Last week, I attended the financial blogger conference, FinCon, for the fourth time. I started blogging in 2011 and went to my first FinCon (the second time the conference was held, ever) in 2012. At that time, I wasn’t sure if I should even go. Doubt crept in. Who did I think I was, attending a conference? I was anonymous. My friends and family didn’t even know I had a blog. I had zero confidence.
But the voices who lived inside my computer said to go, and I rationalized that it wouldn’t even be very expensive because I could stay with my cousin instead of a hotel room. At the time, I was deeply in debt and blogging my way out of it (which I’m sure contributed to my desire to keep my blogging activities from my friends and family!).
But I went.
It was the best thing I could have done for my confidence as a blogger and, even more important, to turn internet friends into real-life “come visit me” friends.
I met other bloggers. Bloggers who were doing big things. Bloggers who I thought (incorrectly, it turned out) would be too far along in their path to success to have a conversation with me. Attending my first conference made me realize that there’s a huge difference in celebrity vs “famous on the internet” and that the latter category doesn’t want praise. They want to hang out, and meet new people.
My first blog conference was four years ago. In the real world, four years is a short time. But in the blogging world, that’s forever. And I can honestly say I’ve come a long way.
Since my first FinCon, I:
- Started another blog (this one!, my original blog-my-way-out-of-debt blog is Frugal Portland, which I’ve since pivoted to a travel site, though if you dig back far enough, you’ll get to see what I worried about when money was tight)
- Made friends with so many people who live in my computer, including J.D. Roth, who I used to put on a pedestal and now consider a friend and a peer
- Worked as a blog manager for a consulting company, which never would have happened if I didn’t have my own platform
- Partnered with Joe, who I met at my first FinCon, though when we met it felt like we’d known each other all along
- Left my job as a blog manager to focus fulltime on Stacking Benjamins and all the properties within that LLC
- Created an online course about how to leverage Pinterest (registration is now closed) with Anne, which led to the creation of the Pinterest management side of our business, which is the fastest growing arm
- Became part of the FinCon team
Joe, my business partner, has been the MC for the last two FinCons, and every year, we work for weeks on the slides and the jokes and his presentation. We’ve made ourselves part of the FinCon team, and I know, for sure, even though we’re more than a year from FinCon17, we’ll be a big part of it next year as well.
Networking with Sponsors
If you’re interested in monetizing your platform (and since you’re reading this on For-Profit Blogging, I have to assume you are!), there’s no better way to do that than by meeting sponsors in person. Sure, you can kind of show your personality via email, but in order to differentiate yourself, meet people in person, and spend time with the people you like.
Some of my favorite people at FinCon are sponsors that we don’t currently work with. We just really like these people.
It’s easy to forget that sponsors, advertisers, companies you’re affiliated with, etc. are people, but once you see someone in person, and sit down and have a cookie with them (or hey, a beer), you’ll have a better relationship with them, and if you think of some way you can work together, you can email them and they’ll know who you are.
Meeting Internet Friends in Person
I don’t have to tell you: blogging is lonely. You sit behind a screen for who-knows-how-many hours a day, talking to nobody, unless you have pets, and they don’t care what you’re working on, as long as you have a warm spot for them to snuggle up against.
But you’ll meet people at conferences and you’ll instantly connect. I can’t (and won’t!) promise that you’ll love everyone you meet, but you will find a spark with someone. It won’t even matter if you’ve never read their blog! Think about it: if you met someone awesome and they didn’t recognize anything on your name tag (your name, your company, your URL, your Twitter handle, anything) but you enjoyed talking with them? You wouldn’t care that they’ve never heard of you!
That’s how other people are, too. I was nervous at first that somehow there would be a test from other bloggers. But of course, that wasn’t the case.
Bloggers Share What they Know
I’ve heard that this is unique to FinCon, and I don’t have enough data to know whether this is true for other conferences, but the bloggers and podcasters at FinCon have an “unlimited pie” mentality. As in, if one of us figures out a wrinkle about how the internet works, we share it instead of keeping it to ourselves. Which means that when you get a bunch of us in a room, even if it’s outside a normal session, someone is telling you something that worked for them.
And the sessions, by and large, are excellent. If they’re not? Walk out. I had to walk out of one session because it sounded like a high-level conversation about video and it was the opposite. Once he started talking keyboard shortcuts using a video editor, I knew I was in the wrong place. That doesn’t make the session wrong, it just made the session wrong for me.
I attended far fewer sessions this year than I have in years past. There were two reasons for that:
- The production on FinCon is excellent so I know I can see the sessions I missed on my own time (and I do)
- Some of the sessions took away from my focus, and I’m doing my best to avoid shiny objects until we reach our next download goal.
The session I got the most out of was from Mike Vardy, the Productivityist. He talked about creating themes for your days to help cut through the pile of things you have to do. When we get in the weeds, or as Joe calls it, “deer in headlights,” it’s hard to figure out what to do next. Having so many things to do that all carry the same urgency leads to standstill. So, instead of doing all the things every day, give each day a theme. I’m at the end of my first week of theme days and I can already tell that they’re making a difference in my productivity levels. This post, for example, was written on “writing day,” and I didn’t feel like there was something more pressing I should be doing because writing is the priority on writing day. Go figure.
The Main Stage Speakers all Brought Something to the Table
This year, FinCon only had main stage speakers at the end of each day instead of speakers at the beginning and end of each day, and each brought their expertise. Each keynote also had “big ideas,” where someone spoke for ten minutes about that day’s theme. They were like the opening acts for the keynote, and there were amazing gems from people telling us exactly what we needed to hear, like Patrice Washington saying, “Stop chasing shiny objects. It’s tempting to want to do a million things, but you’ll get farther faster by doing one thing a million times.” Or Jeff Rose telling us that the one thing that has made the most impact in his business this year was taking a “free day” in the middle of the week.
Even though the conference was a week ago, we’re already working on both of those things:
- Focusing on one thing (number of downloads per episode of the Stacking Benjamins show) primarily, letting every other good idea go into the “someday” folder on our Google Drive
- Taking a free afternoon on Tuesdays. This one makes me really uncomfortable because I feel like I’m already not working as much as I’d like due to a tiny human demanding attention every few hours. But Joe told me it’s important to take this time, not because I deserve it, but because I don’t. This Tuesday, I went out to lunch with my family, then went on a few fun errands that kept me outside in the sunshine rather than in my home office. I came back on Wednesday, ready to rock.
The Final Keynote Speaker
Noah Kagan, founder of AppSumo and Sumome, was our final speaker, and from the recaps I’ve read, ruffled a fair number of feathers. I can easily see why. His first slide had #imrich at the bottom, and when I saw that, I thought, who does this guy think he is?
But then I realized: he was there to get people fired up. He was not there to make anyone in the audience think he was a good guy, or even someone you’d like to grab a drink with. He posted a picture of himself in front of private jet, telling us that if we become rich like him we can do those things too. He posted a maybe-photoshopped-but-maybe-not screenshot of his bank account, and focused on the 400,000 ultimate rewards points he had. He used the word “coitus” both in his speech, and, amazingly, on the slide. He was crass and rude, and he went over his allotted time by more than 45 minutes.
People walked out, but not in vast numbers. He was captivating in much the same way that a car wreck on the highway is fascinating. I couldn’t look away. He said it’s simple to make a million dollars, and he gave us a list of ways to do that. The final item in that list was to rob Pat Flynn. Noah said, “hey, he publishes his income reports! If you rob him, you’ll be rich!” He handed out scratch-off lottery tickets and $50 dollar bills.
So if you focused on that part, you left the room disgusted. However, if you were able to cut through the noise (and I don’t know how I was, maybe because I expected Noah to come across as a jerk and when he met my expectations I moved on), there were some major takeaways.
My Takeaways from Noah Kagan
- Take your 2017 goal (and if you don’t have a 2017 goal, make one!) and 10X it. What changes if you try for 10X the audience you initially thought? How do you step up?
- If you want to connect with someone you admire, send them a gift with a note. NEVER send a cold email asking to pick someone’s brain over coffee. Instead, send a Starbucks card, tell them you bought them a cup of coffee, and then ask to connect. You’ll be much more memorable to them after that point.
Joe and I are already thinking about what the podcast looks like with 10X our original goal. And holy smokes, that makes it a big podcast. One of the side effects of thinking bigger is letting go of the things you don’t do as well. We already know that we can work with people in other parts of the country (heck, we already do! I’m in Portland, Oregon and Joe’s in Texarkana, Texas!), and we know we’re growing, so we’re talking about getting to the point where the two of us are spending more time on the things we do best and working with excellent people who know the other parts. We’ve already taken bookkeeping off my plate, which is a huge weight off my shoulders.
This post was long, and much more navel gazing than is normal for me, but I honestly can’t stress enough the value in hanging out with “your people” in person. In fact, I feel so strongly about it that I’m in the very early stages of planning something for readers of this blog. I’m thinking about a winter blogging retreat where we get clarity on our goals, we say out loud where we want our blogs to go in the next 12 months, and we work together to reach those goals.
Who’s with me?