Affiliate Conferences from A to Z: Interview with Shawn Collins

Only few days left before Affiliate Summit East in New York. Thousands of people will gather to share their business cards, learn the last industry trends, and find new business opportunities. On the Eve of the conference, we spoke to industry pioneer, co-founder of Affiliate Summit, Shawn Collins about affiliate marketing events. When it comes to expert opinion, it’s hard to remember someone who is more experienced than Shawn. 

Read on to know

  1. What’s the future of affiliate marketing
  2.  The inner workings of the affiliate event industry
  3.  How to get the maximum from conferences attendance

Affiliate conferences in retrospect

– Experiencing all the changes in affiliate marketing event sphere on yourself, can you remember significant turns in its development?

I started working in affiliate marketing in the late 90s. Looking back, I can say that this industry has changed dramatically. In 2003, when me and my partner Missy Ward made our first event we had to deal with all organizational and marketing issues manually. I remember myself sending  “Thank you for registration” emails at nights, stuffing bags for attendees and making very simple website page that stayed almost the same for several years. And all these things were workable back then.

Affiliate Summit East
With social media burst and internet marketing transformation, organization of AM events became easier and more cost-effective. In the early 2000s, our main promotion channels were print ads and publications, which were pretty expensive. Social media promotion, in its turn, takes less money but more time. You can’t go on top of Linkedin, Facebook, Twitter fast, but your ROI is significantly higher. 
On top of that more things have become automated, so now people can do all the things much faster.

Affiliate conferences trends

Automation seems to be a crucial process changing the rules of the whole industry. How did these changes affect attendees? Have their profiles changed over time?

For sure. We should take into account that the definition of affiliate marketing wasn’t always the same. Over time it has endured significant changes and become much broader. Early on, our main targets were affiliates and affiliate managers. Affiliates were mainly people with some kind of technology background. They knew how to code (at least basic HTML), and some of them could do more complicated things like databases. In general, affiliate marketing was basically about content sites.

Then, with industry development, the term “affiliate marketer” becomes to refer to social media, email and search marketers, different kind of influencers. The audience of affiliate marketing events changes in line with market changes.

– Are they all looking for the same thing? What were their motives for conference attendance back then and now? Education, networking, PR?

In my experience, only a quarter of people who attend conferences pay for access to educational sessions. Networking is a goldmine here. People want to meet with the press, find new partners. Everyone wants to talk about their products and find opportunities for business development. On average, attendees have from 5 to 20 meetings per conference day. That’s why Affiliate Summit Exhibit Hall and the Meet Market are always the hottest spots with a pretty small proportion of people interested exclusively in education. 

networking affiliate marketing events

Tips for affiliate conferences attendees 

– As they say, if your business comes from relationships, relationships should be your business. What would you recommend for affiliates to get the maximum value from attending affiliate marketing conferences?

My key advice is to do advanced work before the event:

  1. Go through the list of attendees and speakers carefully, and decide who you’d like to meet

  2. Do pre-networking and set meetings beforehand. Use the app your conference provides or any social media

    In this way, you’ll have much more opportunities to establish business relations than if you just go blindly with the hope that people you want to meet will be available. There are thousands of attendees out there and the most desired ones usually have their schedules booked long before the event.


  3. Leave some schedule gaps for a chance meeting

    Life is unpredictable. Leave some free time for unpredictable meetings. You never know who you can meet at the elevator or at the bar. So, be prepared.


  4. Don’t rush with follow-ups
    I meet a lot of people who send messy “It was great to meet you” emails right after the event. I don’t think it’s a good strategy. Just because people who you want to reach are usually slammed with thousands of other similar emails when they get back to their offices on the next day.

  5. Be creative
    The one thing that I did for many years and that was extremely effective for me was sending an old-school thank you notes by actual mail. It can be just a small text on a simple thank you card you can get from Amazon or local store. Assuming that you have their correct e-mail address,  you can pretty much expect 100% open rate with your hand-written self-reminders.
  6. Be specific while reaching out
    It can be just 2 lines in your follow-up. A simple “ it was great to meet you and chat about social media/influencers …”. The best way to speak up for yourself is to mention the specific point of the conversation you had at the conference.

Secrets on being a leader in affiliate conferences niche

– Affiliate Summit has kept on being an industry leader for such a very long time. What’s the secret?

I guess it’s because of the special atmosphere and treatment of all the attendees. Back then, my partner and I came to the idea of creating Affiliate Summit because we found all other conferences pretty boring. We wanted to make an alternative which will be more fun, interactive, and user-centric. What we definitely wanted to avoid is this steady corporate atmosphere. That’s why we constantly relied on people’s feedback and adapted our capabilities to their wants and needs. 

RedTrack at Affiliate Summit East 2018

In 2006 we had a Meet Market in Orlando (Florida) at the day of the World Cup finals. Our networking area was empty for hours that day because all the people went to the bar and hotels to watch the finals. If you don’t want to lose your audience, you need to be flexible. Our Las Vegas conference is usually held at the time of NFL playoffs. Each year we put a huge TV at the Meet Market and bars to take away any possible obstacles to Affiliate Summit attendance. 

The future of affiliate marketing

– What can you say about the current state of affiliate marketing industry and where it’s going? Should people take the clickbait forum topics about its quick death seriously?

All these headlines about dying affiliate marketing seem funny to me. I’ve been in the industry for 22 years now, and this kind of articles have been spreading around the internet since the 90s. 

As to my opinion, as long as there’s e-commerce out there, there are no threats to industry development. E-commerce is growing more and more each year and its growth has a positive impact on the industry well-being. The biggest possible threat is an increasing number of stopping blocks caused by changes in different countries legislations. It all started with US CAN-SPAM Act in 2003 – now we have European GDPR, Canadian new anti-spam law. Things like that will undoubtedly affect affiliates who work internationally as they have to adhere their strategies to different local laws.

Don’t miss a chance to meet RedTrack at Affiliate Summit East!

affiliate summit

Message us at to book a meeting!

1. To learn more about Shawn Collins experience read our previous conversation with Shawn: Interview with a proper Texas man and Affiliate Summit Co-founder Shawn Collins

2. To learn more where is the whole affiliate marketing industry is moving, read RedTrack guide on automation 

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