So yes, in May of this year I purchased my conference pass and flight ticket to the Fincon conference that was held in Washington D.C last week. Yup, I flew all the way from Europe to D.C. “just for that” (Ok, I extended my stay in the US with a little vacation as well).
Anyway, I wanted to briefly explain what the conference was about and as well share some of the insights and lessons that could be useful for you too.
If you are a fellow content creator (blogger, YouTuber, podcaster) and wonder if you should attend, the answer is yes, and here are two round-up posts of Fincon2019 recaps (the Dollar Revolution recap and the Wallet hacks recap).
Update 28/09/2019: Here is a short video for those still on the fence of joining their first Fincon! Should you attend Fincon2020?
What is this Fincon thing?
The short version: Comic-con for “Money Nerds”, a place where instead of seeing people in Darth Vader costumes you will find people with the T-shirt of their money website.
The long version: Fincon is a conference where “Money & Media meet” every year, i.e. Personal Finance content producers meet fellow content creators and as well Fintech companies, business journalists, Banking service providers, etc. To give you an idea of the size of the conference, there were 2550 attendees according to the wonderful team of organizers. Seriously those guys rock, I have organized several events at university and/or smaller events for work and I have never seen such a well-oiled machine as Fincon (I have not seen a single hiccup in those 4+ intense days).
The conference lasts 4 days and is jam-packed with networking events, Meet-ups, an impressive number of workshop sessions, panel discussions, parties, there are possibilities to record podcast episodes (which I did), and there is so much more.
If you have been attending or been at a booth at any sort of professional exhibition, you know how exhausting it can be to talk all day with people or potential business partners in general,… and 4+ days in a row with evening activities and a jetlag turned out to be pretty intense :).
Since I have already been exchanging (and sometimes collaborated on guest posts or podcasts for example) with many of the attendees through our social media groups and dedicated app, it was great to meet them in real life. (I will not bore you with I met so-and-so whom I have been chatting with on Twitter or Instagram and it was amaaazing. I have left that for our Social Media groups or discussions on Twitter).
If you consume any English Personal Finance media (from my competitors,….or my friends?😉), many of them are coming from the US so it is only normal that this represents the largest community. I enjoy following and reading from both EU and US perspectives anyway on all sorts of money matters: Budget tips, money management, investing, etc. You could say: “But Jonathan, this is very US-centric why did you travel all the way there to meet Americans who talk about their own specific retirement accounts, student loan debts, banks, and whatnot?” Hold it, Walter, I will get back to that.
This was just a quick intro on what Fincon is, but what is in it for you?
My takeaways from the conference
You can apply these in your career (and in your life in general actually).
- Say YES
You have probably seen this quote from sir Richard Brandson before.
As I said before, all the conference attendees are in social media groups or in the dedicated Fincon app, where we can all interact. This is where plenty of communication happens before the conference even starts.
Some podcasters were, for example, looking for guests to record their show during the conference, I actually signed up for it and sent that same image to them. Experian was also looking for people for quick video sessions and again without much experience with speaking in front of a camera, I said yes.
The Fincon staff was also looking at volunteers throughout the conference and I also gladly helped during the first day (and will volunteer next year too). It was not only fun but as well an excellent way to meet many people at once.
All three experiences turned out positive even if I know I need to work on my interviewing skills, the important thing was to do it.
The application for you is to say yes when opportunities present themselves even if you do not know exactly how to get started. If I can do it, why not you in your respective field? This is not to brag or anything, see this as my encouragement for you to also get out of your comfort zone and learn new skills. Say yes and go for it!
- Read and apply the concepts of the book: How to win friends and influence people.
This book written in 1936 is genius and to this date one of my top 3 book recommendations to anyone. This book deserves a review of its own and I have been applying the principles of the book ever since I have read it (around 2011-2012). It definitely helped me in my career and with relations in general (it will not make you a total expert, but it will help you resonate with people better, trying to understand them, gently avoiding conflict, make people feel important, and genuinely be interested in them).
Here was my version of applying the principles which I posted in our group.
I was happy to hand out those Belgian chocolates and all those who got one loved them.
- Be proactive
This is linked to the first point. It can be daunting to attend an event where you barely know anybody or that you have not yet met in real life (this will become more and more common I suppose: meeting first online and then offline). I would recommend you to prepare well before attending such a unique event. Check out the program, plan the sessions you will attend, contact the people in your niche in advance. Ask questions in the online forums if possible, reach out to people, help the people in your group with your experience (add value as well), since you are part of the group most of them will be more than willing to help you or point to someone else that can.
The application for you is to for example join local meetups or find social media groups (LinkedIn, Facebook, your local Lego User Group,…) in your field or hobby.
- Be frugal with your time, The time is now
Time is a scarce resource and you should use your time wisely. I flew from Europe to Washington, I do not live in the US and this was the single opportunity to meet fellow friends from Twitter, people that inspire me, people that I had collaborated with (Virginia, Pete, Andy Hill, Daniella,…). This time scarcity also pushed me to shoot a few videos and record 2 podcast episodes while I was there. My advice here is to be strategic and plan who you want to meet, what you want to get from the interaction, think business but always remain genuine and respectful. For Fincon, it feels like you are meeting friends that do business more than anything else, so think friends before business. This applies to any sort of networking events, conferences, or exhibition you might attend. If you are sent by your company, they want to hear stories of relationship building with partners. If you are the owner you want to use your time wisely there too. If you are on your own at a networking event, be strategic as well in order to make the best of it.
- People are people
Do not be afraid to speak to anyone, because everyone might be as well as scared as you to approach others. Some high performers in all types of industries or in the entertainment scene are introverts themselves. Your boss’s boss might actually be shy and have communication issues even though he or she is a high performer (I have seen this in my various day jobs).
At the conference, there were some people that had been in the personal finance space for more than 15 years, have built incredible businesses, and achieved tremendous success, but in the end, they are people like you and me. They are people with families, their own issues, their roof to repair, a sick mother at the hospital, etc. Sure, the bigger names might have a busier schedule than you but they are still interested and curious to meet you as well. They will definitely welcome your fresh perspective on topic XYZ, they will be grateful for it and who knows what may come out of that conversation! A great thing at Fincon is that everyone was easily approachable, big name or not.
I know this one might be easier said than done, and I have no specific advice besides just go and talk to anyone. Practice makes perfect as they say, and if you have any tips on how to approach anyone, please leave a comment below!
- Ask for it
Since I am in the launch phase of my podcast, I have asked for people to come on the show. I have asked more seasoned podcasters to come on my show, and guess what their response was: YES! I asked people during the conference to shoot a quick video, they have all said yes. If I had not taken the courage to ask, I would not have had such great content to present to you. (you will also get NO’s, but if you do not ask you will never know, just saying)
So, in your case, there might be opportunities for promotion at work, you know someone that can introduce you to someone at an event that could land you your next job, go build a connection and ask for it. When it comes to promotions, in my 13 years of work, I have never heard of or seen someone being handed a promotion without that person asking for it first, so go and ask for it.
- Be yourself and own it
Just be yourself, be unapologetic of who you are what you stand for. We are all weird in our own way, so just be yourself and live with it. When meeting people at conferences, we want to get acquainted with the persons we have been emailing with, we want to bond with real persons, so be that real person with all your quirks. That is how you can stand out (you can also buy me a drink, I promise I will remember you).
I once said to my manager “We should all be high performers and have more focus on our job”, she told me: “Are you saying we should have more Jonathans?” I replied: “It would be awesome looking at performance but it would be oh so boring for our department.” We need diversity and fun people!
- The US and Europe
To get back to Walter’s comment about going to a “US-centric” conference. He has a point, I am a Belgian non-native English speaker attending a conference in Washington, there are significant differences between European countries and the US of all sorts so why still cross the Atlantic to go to “America!”?
Some major differences in terms of personal finance are the huge student loans, the enormous credit card debt in the US (it is becoming a problem in Europe too), and the lack of universal medical health care. For your info, my tuition fee when I was at uni was around 600 Eur/year (the current price is 900 Eur/year) so peanuts compared to the average US tuition fee (23 000 Eur/year). These are for example topics I have not dealt with here but which have a significant impact on one’s finances.
But then in Europe we also have retirement accounts, we get tax deductions on our mortgages, we have tax-deferred accounts, people overspend on stuff they do not need, they get in too much consumer debt, they compare themselves to their peers, etc. The specifics are different on both continents (and in the various European countries) but people are still struggling with money everywhere. So it definitely makes sense to me to come and meet like-minded Money Nerds to help my readers manage their finances better!
In addition, the openness, guidance, and positive spirit you get at Fincon are just unseen. Although we are technically all competitors, everyone is collaborative, shares experiences, and provide tips on how to grow your blogs, monetize your podcast, start your YT channel, etc. (This makes me wonder: If everyone was as collaborative at my workspace without the corporate politics involved, how would that impact on the bottom line of the company?) There is a lot to learn from the sessions and the people you meet no matter where you are from, so, Walter, it was definitely worth flying those 4000 miles!
…And come on there was a Donut wall at the kick-off party!
Bringing it all together
This first Fincon was a blast and I came back full of inspiration, tons of new friends, and ideas to move on with the blog and my podcast project. One idea that I will implement is, for example, the email launch list for the podcast (I would be thrilled 😃if you joined, so give me a shout and I’ll add you to the list!).
Since I went there on my own, it was also a great opportunity to develop my networking skills and to practice presenting my blog to other content producers and companies (very good exercise). And since I already bought my ticket for Fincon2020, I am curious to hear more networking tips as well to make Fincon 2020 even better! Let me hear your best networking tips in the comments!
A special word for my fellow “Finconners”,
A big, big thank you to the organizers, “PT” and his team, for setting up such a well-organized event. I have rarely seen an event run so flawlessly and offering so much value! It was fantastic from start to end.
and here is a shout out to all I have had the chance to meet (even if it was short, it meant a lot)
- We Travel There
- Kitchen Table Finance
- Michelle Black
- Mapped Out Money
- Josh Overmyer
- A Purple Life
- New Millennial Investor
- Well Behaved Wallet
- I Like To Dabble
- Financial Mechanic
- The Sassy Investor
- The Dragons on FIRE
- The Mastermind Within
- The Fioneers
- Financial Impulse
- The Frugal Fellow
- 90 Day Money Pro
- Be Worth Finance
- Kassandra Dasent
- Blackhawk Financial
- Marriage, Kids and Money
- Do You Even Blog?
- Pop Corn Finance
- Adine Versluis
- Dollar Revolution
- Becky Twenty Free
- Tamara Pflug
- Financial Tortoise
- Lucky Mojito
- Millers on Fire
- Happy Healthy Abundance
- Invest With Teri
- Monica Louie
- Sagi Shrieber
- Fiscally Sound
- The Wealth Warrior
- The Investing Tutor
- J. Money
- I Heart Budgets
- 2 Frugal Dudes
- Man Overseas
- 400 Lbs Elephant
PS: I have probably forgotten some (Ooops), please let me know and I’ll add you 🙂
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