“How I made $200,000 and grew my audience from 50 to 50,000 in 13 months!” and other things I ignored at FinCon 2018

Fin rock

I’m just getting back from FinCon 2018. What a blast!

Some previous posts about FinCon:

FinCon is a financial media conference, bringing together writers and businesses to create better works, promote products, and profit from them.

FinCon 2018

As someone who has a little bit of stake in this business, it feels supremely relevant and important that I be there, whether it’s to meet new people, reconnect with others, learn new skills, or just come away with inspiration and an action plan.

And boy do I have an action plan. I came away with 15 pages of notes and 29 action tasks. (I just counted.) And that’s not counting some wonderful people who offered their time and assistance, and who I have already emailed.

All of that seems like a lot, of course, but it’s standard for anyone who’s ever been to a conference of any sort. “Sleep when you get home,” a colleague once told me. How true.

But for me, this conference was much more manageable than previous ones, and I think this is primarily due as much to what I didn’t do as what I did.

Avoid sessions that are obvious self-promotions

This conference had 7 simultaneous tracks.

FinCon program
I’m overwhelmed just looking at this.

So one couldn’t go to everything anyway. But narrowing down what to attend can be hard.

What I’ve noticed is that there are quite a few sessions with titles like “How to go from 50 to 50,000 users in 5 months” or “How to increase your revenue 1000% in a single year“.

Now, what should be immediately obvious is that no one can guarantee traffic increases or income or page views or anything like that. So a how-to that’s phrased with that level of specifics can only mean one thing: This is about how the presenter did this with his/her business.

I avoided these talks.

This is not to say that their strategies aren’t worthwhile or useful. It’s just that it’s a gamble to go to a session where the suggestions might be an irreproducible result.

It would be like if KISS had a talk called “How renting a loft space at 10 East 23rd Street in Manhattan allowed us to sell 25 million records.” Come on.

KISS
To be clear, KISS was not at FinCon 2018. Source: Wikipedia

Because these talks can’t promise anything other than a single use-case, I’ve got other, more actionable sessions to attend.

READ MORE:  My goals for FinCon 2017

Avoid most conference swag

Holy cow, conference swag has gotten competitive. It used to be that all you could get was a stress ball, a light-up pen, and if you were lucky, a t-shirt.

But at this year’s conference, I saw umbrellas, tote bags, footballs, plastic piggy banks, coffee mugs, backpacks, USB keys, phone stands, webcam covers, t-shirts in every hue, personalized pancakes designed to look like you (not joking), and much more.

FinCon 2018 expo
Swag central

In the past, I availed myself to most of these things.

But let’s be honest: most of it is crap that will just take up space.

(I still have a 3-D printed purple piggy bank from last year, still in the box. I should probably ditch that by now.)

And not only is it mostly garbage, but it takes time. Usually, you can’t just sneak in a grab a handful of whatever. You have to listen to sales pitch of the company offering the swag.

This can suck hours off your life, and waste your finite energy level.

Saving energy is key here, especially social energy. And when I spend a lot of time talking with sales people, I have less energy for everyone else. I picked my battles this time.

Leave sessions

So, you went to a session, and then found it was either boring or irrelevant? Did you stay, perhaps because you felt too awkward or self-conscious to leave in the middle, with everyone watching you?

I’ve been there. But not this year.

I left all sorts of sessions this year, as soon as I realized that it wasn’t the right fit for me. I got so good at leaving that one time I actually left the room before the session started, because I saw how the presenter was and knew I wouldn’t like it.

Do nothing

On the last day of the conference, I walked out into the swamp-like air of Orlando, and just stood there, doing nothing, saying nothing, just still, for maybe 10 minutes.

Fear of missing out is a huge problem at conferences. Everywhere you are, there are many other places you could be, talking to any number of people, making any number of connections. It can seem like even taking time off for lunch is a risk. (“Remember that book Never Eat Alone??”)

But energy is finite. And if you’re planning to stay all day (and even into the evening), you need to pick and choose your battles. Otherwise you’ll get to one of those moments you’ve been waiting for and you won’t have it in you to make it fruitful. You’ll burn out.

READ MORE:  Conferences and community: FinCon 2019 and the Everything Conference

For me, that was being okay with sitting in a corner and missing some of the programming and even some of the conversation.

Now the real work begins

With these things that I didn’t do, I was able to have time and energy to do more of things that mattered.

I still haven’t forgotten my 7th goal of the conference. I’m ready. And I’m so excited to put some of these ideas into practice. Some you’ll see, some you won’t, but they all will ultimately be in the service of you.

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