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Last week the Shareasale Think Tank 2011 was held in very rainy Chicago. This was the third Think Tank event that I have attended and I really think they keep getting better.
The conference took place at the lovely Westin River North home of the Heavenly Bed. It was pretty centrally located and within easy walking distance of the Clark/Lake Orange Line Train. It was also a very short cab ride away from Chicago Union Station, which was super convenient because I took an Amtrak train from Dearborn, Michigan to Chicago.
Just a note on the train: what a great way to travel! I upgraded to Business class which got me a bigger seat, more room to spread out, a free beverage and newspaper, as well as priority boarding in Chicago. Completely worth it. Why did I take the train? I didn’t particularly want to deal with the hassle of flying and while it is an easy drive, I would have had to pay close to $50 a day to park my car in the city. Not worth it. A special shout out to my train riding buddy Eric Nagel, who really went all out with an overnight train ride from Buffalo.
Think Tank opened on Wednesday night with the Epic OPM event. Held at the Epic Nightclub there were 13 tables hosted by OPMs (Outsourced Program Managers). Each table was a tasting station with an appetizer or dessert to try, as well as a chance to network with the OPMs and learn more about the affiliate programs that they manage. I really liked this format, because at my first Think Tank I knew no one and it would have been nice to have a mission to accomplish. Epic also has a rooftop lounge that was available to us, but with thunderstorm all I got was the chance to peek outside.
The next morning opened with breakfast and then it was time to get to work. There were two back to back sessions, with 3 choices to choose from. I choose to go to the Deepdish Datafeeds session and the Whiteboarding session. Both were filled with good information and little tidbits that I picked up. Then there was a short smoothie break and another session. There was a session for Affiliates and one for Merchants. Affiliates got a walkthrough of the new Affiliate interface in Shareasale that just went live yesterday. I’m really looking forward to using it, especially the new Basket feature.
The afternoon was filled with one on one meetings with merchants. I met with 7 merchants, some I am currently working with and others that are new. There were about 50 merchants there this time, the most I have ever seen at a Think Tank. It was nice to see the variety there. One change I would have liked to see was the merchants placed into categories when choosing who to speak to, but I did get to check out a number of new products when I was researching who I wanted to meet with.
The evening was free for doing whatever you wanted. I went out for dinner with Jen Goode and Trisha Fawver to Lou Malnati’s for some Chicago deep dish pizza. I know there is some debate about who makes the best but I don’t want to get in the middle of that. Instead I will just say Yum!
The next morning was breakfast and the Things We Need to Fix session with Brian Littleton. I love how open he is to hearing any kind of feedback about his company. This year was an abbreviated session though because we had to board some double decker buses to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs play. We got to watch the game from 3639 Wrigley Rooftop and that was a very fun experience. Which is good cause the Cubs didn’t score until the 9th inning and ended up losing.
Once back at the hotel it was time for me to pack, because I had an early train ride in the morning. I’m already looking forward to the next Think Tank.
One of the things I love most about Shareasale is how available the people that work there are. Several of the employee