Let’s just get this out of the way right off the bat—The Chicago Digital Media Summit was great. Where most conferences seem to just be ads for whatever company employs the presenter, I left many of the workshops and sessions with new, valuable, actionable insights.

The other factor that worked to its advantage was the organization of workshops and sessions. Not surprisingly, they were set up in blocks where you could typically choose from 3-5 different topics. Attendees could cover different topics while also drilling down into a topic like SEO over multiple presentations throughout the day due to some excellent planning and fantastic guests.


Having a Game Plan

If you attend a large conference you need to have a game plan. My goal was to learn as much as possible while being able to take insights that were out of my wheelhouse back to other teams at Envisionit. We’re always pushing our teams to work towards client goals holistically so any new info/tactics that I could provide to help this was another benefit.

The Chicago DMS made this all easy. The choice of topics was perfect for expanding your knowledge around areas you might already be an expert it. The “Bridging Silos Between SEO, UX, and Content” session hit the nail on the head here. While not boring experts of any one of the three overarching topics, there was great discussion around how one affects another, and the compounding benefit of aligned efforts.


Highlights and Surprises

SEO of Today
“SEO of Today: What Really Moves the Needle” was one of three options for the AM workshop which kicked off Wednesday. This was the best of all of the sessions as there was a ton of takeaways for attendees of all levels. The presenter, Hannah McNaughton, asked for a quick raise of hands for attendees to show how knowledgeable they were over 6-7 SEO topics. After realizing it was a pretty advanced crowd she changed up the presentation on the spot. Besides being an impressive skill to alter a presentation like that, it was extremely helpful for all of the attendees.

Hannah drilled much farther into specific SEO topics and questions from the crowd came much more easily because of it. It became a helpful discussion and she was adept at reining in overly specific questions that may have been better asked 1on1 after the presentation while delivering an answer that addressed the topic for everyone. Keeping up with Google algorithm changes, common SEO technical issues, and some killer SEO tools were all things I walked out feeling much more adept with.

Behavioral Science
“Everyday Behavioral Science for Better Conversion Optimization” takes home the award for “most fun” workshop. The presenter, Brian Massey, was by far the best and funniest entertainer of all the sessions that I attended. He was part Bill Nye, part comedian, and part dad-joke extraordinaire. This session didn’t just have everyone laughing though, there was substantive, and frankly fascinating discussion around behavioral sciences and how they relate to simple everyday choices that users make on the path to conversion.

One of the best examples revolved around product reviews. He spoke about how his young son, who was building a computer, was already taking into account the number of product reviews, not just the average rating. His son had chosen a 4-star computer part with 250 reviews over the 5-star part with only 10 reviews. He went on to discuss how the best landing pages are built and why, from a behavioral science perspective, users can be so fickle and easily thrown off the path to conversion.

There were two separate sessions revolving around Amazon and it was amazing how few people attended. The first session was a basic overview of why Amazon is a channel that marketers can no longer avoid (DUH!) and a general overview of what is available to brands. If you’re looking for a basic, but super helpful guide, check out our article detailing an overview of Amazon Marketing Services.

While the first session hardly scratched the surface, the second provided some great insights into how brands can take advantage of the little analytics data they can get out of the black box otherwise known as Amazon. The speaker also provided a ton of good information about the differences for brands on the account type and fulfillment side of things and how to take advantage.

2nd Day Keynote Q&A
This Q&A interviewed Lauren Wirtzer Seawood. I’m not sure if anyone has a cooler career path than Lauren as she started with Def Jam Records in the late 90’s, worked for Beyonce, and is now the Head of Music Partnerships at Instagram. Even if you’re not that into music you have to admit how awesome that is.

Lauren was refreshing because she was so down to Earth. You can tell that she speaks to the world’s biggest artists in a way they probably don’t get very often. Her career stories spoke volumes on hard work, and she preaches authenticity even for those people who might not be the most PG friendly…Cardi B was her example.


To Go Or Not To Go

Go, learn, have fun. The Chicago DMS is exactly what a digital media summit should be without a lot of the riff-raff and injected advertisements. The organizers clearly care about the speakers and topics, making them relevant and actionable. There is plenty of time to network and run ideas past industry leading experts. One word of advice, buy one of the “plus” passes that allow you entry into the extended workshops on the first day, it’s well worth it.

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