FinCon17: What the hell just happened?
FinCon is the type of conference where, afterward, you ask yourself what the hell just took place. You're in a daze, flooded with ideas, overwhelmed with meeting new people and places. But, you'd do it again - in a heartbeat.
I was overwhelmed the first day. As a natural introvert (as most of us tend to be), all that conversing the day that my wife and I got there (Wednesday) sent me into a tailspin. In fact, it was the very first time that people actually recognized me - rather than the other way around. Kinda cool.
How I did FinCon17
Before we even arrived, I read through countless "How To"-type articles about making the best of FinCon. And, we're all going for a different reason. Some of us are there purely to network. Others are there to network as well as take in some of the sessions that look interesting. Many were there purely to pick the brains of us "thought leaders" in the world of personal finance.
For me, I went to FinCon primarily to network with other bloggers and finally meet face-to-face with those whom I've only met virtually - through social media and our respective blogs. I attended sessions that seemed interesting and learned a great deal in most of them.
Contrary to the advice I received that the sessions were relatively meaningless, I got value out of many of them. I learned new tips and techniques about blogging and running a successful social media presence. I got to pick the brain of those who already do what I'm looking to do. The instant interaction I got was absolutely fantastic.
I have a ton of ideas for new and improved content for 2018.
Pro tip for FinCon: Be yourself.
I maintained my own schedule during the entire event. While many of my fellow bloggers experienced the jumpin' Dallas nightlife, I was in bed by 10:30 or 11:00 every night. I didn't do the 2 am drinking sessions. It's just not my style.
I love you guys and want to hang out, but I'm also not 18 (erm...21) anymore.
The one exception was the last night - after the costume party, we crashed at Our Next Life's after party for a while and didn't mosey back to our hotel room until around 1:30 am Sunday morning. Cause...last night. Why not?
Also, if you need a nap or some quiet time during the conference, just take it. Don't feel like you NEED to be around everybody 100% of the time. You'll burn out. Your voice will die and you'll live on cough drops for a while!
Among the first bloggers I met were Route To Retire, ESI Money and Retirement Manifesto. Seriously cool hombres. Heard a report that Fritz schooled an Uber driver about the hows and whys of investing on the way from (and to) a bar, but wasn't around to validate that particular report!
I also wore both Andy Hill's and Route To Retire's jackets on the way to restaurants (different days!) because I had gracefully neglected to bring mine. Made me feel much more badass than I already am.
I also discovered that Chris from Keep Thrifty has an excellent podcast voice and would make a fantastic host.
Oh, and Wealth Well Done is a hell of a guy, too, with an amazing story. There's a guest post coming soon about his journey through prison and how he used that experience to prepare for early retirement.
The value from FinCon
Much like anything else, you get out of FinCon what you put into it. If you go expecting to have a good time, you probably will. Even for an introvert like me, it was very easy to converse with other bloggers. When in doubt, stick with Fritz. He's the life of the party and won't lead you astray.
The instant friendship is amazing. Conversations will typically start out with the societally-accepted greeting of "How ya doing?", but that's where the platitudes generally end. We all know each other's stories. All that's left for us to do is meet face-to-face, and FinCon is a perfect opportunity to make that happen.
There was incredible value in chatting with other bloggers about what they are doing. Some have a plan to write books. Or start podcasts. Or launch a new training series. And, you're there to offer support, guidance or, hell, even involvement. Business opportunities floated around the Sheraton hotel like sneeze-inducing pollen on a warm spring day.
I met a couple of folks who aren't bloggers at all. No podcast. No book. They were at FinCon to learn from personal finance folks. To soak in as much knowledge and experience as they could. To me, that was incredible. Putting yourself in the position to surround yourself with finance nerds - when you may not yet be one yourself, is an amazing thought.
I'm not sure if I would have done something like that if I wasn't a blogger. I'd be too intimidated.
My favorite session, by far, was from Cait Flanders who talked about how to write Rockstar content. Cait, who works tirelessly to curate so many of our industry's best content for RockstarFinance.com, shared her process for choosing among the wide variety of blog posts out there. Things she looks for. How to submit content suggestions. And, what probably WON'T get your content featured on Rockstar.
If you're a blogger, the value proposition in her session was huge. It was standing room only for that session, and for good reason.
I learned that there is some serious energy inside this community.
One thing I wish FinCon had: Hot coffee in the session area every day. There was cold water, but in an environment that's already darn close to freezing, cold water doesn't have the same appeal that hot coffee does!
How to make FinCon useful
I have three primary tips to making FinCon as useful as possible if you do attend one of these conferences. Yes, it can get overwhelming.
Be yourself and do your own thing - This includes the schedule that you keep (like I mentioned above), but it also means just doing whatever you feel like doing. Don't feel like attending sessions means you're losing out on potential networking opportunities. FinCon is over a 4-day span, and there will always be an opportunity to network. If a session looks interesting, attend it. Ask questions. Stay focused on improving yourself and getting the most out of what you spent good money (or points!) to attend.
If you need a break, take one - Whatever you do, don't feel like you need to be around the crowd every second of the day. There's a lot of noise at these conferences. Tons of people milling about. Lots of talking. Commotion. If you feel like you need a break or a nap, freakin' take one. Honestly, chances are that nobody will even know that you've left because there are so many other people around for folks to talk with. Take care of yourself first.
Think quality over quantity - It's easy to want to talk to as many people as you can. Or, go to dinner with different folks every night instead of the same ones. My strategy was different. I focused on building quality relationships with fewer people rather than more surface-level relationships with a greater number of people. I did this with folks like Route To Retire, I Dream of Fire and Life Zemplified and thoroughly enjoyed every minute of it.
Bonus tip: Don't over-think this stuff - You are there to have fun, so do it. Have fun. Talk if you want. Roam around if you'd rather. You don't need some hard-and-fast plan when you attend FinCon. Just go and let things happen as they may. Very often, you'll get pulled into conversations, sessions or dinners (aka: beer and food). It's cool - that's what this is all about.
Oh, and for the costume party, I went as the Mad FIentist. Best. Costume. Ever. Okay, second only to "Jim $" - you had to be there. :)
BTW - in case you're wondering, FinCon18 will be in Orlando, FL. :)
Did you go to FinCon17? If so, any tips that I missed for making this crazy exciting event the best it can be?