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Affiliate Summit – Stories and Moments You Don’t Want to Miss

Affiliate Summit is the largest affiliate marketing conference in the world today. With over 5,000 attendees at both Affiliate Summit East (New York) and West (Las Vegas), the event has grown into much more than anyone could have imagined.

Over the past decade plus, Affiliate Summit has gone from a one-day conference (and cruise) in New York City (back in 2003) with under 200 attendees, to the massive conference and event it is today. Along the way, there have been many industry veterans and loyal attendees who have been there from the beginning.

Meet Us at Affiliate Summit

In this roundup, we will hear from many of the entreprenur veterans of Affiliate Summit, their favorite stories, memories and events, which have made it into the amazing and "can't miss" conference it is today.


Zac Johnson (That's me!)

Having been in the industry for 20 years now, I've been able to truly experience the growth of the internet and affiliate marketing first hand. The same is true about Affiliate Summit... I was there back when "Affiliate Force" was cruising around the Carribean (picture below from 2002) and crucial friendships and opportunities were just starting to be made. I was also there for the very first Affiliate Summit event in NY back in 2003 that really made things legitimate.

As for my favorite moment, it's hard to choose just one -- but the one consistent over the years is being able to bring someone with me to experience the event. Usually my Father (Joe) or my wife Reena. 

It would also be silly not to mention all of the business opportunities and new friends that have been a result of the conference as well -- many of which I've reached out to for their thoughts and fondest memories over the years... Enjoy!

Affiliate Summit Greatest Moments from Industry Experts


Shawn Collins - @shawncollins

It's hard for me to narrow down my favorite Affiliate Summit moment because so many times and events were amazing for me over the years. But, I'd say the biggest one was the morning when we had our first event, back in November 2003 at Baruch College in NYC.

We pulled it all together in a pretty short amount of time with the help of industry friends. Missy and I had no money and no idea how to run an event. We managed to get the space free and sold ticket before we had to get money to the caterer. When we got up to the room to set up that morning, I was seriously breathless - I'd taken a vacation day from my "real job", was feeling over my head, and didn't know how it would all work out. Then, a whole bunch of familiar faces started rolling in, and this weight was just lifted off of my shoulders.

It was real and it was happening. I felt so thankful that so many great people supported us in so many ways back then, and it makes my heart feel full that so many are still around all these years later.


Declan Dunn - @declandunn

With so many moments I remember from Affiliate Summits, the 2005 Summit stands out. The first one in Vegas, it was held at the Riviera. The musty smell of old Las Vegas, and the smell of the gamblers, combined with the surrealistic drop off place for syringes in the lobby (true), made the place funky and in its own odd way, was just right for the time.

Affiliate Summit was taking off, with 500 or more people in attendance which seems tiny now. But everyone in that audience was doing well, the business was taking off, search was hot - after a few dryer years post DotCom crash, things were ramping up.

My 2 favorite memories from my 2nd keynote - held early in the morning to a really hungover audience (this ended early morning presentations):

1. Prior to that Summit, a good friend of many, Corey Rudl, passed away. While I knew many in the audience weren't familiar with him, I shared his importance on the industry and asked for a Moment of Loud (instead of slience) for Corey - and the hungover audience roared. Very cool, because a brother in this industry had passed.

2. In this picture, you can barely see my "Internet with Integrity" presentation. For some reason I decided to encourage the industry to move beyond short cuts and black hats, doing business with a bit more integrity. In those early days, you'd know most of the people who went because we were a small network.

Most of the times I spoke, I'd be talking with people for hours after. Not this time - no one approached me. I asked a friend why, and he said it was that "integrity" thing I shared. He was right, a Jerry Maguire moment - my heart was in the right place, but talking to a hungover Vegas crowd of super affiliates about integrity? Not the best topic, but as usual we had fun with friends. That's been a trademark of Affiliate Summits for me, friends making money, which really starts at the top with Missy and Shawn. Even with huge growth, it's still a tight community.


Missy Ward - @missyward

I had been speaking on the topic of blog monetization vis–à–vis affiliate marketing at many blogging-related events during the years leading up to our conference. I would run into a lot of the same bloggers at many of those conferences and ask if they implemented any of the strategies that I spoke about, the last time they were in one of my sessions.

Let’s just say that the take-up rate on the advice I had been providing, left me feeling disappointed, to say the least.

And then something mind-blowing happened.

I had just made the long walk from the hotel to the Affiliate Summit Exhibit Hall (if you were at #ASE13, you know how long of a schlep that was) and was greeted (exuberantly) by two bloggers who had previously sat through a couple of my sessions at other conferences. I was surprised to see them at Affiliate Summit because they’d never attended before, nor had they mentioned to me that they were thinking about attending.

One was jumping up and down excited to show me a copy of her first 4-figure check that she earned from her affiliate marketing efforts. She then told me that she had never made more than $130.00 through affiliate links before and thanked me for everything that I taught her. She was so excited to walk around the expo hall to find more companies to do business with.

The other blogger told me that she hadn’t hit a 4-figure month yet, but she did earn enough to cover her son’s senior trip cost that month and was eager to keep on learning.

Knowing that I helped those two bloggers get started in the right direction with affiliate marketing, left me so re-energized and delighted that I actually Snoopy-danced, right then and there.

Definitely one of my favorite Affiliate Summit moments.


John Chow - @johnchow

During the 2008 Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas, the Rio hotel gave Affilate Summit cofrounder, Shawn Collins, a Segway to buzz around in because he told them his legs were killing him from so much walking.

That awesome bit of customer service led to the first ever Affiliates On Segway event. It was a blast seeing affiliates trying to ride the futuristic people mover. Lucky for me, I've ridden a Segway before and didn't make a fool of myself.


Jim Kukral - @jimkukral

My favorite moment, that I can share publicly, has to be when everyone came up on stage after my keynote with the capes on to support me. I was totally blown away by the gesture from so many amazing friends. This was all put into motion because we were all in an email group together where we called each other Superfriends. This is what Affiliate Summit is all about and what makes it the best conference in the world.


Rachel Honoway - @rachelhonoway

My favorite Affiliate Summit memory was from Orlando in 2006. There was a big group of attendees just hanging around together - it wasn't an official party or a formal networking event... it was just "us".

Brian Littleton pulled up to the piano in the lobby and everyone gathered around. Brian played, we all sang, we laughed and we had a great time just being together. It is a clear picture in my mind that highlights the strong connections we have with each other.

We do great business together, we compete with one another - but at the end of the day, this industry is filled with good, passionate, hardworking people who respect one another. Though that was 10 years ago, the same holds true today!


Syed Balkhi - @syedbalkhi

Every year my favorite moment at Affiliate Summit is the Meet Market where you get to meet face-to-face with companies that you work with. This is a great opportunity to further your relationship and explore new ways to grow your business.


John Rampton - @johnrampton

Coolest Affiliate Summit moment was last year when I was talking to someone I admire. We both realized that they went to my affiliate session 5 years ago and took what I told them and now have a solid six-figure income behind them.

They implemented the strategies and actually did the work. 5 years later they are financially free with a good income behind them.


Jeremy Schoemaker - @shoemoney

When you asked me this question immediately a bunch of things jumped into my head. Winning awards, giving talks, private dinners, the crazy parties?.

If I had to nail it down to one particular moment I will never forget I would say meeting Hulk Hogan at the hostamania booth.


Brian Littleton - @shareasale

I’ll never forget the Affiliate Summit at the Wynn – because ShareASale celebrated our 10-year anniversary with our largest party to date.

To celebrate a milestone that I didn’t even dream of when founding the company, with so many friends who had helped to get us there was really fun and I’ll definitely never forget it!

There have been some pretty good ones such as the Masquerade, Super Heroes v. Super Villains, and the ShareASale Disco – but having everyone around for the anniversary party was special. I wouldn’t have the company that I have today, in ShareASale, without Missy Ward and Shawn Collins – and Affiliate Summit.


Greg Hoffman - @akagorilla

As an introvert, my number one all time favorite Affiliate Summit moment, that did not involve tequila and/or a tattoo parlor in Vegas, was moderating my first session at ASW11. I had never been a public speaker before but I listed this as a career goal on New Year's Eve 2009. The panel I hosted was Inside the Minds of Affiliates with Eric Nagel, Tricia Meyer and Kim Rowley.

That one Summit experience gave me the confidence to speak regularly and helped me build life-long relationships with great people in the industry. There have been many loud breakfast tables and late night adventures in big cities since then with a group of friends I trust and admire.


Adam Riemer - @rollerblader

My favorite moment is a tie. One of my first times speaking, someone challenged me on a topic. I knew the topic well (otherwise I wouldn’t have been speaking on it) but it helped me realize that I was confident enough to be able to explain it differently and back up my argument with facts and data. That helped me to become a more confident speaker. The other big moment for me was when someone I look up to work wise came up to me and told me they don’t ever want to go up against me in the search engines.

Things weren’t tough, but I was stressed out and second guessing myself. Getting this compliment randomly from a well-known and respected industry veteran gave me the boost I needed to continue to do what I do. The thing I love about Affiliate Summit over other shows is that people will challenge you (mostly in a professional manner) and you are there to learn, network and meet the people who have helped grow your business. There are very few egos with the speakers so everyone is approachable. It helped grow my career and made me feel more confident about speaking.

If we had a third runner up, it was when I challenged Brian Littleton about one of his parties. He took the challenge and I showed up in Drag. I also turned it into a marketing campaign that drove backlinks, followers and more important, new affiliates to join my clients’ affiliate programs which resulted in revenue.


Tricia Meyer - @sunshinetricia

I have many favorite Affiliate Summit memories both personally and professionally so I chose one that combined both.

Four years ago I was participating in a panel discussion with my friends Eric Nagel and Todd Farmer about how to create a successful Mastermind Group. We had met randomly through Affiliate Summit years previous to that and had been meeting once a week for a couple of years. Someone in the audience asked if we had ever collaborated in a joint business. We kind of looked around at each other and stumbled for a minute and said that we had been considering an idea just that morning but hadn't hashed it out.

Right in front of the audience we took the plunge and all 3 committed to what would become WineClubGroup.com. I look back and see that as a turning point for me both in our friendships, in my marketing education, and thankfully in my revenue! It would never have happened if not for Affiliate Summit


Geno Prussakov - @eprussakov

I do quite a bit of public speaking globally. However, Affiliate Summit is by far my most-frequently-spoken-at conference (the upcoming show in New York will mark my 15th time of getting up on Affiliate Summit’s stage). Its targetedness can’t be beaten; and in the course of the years, speaking at this great show has yielded all sorts of interesting opportunities for me.

I remember how back in 2010 after speaking about the deadliest 20 affiliate program management mistakes at Affiliate Summit in Las Vegas, I made a deal with a brand new client literally minutes after getting off the stage. Before we handed over the helm of that affiliate program to their newly-hired in-house-based affiliate manager, we made $60,000 in less than a year, and built a successful 4-bar CJ-based affiliate program. So, one speech created a job, profits for us, a strong affiliate program in a very competitive niche and, naturally, earnings for its affiliates and revenue for the client.


Stephan Spencer - @sspencer

My favorite Affiliate Summit moment was attending your panel (you did a great job btw!) and afterwards meeting industry veteran Syed Balkhi who was also on your panel. I invited Syed to be on my podcast Marketing Speak and he said Yes. He doesn’t carry business cards so he had me take a photo of his badge (attached).

My episode with Syed published just this week, in fact. Check it out here. My episode with you, Zac, is still one of my favorites!


Chris Park

When I was asked to reflect on my favorite Affiliate Summit moment, my mind was flooded with fond memories. To be honest, I could list dozens, and I’m going to cheat a bit. While it’s not actually a “moment”, I consider the very first Affiliate Summit and the numerous people I met to not only be my favorite “moment”, but the most influential on my career in affiliate marketing.

At Baruch College in 2003, I was able to put faces with names of some of Blair’s affiliates, and meet several who would become partners soon after the Summit. I met affiliate marketing legends! Jason Wolfe and I chatted during Speed Networking… I walked back to the hotel with Jim Kukral… and had a discussion on the rooftop of the Gramercy Park Hotel with Steve Denton. And when it came time for dinner, I headed to Virgil’s Barbeque with a group that was, and still is, among the cream of the crop in affiliate marketing. That group included Kim Rowley, Marifer Avery, Karen Garcia, Scott Jangro and Mike Jacobs. Prior to that evening, none of us had ever officially met, but we will now forever be known as the “Red Rock 6”!

Curious about the name “Red Rock 6”? Ask me about it at ASE16, and let’s start some new memories!


Kim Rowley - @kimarketing

At the very first Affiliate Summit back in 2003 in New York City, six strangers went out to dinner. I was one of those strangers and am happy to say that I still consider the other five good friends in the industry and in real life: Karen Garcia, Scott Jangro, Chris Park, Marifer Avery and Mike Jacobs. Karen actually wrote a post about my first affiliate friends.

I've been to every East and West Affiliate Summit since that first and walk away with incredible ideas and new networking connections each show, thanks to co-founders of the show Shawn Collins and Missy Ward. My favorite moments of glory are tied between when I won the Affiliate Marketing Legend Pinnacle Award and when I emceed the Affiliate Summit West 2016 Show. Neither would have happened without the people I've met and the knowledge I've learned along the way stemming back to that first Affiliate Summit.


Todd Crawford - @toddcrawford

Having attended every major Affiliate Summit since it first started, I have many, many memorable moments. One of my most memorable moments from Affiliate Summit would have to be the time they did a cruise from NYC to Nova Scotia.

I think there were only a few hundred of us on the ship. It was a captive audience so the networking and socializing was unavoidable - there was no place to hide. Maybe it's my fading memories but back then the industry seemed more intimate and nascent. I felt like I had talked to everyone that attended that cruise - something I have never been able to accomplish since. A part of me misses those days. I've made many life-long friends through Affiliate Summit.


Jay Berkowitz - @jayberkowitz

I read a great book called 'Never Eat Alone' by Keith Ferrazzi. The book explained that a great way to network at conferences was to organize a dinner. So I invited friends, business associates, other speakers, the Affiliate Summit founders Shawn and Missy etc. etc. to Affiliate Summit dinners. We have had amazing guests including: Tim Ferris, author of Four Hour Work Week, Social Media rock stars Chris Brogan and Gary Vaynerchuk and so many more.

The friendships and business relationships that have sprouted from these dinners have lasted for many years. We had an awesome time at those dinners!


Brad Waller - @bradwaller

What is my favorite Affiliate Summit moment? It's so hard to pick.

It could be meeting people like your dad (still one of my favorite connections), being a certain person's wingman during his single days, or the startup time of PMA.

But I think my favorite memory has to be the thump thump thump of Britney Spears from upstairs on the Nova Scotia cruise. It turns out that while a cruise is a great way to network and bond with other attendees, it is a horrible location for a few hundred people to hold a conference. This ship had no good room for the conference, so we got a nightclub room. Not bad, until you find out that the golf simulator was in the back, so people were walking through all day, and the kids club was just upstairs. There was an open staircase and every time they turned up the music it drowned out the speakers.


Andy Rodriguez - @workwithandy

I was invited by Shawn to attend the original 2003 summit.

I knew back then when I witnessed the energy in that room that this would be big, very big. I was still working as the Tiger Direct affiliate manager back then. Soon later I would resign and go all in as the first “OPM” – Haiko De Poel came up with the term and I coined it into the industry, many don’t know that : -)

My favorite moments, ohh so many. I have met thousands of people, built so many relationships and honestly, this industry has shaped my life in many more ways that I can count.

Back in 2005, the Checks Unlimited affiliate manager approached me at Affiliate Summit - that led to an amazing 8 year relationship that skyrocketed Checks Unlimited, ShareASale and my company into the affiliate marketing limelight. I moved the program off BeFree onto Shareasale and we held the #1 spot on ShareASale’s Top 100 Power Rank slot for over 7 years!

Our motto was and still in – work hard and play harder! I wouldn’t be where I am today without Brian Littleton and ShareASale. I think we were the only OPM to run a SAS exclusive agency. As I dug through some pictures, the SAS Orlando party at the piano place, forget the name was a memorable experience, was that fun! The other was at the Vegas super hero party, me and Vanessa really had a chance to unplug and have some fun. Great time, great friends and great memories. I miss the old days ..

I have been and continue to be very blessed in my life. The affiliate marketing industry is a major part of that and affiliate summit has been the catalyst that has made it happen! Huge shout out to Shawn and Missy for having the dream and the vison to make it happen!


Well, that's it for now... Plenty of memories in the books, and plenty more to still be created. Be sure to share this post with your friends and definitely connect with me at the next Affiliate Summit in New York City!

About the Author Zac Johnson

My name is Zac Johnson and I have been an online entrepreneur for the past 18 years and blogger since 2007. This is my personal blog and I welcome you to the site. In full disclosure, it is safe to assume that I am benefiting financially or otherwise from everything you click on, read, or look at while on my website.

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