Shawn Collins is the man who brings the marketers together; he and his partner, Missy Ward, run several conferences on online and affiliate marketing a year, which you can book a slot in at their site Affiliate Summit. Shawn spoke with us about what goes into getting a conference up and running, and how marketing has changed.

How did you first get into affiliate marketing?

In 1997, I was newly married and buying my first house. I was also under-employed and trying to get out from under credit card debt and student loans. I stumbled on the Amazon affiliate program and put together an awful site on AOL about things to do in NYC. It was slow going for a while, but over time I tested things and learned HTML, got my first domain, and many more after that and have been creating affiliate sites ever since then.

You run several conferences each year on affiliate and performance marketing. What goes in to organizing each one?

Some people ask me what I do the rest of the year when the conferences are not going on, but the reality is that each of the big Affiliate Summits have about a year of planning and work involved, and then we’re doing a handful of Performance Marketing Summits this year, which require a good four to six months of advance work. We also put out four issues per year of our magazine, FeedFront, and I’m still an affiliate.

What lessons do you think affiliate marketing teams can learn from each other?

I think it’s essential to study what the competition is doing and constantly gather competitive intelligence. I subscribe to the newsletters of lots of affiliate sites, as well as following them in social media and Google News to keep an eye on innovations and news from them. In the years when I managed affiliate programs, I would apply to the affiliate programs of the competition – I created real sites for their consideration, and when accepted, I would promote them to gather data on how things performed.

What do you wish more people knew about affiliate marketing?

Some people come into it with the perception that it’s a way to get rich quick, and they are inevitably disappointed. It would be great if all new affiliate marketers had realistic expectations and understood that it takes a while to build a brand and an audience, and it’s a grind for a while to make things happen.

What do you see in the future for affiliate marketing?

There is an ongoing shift from browsers to mobile/tablets, and I think that will only accelerate in the coming year or two. Any affiliates that don’t have a mobile responsive site, at a minimum, are going to be struggling down the road.

For more from Shawn, or to get in on the ground floor of the next summit, follow Affiliate Summit on Facebook, Twitter and Google+.