Ten years ago today I was really nervous. Missy Ward and I were two days away from running our first Affiliate Summit, and we didn’t know what we were doing.
The event, billed as “a one-day workshop for affiliate managers”, was created on a shoestring budget.
Actually, there was no budget. We started with literally no money, and managed to get a free space at Baruch College to hold it – they hooked us up with the room and A/V in exchange for giving some passes to marketing students.
The “staff” for that first Affiliate Summit on November 3, 2003 were all volunteers; I created our crude looking program in Word; and we managed to collect money through registrations and sponsorships before any bills came due.
There was no business plan or even a logo at that time.
The site was an ugly template (one of the few things we spent money on). We manually sent out registration confirmation emails through Outlook, and stuffed all of the bags in a hotel room the night before.
It was all just an idea: we wanted to create an event for the industry to get together to learn and network. A conference that was crafted by affiliate marketers and for affiliate marketers with nothing set in stone. We’d experiment and change things, based on what people wanted and needed.
And we wanted to do it in a more interactive way than we’d seen at other conferences, because we thought industry events were pretty boring.
We got a bunch of friends to speak and charged $75 for a full day of sessions, speed networking (retired a few years later when Affiliate Summit got too big), roundtables (which we still do), and a networking lunch.
That first Affiliate Summit sold out pretty quick, and we were excited.
After we worked out the overhead, we had exactly zero profit, but also zero debt. We were both working full-time jobs outside of the conference, and it was a whole lot of work to break even.
Then again, nothing about our origins was rational. We had no money and we were not event planners. Just a couple marketers with passion.
Ten years later… I guess we had good instincts. Thank you to everybody who has helped build Affiliate Summit over the past decade.