Year-end reflections from Toronto local chapter events, Digital Analytics Association

2017, I have been benefited greatly from the digital analytics association(DAA), including the eMetrics and certified web analyst destination, and five local chapter events in Toronto. This post breaks down these events I went to, what are they, how do they help me, and why they matter to me during the career development for a digital analyst.

Being a part of a bigger community


Earlier in my career, maybe 10 years ago, I had a similar feeling surrounded by a group of peers, sharing similar interests – tennis. We achieved great things together – workshops, tournaments, etc.  That experience not only shaped my life-long hobby,  but also gave me an opportunity to meet, work and have fun with a few friends that I am still contacting with now.

Back in 2017, I have a similar feeling – “being a part of something big”, after attending 5 local Toronto chapter events from DAA. 

What is Toronto chapter, DAA

It is a “satellite” organization, affiliated to the mothership (DAA). The primary objective is to host and organize local events, providing an opportunity for professionals like myself to learn industry knowledge, and get to know my peers across the industry.  As of Dec 2017 there are 15 local chapters in North America.

The structure is fairly common, compared to the university alumni network and other professional association. What set it apart for me, is a combination of my strong interest, and dedication of its leadership.

The Toronto chapter put up at least 7 events spread out the year, and I was involved 5 of them.  It usually starts with a networking session, followed by a keynote presentation and Q&A.  Sometimes a panel section is added as well. Topics and keynotes include:

  • Organic search – how to deal with “not provided” keyword
  • Artificial Intelligence in marketing
  • Digital Analytics in an agile environment
  • Programmatic media buying
  • Personalization of website leveraging a data management platform

What is interesting to me is it’s heavily leaning towards digital marketing, while the “hands-on” analytics piece is barely touched on. It could be a miss, or “intentional” due to the audience interest – I am not quite sure.


Photo from the last event – personalization


Jim Stern

Photo from the event in June – AI in marketing

How I interact with it

I first heard about DAA from a MarketMotive webinar from Avinash. In this post, I wrote in greater detail about this not-for-profit organization.

Fast forward to the beginning of 2017, I got an opportunity to attend my first ever local chapter event. The 5-hour drive between London and Toronto was a big hurdle, luckily I managed to find a colleague to be my co-pilot.  Unexpectedly, this large upfront time investment forced me to make the most of the event, including:

  • Research on the topic in advance
  • Taking notes and solicit action follow up items
  • Interact with key stakeholders before and after the keynote.
  • Volunteering

I am not sure if I would cherish them as much as I did, if I actually live in the center of the universe – downtown Toronto.

Volunteering matters

After attending 3 events, I am getting comfortable and starting to volunteer in the community as well. Selfishly, I hoped to get more value out of my time invested, at the same time I know a healthy community needs every member to contribute, instead of just showing up and take value out of it.

With the encouragement of the chapter leader, I started to draft and review the email communication sent out to over 600+ active members. This experience took me out of my comfort zone, as the work itself has almost nothing to do with numbers, but it also helped me greatly.

Email marketing is still an essential part of digital marketing. Playing in the creative role pushed me to appreciate more on the opposite side of numbers and analytics.  Writing a professional grade email is hard – significantly harder than look at its open rate, click thru rate and judge it by the number.


I officially learn the word of “networking” when pursuing my MBA program a few years ago. It is not my thing, and I used to struggle a lot. However I didn’t feel any awkward participating in the networking activities in the community events in DAA this year. Inside out I am feeling confident, and genuinely interested in others. The inspiration and learning from the interactions outweigh the formal keynote presentation. There are two reasons contributed to this mindset shift:

  • Common Theme: Digital analytics is the common theme of the conversation, or at least it is how I perceived. The participants of the networking are usually self-filtered – they are either practitioners or prospects. Finding a topic becomes much easier, as digital analytics sits nicely in the intersection between digital marketing, and analytics and business intelligence.
  • Q&A format: Growing up as the student asking the most questions in the classroom, curiosity is my second nature. I am still asking stupid questions making others or myself embarrassed from time to time. However in the context of these community events, I don’t care as much I used to, and my networking counterpart seems to be more tolerant. My own theory is the even stupid genuine questions won’t hurt others’ feeling.


I’d like to close this post with a few the self-imposed Q&A.

What is the most valuable lesson learned?

The people I have met for sure. The feeling of sharing inspiration and passion with peers will last a long long time.

Besides the people, I have learned the concept of DMP (Data Management Platform), and its implication toward personalization. This concept is likely to have a tangible impact on my day to day job very soon.

The most surprising – a LinkedIn post goes viral

Taking pictures from the event and posting them on social media is a purely self-reflection initiative. It has ended up with surprising results:


The last one I posted on LinkedIn, generated 1700+ views and 19 “likes”. Most of the “likes” are from people I didn’t know. In other words, it went “viral” in my own professional network.  It is almost 10 times view than an average post I have shared on LinkedIn. I believe a better-edited photo and more selective hashtag played a big role.

What is my plan for 2018?

My plan is to attend 4 events in 2018, giving me one per quarter on average.  Continue writing emails and promoting on social media is expected as well. Lastly, I hope I can play a bigger role in the scheduled symposium in Toronto.

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