be first to make those transactions. Petterfy is a really interesting character, but Tedjamulia’s point behind the story is that you have to evolve and be part of that change to get ahead. Currently marketing automation is how marketers are evolving and if we don’t listen to our customers, they aren’t going to come to us anymore.

Jennifer Van Heussen of YouTube
Jennifer Van Huessen had my favorite step-by-step list of iSum13. A late but valuable addition to the speaker list for the Online Video:  Creating Awareness & Driving Sales breakout session, Van Huessen gave us sound advice for good video creation and the added benefit of entertaining and heartwarming videos. Here is her advice:

  1. Make boring brilliant – Buckling an airplane seatbelt is probably the most ignored announcement on a flight, yet Virgin America made it fun.
  2. Collaborate don’t brainstorm – Diverse views will give you more creative ideas to work with. Look outside your marketing department; get viewpoints from sales, customer service or anybody who can provide more insight.
  3. Find your subgroup – Tap into a group’s attributes and play to them.
  4. Be the Scorcese of data – Focus on one real person and speak to them. It’s easier to be personable to one person and know their tendencies instead of a million people.
  5. Tap into shared human experience – think about how the Budweiser Clydesdale and Extra gum origami commercials will connect with you on an emotional level.
  6. Remember:  people like to buy things – Diane von Firstenberg held a Google Hangout while talking about her new fashion line. During the Hangout you could purchase the items she mentioned and ask questions. It’s like the modern version of Home Shopping Network.
  7. Help them – They will remember. Google also has a beta version of Google Helpouts, which connects people who want answers to individuals who can help them.

Those were just a few of the more than 100 speakers, panelists and presenters who spoke at Internet Summit 2013. Did you have any favorite speakers or ideas that you came away with? Did you love it or hate it? Share your thought s with us.

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