We’re heading over to the Internet Summit this afternoon to fill our brains with digital knowledge. And as has become typical for the two-day event that attracts around 2,000 people from throughout the Southeast annually, there are five or more things going on at any given time, making the event a bit difficult to navigate.

We all want to make the most of that time out of the office—sitting in a boring panel discussion or a too-technical talk is out of the question.
So below, check out some highlights for startup founders and entrepreneurs from me, a journalist, along with a quick guide to what our digital marketing guy, Eric Weireter, will be checking out. Journalists tend to be interested in the higher level, contextual stuff. And marketers want real tactics to try out. We hope to give you a mix of both.
The conference kicks off after lunch today, with keynote speakers bookending the day and parties ending it. We’ll briefly overview the keynotes, as they can give higher level context to break out sessions throughout the two days. Wednesday is first…check it out:

Keynote: Jason Miller, LinkedIn 

His job at LinkedIn Marketing Solutions is to help marketers get the most out of their investment and time on the business networking site. Think those posts you see people publish all the time in your news feed, or, that buzz word “content marketing.” He’s even written a book on the subject, “Welcome to the Funnel”. He previously led content and social media efforts at Marketo, as well as music marketing efforts at Sony. He speaks from 1:15-2:30 Wednesday.

SEO Like its 2015: 8 Major Google Changes You Should Know About

Here’s Eric’s pick for the first breakout session. Presenting is NYU Professor and Author Matthew Capala, who also happens to serve as president of Alphametric, a growth and SEO consulting firm. Here’s what Eric has to say about the session: 

It seems that Google changes its search algorithm every single day of the year. While many of these changes are minor, they all affect search results in significant ways. A SEO refresher is always a good choice so that you can stay in front of Google as it evolves at a light speed and quite possibly work with (not against!) the constantly evolving Google changes.

Driving Growth Through Lean Innovation

I’ll be checking out this session by Eric Morrow, a Triangle resident who writes books on lean startup and digital marketing and teaches and creates curriculum for the New York-based startup and tech education company General Assembly. I visited the original General Assembly, a pioneer of the startup campus concept, several years ago in New York City and was impressed by the big vision for opening campuses and offering courses around the world. That has happened, and in lightning fast speed. I expect his talk to be pretty fascinating considering the growth, and Morrow’s varied experiences.

Why Services Are Eating the Universe

Eric doesn’t yet have a pick for the next round of breakouts, but I’ll likely head to this talk by Triangle resident Tyler Shields. Shields is an analyst for mobile, application and IoT security for Forrester Research as well as a coach for Kenan-Flagler Business School’s New Ventures Program. He has experience in all aspects of mobile product design and development, as well as business strategy and M&A. 

Venture capitalist Marc Andreessen famously said “Software is eating the universe,” and while Shields believes that is true, he has a new mantra that products are no more and service-based models are the new way of doing business. Here’s a blog post he published earlier this month on the topic.

No One Cares About Your Content…Yet

In the last set of breakouts for the day, Eric is looking forward to this talk by Salesforce user experience designer Cliff Seal, an Atlanta-based user experience engineer who has also started his own online media companies and does frequent speaking engagements around the world.  Here’s why Eric is interested:

Books, blogs, white papers, redundant clickbait on social media, inboxes full of irrelevant information. We’re all inundated with unhelpful, inapt content every day. This session will have you applying one modest question: How do we make people care?

Roundtable: Startup Metrics: What Investors Want to See 

A trio of investors who have made big bets on Triangle startups are heading up this panel discussion about the most important numbers startup founders should be focused on in order to attract investors. Jonathan Drillings of Comcast Ventures led a $5 million round in Windsor Circle last year. Ian Sigalow’s Greycroft Partners is an investor in Netsertive and Validic. And Holly Maloney of North Bridge Growth Equity led a $25 million investment in digital textile printing company Spoonflower in August. It’ll be cool to hear case studies from the Triangle and beyond during this discussion.

Keynote: Rand Fishkin, Moz 

Expect a big dose of SEO knowledge from this keynote address by Seattle native and Wizard of Moz Rand Fishkin. Fishkin founded Moz as an SEO consulting company in 2007 after writing a book on SEO and becoming an expert on the subject. As the company evolved to creating software for analyzing data to lead to better SEO, he’s become a national speaker and coach. He’s spoken and coached teams from Google, Facebook and Microsoft, as well as startups at Y Combinator and Stanford University. He also founded Inbound.org. 
Sidenote: He wears the same yellow Pumas to every speaking engagement. Don’t miss the feet.

Thursday line-up

No Country for Old Men—How Hyper Connectivity is Changing Everything

Eric’s looking forward to a morning session with Nick Worth, chief marketing officer of Selligent, a Belgian CRM software company now expanding to the United States. Worth previously founded an interactive digital agency that was acquired by WPP. Here’s Eric’s take:

With intelligent homes, virtual reality and non-linear customer journeys, the pace of change in our digital world is tenacious. It’s a digital reality marketers need to embrace and understand or risk being left behind by the sheer pace of digital transformation. I love a good talk about the future of technology and marketing… count me in!

Roundtable: Smart Hiring & Building a Culture of Success

Venture capitalist David Jones of the local Bull City Venture Partners sits on a panel with the CEO of iStrategyLabs, Peter Corbett, and Asheville startup founder Meg Ragland, whose Plum Print makes it easy for parents to make books and digital libraries of their kids’ artwork. They’ll talk about strategies to find and keep the best talent—from co-founders to executives to general team members. 

Roundtable: Investment Trends and Venture Capital Outlook

You’ve all heard about North Carolina’s banner year for venture capital investing, but here’s a look forward at what it all means for 2016 and beyond. Speakers include Jed Carlson, CEO of AdWerx, a fast-growing Durham AdTech startup targeting the real estate industry; Jake Colognesi of Boston-based Volition Capital; Robert Glazer, founder and managing director of Acceleration Partners, which has helped grow the revenue of copmanies like ModCloth, eBay, Warby Parker and The Honest Company; and Eric Koester, managing director of the Washington D.C. chapter of the angel network NextGen Angels who previously founded Zaarly and Main Street Genome. 

Startup Spotlight: Scot Wingo of ChannelAdvisor

One of the Triangle’s best recent startup success stories is ChannelAdvisor, an e-commerce solutions company that founder Scot Wingo built up over 12 years before filing an IPO in 2013. Wingo recently stepped down from his post as CEO to focus on his role as executive chairman and a chief strategist for the company. He’s also an angel investor and investor in Cary-based Cofounders Capital. He’s also heavily involved in a mobile car washing startup called Spiffy. 
We’re a bit biased since Wingo writes guest columns for ExitEvent, but his talk is bound to be insightful for founders at any stage of their company and marketers intrigued by the changing world of retail.

How to Make Email Awesome

Eric’s pick for the last session before lunch is a talk by Litmus vice president of marketing Justine Jordan, who has been named an email marketing thought leader of the year by the industry. She cut her teeth as a designer at ExactTarget. Here’s why Eric is anticipating this one:

Subscribers have grown increasingly less patient for the influx of same-old, same-old emails they receive. Justine vows to share how to create awesome emails that stand out in the inbox, including responsive design, behavioral triggers, video, animated GIFS and providing a look at where email is headed. Hopefully she shares some things marketing teams with modest budgets can implement too…

Changing the Game with Regulation A+ Equity Crowdfunding

In a historic move by the SEC, rules were finally published last month to allow equity crowdfunding by the masses. But any time there are rules involved in a financial transaction, understanding is required. I’m hoping to learn more about recently approved rules from Justin Belleme, the Asheville-based co-founder and trainer at JB Media Institute. He promises to go over the new rules, explain any confusing language, discuss the various leading crowdfunding platforms and the projects most suited for a campaign.

Keynote: Russell Simmons, Def Jam Records, Unirush, GlobalGrind.com etc.

Russell Simmons is a legend in the hip hop music world for helping to bring the genre into the mainstream. But in recent years he’s merged his interest in the entertainment with entrepreneurship, starting new music, film, technology, fashion, gaming and financial businesses all with some element of social or cultural impact in mind. In 2013, he launched a digital marketing agency called Narrative, so he’ll presumably talk about that experience at a conference very much dedicated to the topic. But expect to hear some great insights about the collisions of his various worlds over his last four decades in business.

All Things Happy: A Holistic Approach to Data-Driven Customer Engagement

This promises to be a cool look at how two fast-growing Triangle companies are collaborating to help both businesses. Speakers include Moon and Lola President Jeff Hutto and Windsor Circle’s vice president of client success Emma Battle, and they’ll share how Windsor’s retention marketing platform has helped the Raleigh jewelry maker famous for its use of monograms increase its email open and click through rates exponentially.

Roundtable: Early Stage Fundraising Strategies

Here’s a trio of investors with focus on the Triangle region: Dave Neal of The Startup Factory accelerator and seed fund, Jason Caplain of Bull City Venture Partners and Bobby Ocampo, a venture capitalist with DC-based Revolution, instigator of the Rise of the Rest tour that hit the Triangle earlier this year. They’ll talk about tried and true, as well as new, tools for raising seed capital. A good hit for anyone early into starting a company, or readying for a first raise.

Beyond the #Hashtag

Eric’s final session features Twitter’s brand strategist for the East Coast Ryan Oliver. The Atlanta resident has spent several years with Twitter, previously serving as an advisor to GE’s chief marketing officer and working in sales at the global conglomerate. Here’s what Eric has to say about Oliver’s presentation:

This will be a good session to learn about some recent campaigns that have helped brands maximize their digital dollars, along with how they are leveraging new Twitter products like consumer video, Twitter cards and Vine influencers. Who says you can’t steal a few ideas from the corporate conglomerates and implement them into your marketing plan?

Roundtable: Founder War Stories

While I’ve heard Justin Miller of Raleigh-based WedPics share his story before, he always seems to have something new to share about his journey building a photo sharing product used by brides globally. I expect him to share some details of the building of a new product called Photo as well. He’s joined by the Washington D.C.-based founder of Contactually, Zvi Band. He’s super active in the D.C. startup community, serving as a General Assembly educator, a mentor at the 1776 startup campus and the Acceleprise Fund. He started the DC Tech Meetup and Proudly Made in DC movement. Contactually also has a local connection—it’s a portfolio company of Bull City Venture Partners.

The final panelist is Allen Gannett of another D.C. startup called TrackMaven. Late in 2014, the former venture capitalist raised a $14 million Series B from national firms like NEA, Bowery Capital and Silicon Valley Bank. His software helps digital marketers find, optimize and track marketing opportunities.

Keynote: Chris Brogan, Winning in the Choose Your Own Adventure Economy

Chris Brogan is a New York Times bestselling author and journalist on a variety of platforms who has made a career off the digital economy. He also started a company called Owner Media Group to sell online action plans and projects to help entrepreneurs and business owners grow their businesses. He’s likely to tell us how to take advantage of trends toward marketing to niche audiences with the right message and at the right time. 

Keynote: Beverly Jackson, MGM Resorts International

She previously ran social media and marketing efforts at the GRAMMY Awards and Yahoo but now Beverly Jackson is focused on social media, multi-channel content production and storytelling at the Las Vegas-based company that owns casino-resorts and residential communities around the world. I hope to hear the story behind the hashtag she uses to describe herself, #formermeangirl. Here’s a hint—the Internet Summit titles her talk, “How Social Media Helped Me Become a Better Person and Better Marketer.”
One note about the parties after tomorrow’s conference—Take your “Humpty Dance” off the wedding dance floor and into the company of the man who created it. Thursday night’s entertainment includes a concert by none other than Shock G, otherwise known as “Humpty Hump” and creator of the dance that just never seems to die.