Recap: Internet Summit 2018

It’s that time of year again! The Internet Summit in Raleigh just wrapped up and, as always, was a great experience. Seth Godin returned as the keynote speaker, and the biggest takeaways this year seemed to be the rise of video and voice technology.


Godin’s keynote was largely a Q&A session, much like he did last year. For those who attend the event each year I was hoping for something a bit different, but Godin is always a joy to listen to. A large part of his message is that successful marketing requires ignoring the masses and focusing on a very specific audience.


My Favorite Sessions

My favorite sessions were those that addressed workflow. The first was about alternative agile frameworks, presented by Andrew Fryrear of Agile Sherpas. Andrew discussed the core practices of Kanban and how hybrid forms of agile, such as Scrumban, can be beneficial to marketing teams.

The other session I enjoyed was presented by Juan Parra of Accelo. Juan discussed automating workflows to scale effectively and get more of your day back to do more of the work you love.

Other Takeaways

Being the leader doesn't always mean being first

My kids received hop balls for Christmas. They've been on them non-stop, racing all around the house and arguing over who gets to be the leader.

During one of these arguments I told them: “Being the leader doesn't always mean being first.”

I got some blank stares from my kids on that one, but it got me thinking about what leadership is. I am currently in my first official management role in my professional career and, though it's not my first time leading others, transitioning into this role was still a huge adjustment. So what makes a leader a leader?

Leadership – the action of leading a group of people or an organization – has many different meanings to many different people. To some, it means always controlling the conversation and dictating direction. To others, it's being completely hands-off (sometimes to the point of nonexistence) to avoid interfering or getting in the way. And in the case of my children, being the leader means being first in line and winning the race. 

When it comes down to it, leadership is a very personal thing. Your leadership style depends on your own unique, innate tendencies. One can be in a leadership position yet still not be a very successful leader. The opposite is also true. The key differentiator (in my opinion) is awareness and empathy. 

Empathy is defined as "the ability to understand and share the feelings of another." Without it, you probably fall into the realm of being the type of leader who controls and dictates; however, just being empathic in and of itself is not enough. To be a truly impactful leader, you must have the ability to:

  1. Listen

  2. Support

  3. Empower

  4. Protect

Sure, there's always those pesky tasks and benchmarks to meet and blah blah blah. But what actually gets those tasks done and meets those benchmarks are... (wait for it...) PEOPLE! Makes some sense, right? 


There's almost nothing worse than not being heard. Everyone wants to be heard! A leader who does more listening than talking will cultivate a culture of connection and trust. Trust is a the foundation of a positive work environment. And a positive environment where employees can trust and be trusted means happy employees who churn out work they feel good about. (At least that's the dream.)


Find out what your team needs from you by asking the question, "What can I do to help you be successful?" This opens up communication, gives them the opportunity to provide feedback and suggestions, and (most importantly) builds trust. It may be "I need a decision on x,y,z," but it could also be something like, "I would appreciate fewer meetings," or "I really need your backing on this." But here's the catch: don't let their feedback fall on deaf ears! Pay attention, follow through, and be the support system they need. If you listen to and advocate for the team, the team will be inspired to perform well.


A good leader not only listens to ideas and feedback, but is also acutely aware of the individual interests, talents and goals of each team member. What excites each of them? What type of work makes them light up? Do they have unique interests or a particular skillset they want to build on? Try to find ways to help them do more of that. When individual talents are recognized and nurtured, you end up with people who are happy to come to work. The best leaders I've had were able to recognize things in me that sometimes I didn't even recognize myself, and they empowered me to further develop those strengths.


My job as a leader and project manager is to keep in mind our priorities, resources, business objectives, and current obligations. And to meet those goals, a team has to have the space to get there. It's easy to get into the habit of putting out the most recent fire first, but that just pushes all the other [more important] work that much further down the line. Sometimes it's work that the team shouldn't even be doing in the first place. It can be a tough balancing act at times, but saying "no" in order to protect the team's time – and ultimately the strategic goals and priorities – is sometimes essential.

Recap: Internet Summit 2017

The Internet Summit is in Raleigh every November and, with it being in my backyard, I have attend four out of the last five events. 

Here's what I learned at #ISUM17.

Please don't stop the music

One of my favorite things about the Internet Summit is the music. In the past I remember there being a dedicated DJ for each ballroom throughout the course of the summit. This year, however, I wondered if they had cut back on the DJs and music. I didn't notice a DJ presence in between sessions, and I hadn't seen my favorite local DJ from the previous summits, DJ K Stones. Turns out she was there after all. Just – more music, please. Thank you and that is all.

Recap: WPCampus 2016

Last week I attended the inaugural WPCampus event in Sarasota, Florida, a Wordpress conference with a focus on higher education. The conference was hosted by the University of Florida, and the campus was absolutely beautiful! Palm trees, hammocks... 

The highlight of the conference, for me, was the session called "We Don’t Need No Education: Web Governance Through On-Demand Online Training," presented by Shelley Keith, director of digital communications at the University of Mary Washington in Fredericksburg, Virginia.

Through listening sessions and content audits, Shelley developed a great case for web governance:

  • 77% said the web was influential in college search
  • 97% said web was the most reliable resource for researching colleges

  • 94% indicated a preference for the school website over the facebook page

  • Approximately 75% of new, off-campus traffic does not come through the homepage

  • Content not focused on audience, hindering readability and findability

  • Content difficult to find, IA problems

  • Content off-brand, painting an inconsistent and inaccurate picture

  • Content not written for the web

Her team then developed formal online training courses for their "site stewards." 

Quizzes at the end of each lesson ensure that the person in training actually learned the material. (Only those with an 80% score can move on to the next lesson.)

Shelley has made documentation available on a public Facebook group called Web Governance Through On-Demand Online Training and you can also check out her slides on LinkedIn

That time I saw Gary Vaynerchuk and didn't say hi


When I heard that Gary Vaynerchuk was coming to the Internet Summit in 2013 as the keynote speaker, I went to our VP of Marketing right away and told him that I had to be there. Fortunately he agreed and signed us up to go. 

Gary gave a great keynote, and after his talk, he stood off to the side of the stage, talking and taking photos with attendees. I was tempted to walk over and say hello, but I chickened out. Instead, I tweeted at him and he responded.

Who the hell is Gary Vaynerchuk?

If you don't know who Gary Vaynerchuk is and you're into business, marketing, self-awareness, and a lot of cussing, you need to check him out right away. (His 2011 Inc 500 keynote, below, is a great place to start.) His energy, mindset and marketing prowess are second to none.

Check him out on YouTube, Twitter, Instagram.

Recap: Internet Summit 2015

Pre-conference Workshop

UX Strategies: Lean & Mean

This was my first time attending the pre-conference workshops at the Internet Summit, and it was 100% worth it! The workshop I chose was called "UX Strategies: Lean & Mean."

This 4-hour workshop led us through a UX process for a hypothetical new library, and we worked together to complete the following statements:

  1. This site is for...

  2. Who need...

  3. Unlike...

  4. We are...

  5. We provide...

"This site is for..." helps identify the target customer. 

"Who needs a..." is to identify features of the library.

"Unlike..." helps to identify the competition. What are the target customer's alternative options? 

"We are a..." helps to define the business. 

"We provide..." helps to define the heart of the business. What are the emotional benefits? In the case of our library, the answers included "connection," "learning," "imagination" and "inspiration." These make great selling points and also help to define the brand.

At the end of the workshop, this is how we defined the library: "."

We also received a nifty certificate of completion.

The rest of the Internet Summit