So you put on a conference, and manage to land a great number of A-list speakers, albeit some were doing it as a “favor” and others wanted to be able to write off a trip to Miami, but well-known pseudo celebrity speakers in the industry.  The conference – Interactivity Digital in South Beach Miami – actually took place in May earlier this year, so it’s quite a feat to manage to piss off nearly every speaker there months after the fact.  But that is precisely what Gary Henderson decided to do when Interactivity Digital created a video titled “Shit Digital Marketers Say”, which took bits and pieces of presentations, COMPLETELY out of context, to make all those speakers sound like arrogant assholes.  Definitely a great way to say how much you appreciated them making your conference a success.

The subtitle was just as horrible – “The Men of South Beach #ID2013”, which raises the question of what the hell did he have planned for the video of the women status conference? I shudder to imagine.

So what are some of the gems they decided to pull out to make these speakers look like complete egotistical douches?  Here is a sampling. angry_300x2252

Rand Fishkin: “I visit Silicon Valley quite a bit”

Marty Weintraub: “We’re hiring, Duluth is amazing”

Simon Heseltine: “I teach at Georgetown University”

Bill Hunt: “Do we suck less or do we suck more than our competitors?”

Peter Shankman “How many of you have ever been in a relationship.  Like offline, like an actual physical relationship with a person?”

I could go on, but you can watch it in all its cringeworthy goodness here.

Now, at the time of the event, and they did a blog post with 25 different tips from all the same speakers that they are now making look ridiculous. So definitely wasn’t like they didn’t have some great content to pick and choose from, these speakers had some kick ass quotes, but they decide to put out things that make them look like assholes?  Smart move.   If he actually did the video with these kickass quotes, he would have gotten a ton of views and a ton of shares, but no, he went for pissing off (and on) the speakers instead.

Simon Heseltine was the first person to point out the video (you must be friends with Simon to view it unfortunately and at 125 comments and counting, it was too long to post multiple screen shots here) and the horrible impression it gave when he said “So you manage to get a bunch of good industry speakers to your first show. You did a good job, we did a good job. Now you trash us with a disrespectful, taken out of context video and article. It’s a good job you’ve cancelled your follow up show or I would have pulled out of speaking at it today.”  And it didn’t take long for people to call out the conference and Gary who actually made some responses to the controversy.  You know how they say you can calm a social media storm with great comments?  Obviously his company doesn’t follow that social media practice based on his responses.

So after Gary Henderson ruffled all those feathers, did he grovel and apologize to those speakers he pissed off?  Pffft, of course not.  He bitched about the people complaining instead.

Gary Henderson decided to send a private message to at least one of those complainers, Miranda Miller, and told her “Stop being a drama queen and find something worthwhile to do.”  Sorry Gary, the drama queen certainly isn’t the person standing up for what’s right, its the person who insists nothing was wrong.

Yep, definitely the way to smooth those ruffled feathers, when she was simply standing up for what she saw was the total mistreatment of her friends by this guy who deemed her a drama queen.   He also chided her – in a public thread about the video – “You don’t talk bad about people you don’t know in public.  People make mistakes, apologize to the person they upset and delete the post.  Let it be.”  My bad, wasn’t that essentially what he was doing in his video, making all those speakers look like douches?

Good thing he cancelled his big party at Pubcon.  He cancelled his next conference that was set for December (not surprisingly, he stated he only sold 6 tickets) and then cancelled the Pubcon party.  Although I know that if the party was still going on, everyone who matters would rather pay for drinks in the bar than the open bar promised at their party.

A public apology for the wrong impression the video gave, and groveling to those offended would have gone a long way to repairing relationships and smoothing out those feathers.  But instead he decided to berate those who had an issue with it when a heartfelt “my bad, we screwed up” would have worked wonders and we all would move on to the next SEO scandal and I wouldn’t have bothered writing about it.  And enough industry professionals who were in the original video would have held it up as “sometimes we get bad ideas, here is what one company did and how they made it right”, instead of us talking about how he made it worse.

By seobitch

Seobitch is a pen name for a well known female expert in the SEO industry that most of you likely already follow. She has more than a dozen years experience and is a very respected expert in the field. Seobitch can be controversial but writes about issues that most people are afraid to talk about due to their employers, clients or friends. She also loves to tackle industry issues from a different point of view than what you normally see the "complainers" of the industry complaining about. She is also open to suggestions for future topics you would like to see the SEObitch tackle.

41 thoughts on “How #ID2013 managed to piss off all their industry speakers”
  1. We immediately apologized to those we offended, we are working on a proper video (the one we should of published in the first place) that will publish this week with an official formal apology from the team member that published it. I have also privately apologized to the speaker that reached out to me and was offended. This was handled in a proper manner. It was a huge misunderstanding and a miserable fail at trying to be funny. Huge mistake and we are doing what we can to make it right.

    Gary Henderson

  2. It was all supposed to be in good fun, apparently some people just don’t have a sense of humor.

  3. I haven’t seen the video, but the quotes your posting seem pretty harmless to me, just saying. You get angry about everything pretty easily it seems, but I guess then you’d have nothing to write about.

  4. I’m all for putting some kind of satire together as long as those involved are aware it is happening and get to see it before things go like. Gary just took the liberty with it without question though and that’s NOT ok.

  5. At best, what hopefully Gary and team took away from this that they somehow failed to grasp before is that, to quote the forgettable Mr. Boehner, “this isn’t some damn game.” Despite everyone’s happy-go-lucky exterior and the informality of the industry we work in, you’ve got some pretty serious and pretty successful people coming down there to do you the favor of speaking uncompensated at your event. Fun is fun and there are a ton of “joke” panels and events to draw on in the old memory bank from our industry. But I’m not quite sure why Rand, Simon, and other in-demand speakers portrayed in the video should think it amusing to make them look like pompous douches without you running the exercise by them first. (P.S. Don’t always assume everyone *does* have a sense of humor: rule #386 of business… I make that mistake often…) And it was not a serious disagreement about any particular principle, which we should all support (vigorous debate), but more of a “let’s make them look silly for no apparent reason” exercise. C’mon. R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

  6. Lol by the comment on here looks like Gary is FINALLY seeing the error of his ways, too bad it took him this long and enough of it to be out in the public light to make him want to apologize. “Oh actions have consequences?!?! And if I don’t own up to my mistakes and just poke bears with sticks I’m going to get torn apart in front of everyone. Well let me just NOW issue an apology!”

      1. That was not the screenshot of the chat. There were more than 150 comments of people upset and unhappy with how you handled not only the post, the video, but your comments in Facebook and online afterwards.

        I would strongly suggest you NOT post that screenshot, but do not post this one as though it is representative of what occurred.

  7. Hopfully Gary learned his lesson and others will think better of making a similar mistake in the future.

  8. I want to go on record also that this was handled within 3 minutes of Simon Heseltine notifying me. You can see the screenshot of the Facebook chat here:

    Once again I am sorry, I apologized for my staff members error and removed the post within 3 minutes of being notified of Simon’s dissatisfaction and have continued to apologize since then. My team member made a mistake. I failed to properly read and approve and it has created a huge mess. All I can do is apologize and show our speakers in the right light.


    1. My apologies the screen moved and I posted in the wrong place.. here is my comment

      hat was not the screenshot of the chat. There were more than 150 comments of people upset and unhappy with how you handled not only the post, the video, but your comments in Facebook and online afterwards.

      I would strongly suggest you NOT post that screenshot, but do not post this one as though it is representative of what occurred.

    2. I feel bad for Gary. Entrepreneurs live life on the edge of what’s acceptable. I’ll admit I would have run it by the speakers before launching something like that in the first place, but who knows maybe there’s a chance one of the staff got excited and published it.

      I don’t know anyone in this story, but I feel bad for all involved. Trust is such a hard thing to get and an easy thing to lose.

  9. It’s about time Gary had some backlash. This is probably the smallest mistake he has made during the life of his career. I was unfortunate enough to work for this disgrace of a man for a short period of time, and I witnessed not only unethical business practices, but immoral office behavior, too. Many legal charges have been made against this man, but he somehow manages to keep them hush hush by settling and paying out. I hope this isn’t the end of the backlash for him. He deserves anything negative that comes his way.

  10. This is a classic case of Gary not taking credit for his own mistakes. The employee who made the video wasn’t even at the conference and would never been able to make the video without Gary’s permission. Gary is not pleasant to work for and has a 99% employee turnover rate. Not many employees stay longer than a few months either because Gary sexually harasses them or he treats them like shit. And he does have charges against him.

  11. Both ex-employees are 100% correct. Finally the karma train is starting to leave the station.

    1. Finally his actions catch up to him. Try and find a positive reference from any client he’s ever had. Or employee. Glad to see Karma catch up to him!

  12. Both above ex-employees are 100% correct. Glad to see the karma train is finally leaving the station.

  13. This post is based on a private post from my Facebook wall. I was upset with the video, it wasn’t funny, and wasn’t even presented as such. Gary took it down within minutes and sent an apology.

    I considered that the end of it.

    As this post states there are over 120 comments on that post, but about 60 of them are from much later, were off topic and nothing to do with the actual issue, which had been resolved earlier on.

    Could Gary have handled it better, probably. This experience will help him to better understand what to do next time, and I think Andrew Goodman’s comments above should serve as a great reminder.

    As for the anonymous ex-employee’s above: If there was mistreatment, then that’s between you and his company and the courts, should it get to that stage. I don’t think this is the appropriate forum for anonymous accusations however true they may or may not be.

  14. Not that anyone needs to pile on at this point, as I think people are pretty spot on about Gary, but it’s nice to know that others in the industry are beginning to catch on to the unbridled unprofessionalism that many unsuspecting marketers (something like 50-60 people in the past few years) have experienced first-hand. Passing the buck, not knowing when to back down and not showing people respect are a few of his MANY fatal flaws which are comically on display here.

  15. Maybe it’s time for everyone here to move on. =) No sense beating a dead horse, apology has been issued, whatever karma is in store for who is likely in the works. Chalk it up to bad judgment.

  16. It’s a shame, because I for one really enjoyed the conference. The point about some speakers taking the trip for a write of is probably true, but as a new marketer, it sure worked out to my advantage. Getting a few of them a little shnockered and then asking very specific questions they probably wouldn’t normally answer proved very beneficial in helping me avoid some mistakes in my own career even just in the last few months.

    Sadly, I have to back up the note of unprofessional behavior from ID’s head man. I tried to talk to him and a few others from the company during the event – at one point he was so hammered he told me the “ass-load of money” he was personally making for the event. Not something someone from a fledgling and money strapped start-up should hear…especially in that context.

    Again, the event was great, and it was a pretty rockstar list of speakers – I would have loved a “best of” video to share with my team instead of the pseudo comedy.

  17. Having lived in the same area as Gary Henderson for years, and knowing dozens of people who have worked for him… I, too, (like the 3+ people commenting before me) can attest to his douchebaggery.

  18. I don’t personally know Gary, but I do know that everyone has their own sense of humor and as soon as he realized that even one individual was offended, he was respectful and took down the content. I’m sure not one of us can truly say we are perfect. Who are we to judge others when every single one of us has offended at least one person in our lives? He apologized in a respectful way and Simon Heseltine said: ” I was upset with the video, it wasn’t funny, and wasn’t even presented as such. Gary took it down within minutes and sent an apology.

    I considered that the end of it. ”

    It would be appropriate if Gary didn’t continue to be badgered for something he has apologized for.

  19. Calling anyone a douche-bag publicly is not only childish, it’s harassing behavior. The pot calling the kettle black.

    1. You’re right. Douche-bag is not a nice word. But, it’s the first word to come to mind when you think of him and his actions. I worked with him in the past, unfortunately. I really don’t have anything nice to say about him. I can’t believe he is still up to these shenanigans. Don’t feel bad for him. He’s had MORE than enough time to change his ways. But he continues to be a D-bag. I, too, am very glad that he is not only viewed as a local D-bag, but now a nationally acclaimed D-bag.

  20. Hi, i was a speaker at this ID2013 event this year. I haven’t seen the video so unfortunately I can’t comment on that. However, I don’t condone character assassination by anonymous comment trolls either. Common guys lets take the high road here.

  21. No one should apologize for calling the guy a douchebag because he is a HUGE douchebag. He’s crooked to the point of criminal and has a shit reputation. Why would anyone take the high road here? He wouldn’t. It’s time this snake was exposed for what he is. Don’t let bad men off the hook when they finally show their true colors. It’s not character assassination its the truth. He committed character suicide long ago.

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