My experience with the first Financial Blogger Conference
This past weekend has been a whirlwind. On Friday, for the first time I took advantage of using accrued frequent flyer miles to upgrade to first class on Continental. I will write more on that experience later. For now, I want to concentrate on what happened after I arrived in Schaumburg, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago, for the first-ever Financial Blogger Conference.
I’ve never been a big fan of industry conferences. I’ve been to several in a variety of roles, but most often the role is a distant cousin to press: blogger. Bloggers at conferences, even in industries where blogger participation is reputable, there’s a tinge of being a lower-class citizen when compared to members of mainstream media. In that role, I have no editorial assignments, and am just there to stay abreast of the latest financial trends and look for material for the blog and Podcast. This conference, however, focused on information that would be valuable for bloggers specifically — in fact, all bloggers, not just financial bloggers. J.D. Roth from Get Rich Slowly started the conference on the perfect note by discussing why we write, looking past the business and monetary aspects of writing. A panel of experts assembled to discuss building relationships with mainstream media. Other sessions focused on creative ways of earning a living from writing.
The real value of events like these, particularly in an industry where most communication takes place online rather than in person or even on the phone, is getting to meet like-minded individuals and associate faces with names. For me, the highlights have been talking to and sharing ideas with people in the industry I admire, like J.D. Roth (whom I have previously met in person), Farnoosh Torabi (one of the best personal finance writers of my generation), and Tess Vigeland (one of my all-time favorite financial radio voices). The social networking aspect of a conference is often just as important as the informational aspect, and I spent a lot of time talking to other bloggers, meeting many for the first time.
I can’t possibly name the hundreds of people I talked to, but I was excited to meet FMF from Free Money Finance and the anonymous author of Mighty Bargain Hunter, two blogs that Consumerism Commentary has partnered with since the earlier days of the website. Prior to the official start of the conference, the charity event organized by J. Money and Nate St. Pierre Love Drop allowed a large contingent of bloggers to socialize while doing good for Phil’s Friends, an organization helping families of individuals affected by cancer.
The community of financial bloggers is very diverse in topic, personality, age, and just about every other dimension. Some of my favorite conversations were with Mike Piper of Oblivious Investor, Paula Pant of Afford Anything, Paul Puckett (who authored Investiphobia and appeared on an episode of the podcast), and Donna Freedman of MSN and Surviving and Thriving, Kylie Ofiu who came all the way from Australia, and all the folks from Wise Bread.
It as also a great opportunity to learn more about commercial industry products, having had great discussions with Soam Lall from Savings.com and Irene Shubladze of Credit Sesame. The conference also allowed me to discuss a little business with representatives from companies that allow Consumerism Commentary to support itself.
I was luck enough to be invited to a number of interviews, including one for Marketplace Money, the American Public Media radio show hosted by Tess Vigeland. The show should air next weekend. Even if none of my spoken thoughts and comments make the cut, and I almost hope they don’t so I would avoid any embarrassment, it should be an interesting piece about the business and the trust of blogging about personal finance.
I’m happy to say that I was able to recover from the lack of sleep over the weekend. Ramit Sethi from I Will Teach You To Be Rich was the social king, arranging meetings between like-minded individuals and arranging a floor-shaking, eardrum-busting dance party at a local Schaumburg club. After the weekend, I have enormous respect for Philip from PT Money who organized this event from scratch (and from Texas). The organization, flow, and attitude among attendees and exhibitors was more professional than any other conference I’ve attended — and this was just the first year. You’d expect there to be kinks and problems, but if there were any, they were not apparent to me or any of the other participants I’ve spoken with.
What other attendees and presenters have to say about the conference
I don’t normally write about blogging or focus on the blogosphere on Consumerism Commentary, but my participation in this conference warrants an exception. If you liked my thoughts on the conference and are wondering what other people have to say, here are a few articles from other bloggers about the conference for you to read.
- A Gathering of Financial Minds – FinCon11 a Smashing Success! from Cash Money Life
- A Meeting of Minds: Financial Blogger Conference 2011 from Get Rich Slowly
- Moving Beyond Blogging at The Financial Bloggers’ Conference from The Centsible Life
- Financial Blogger Conference 2011: Meeting Up With The Personal Finance Blogosphere from Bible Money Matters
- How Can One Personal Finance Blogger Make So Many Bad Money Decisions? by Miranda Marquit
- Share Your Favorite FinCon Moments and Win $100! by Will Chen from Wise Bread
- The Financial Bloggers Conference Saved This Blog from The Jenny Pincher
- Financial Blogger Conference 2011 – Meeting the PF Blogger World and More from Free From Broke
- Scenes from the Financial Blogger Conference. (Now with more Klingons!) by Donna Freedman
From an emotional perspective, spending time with other creative people has motivated my own creative juices. I have a jolt of motivational energy today. I hope I can make it last long, but I’ve come away from the weekend with a lot of drive to push my business to the next level.
One key, of course, to being successful at networking at a conference like this is maintaining communication as the event fades from short-term memory. This is one of my largest hurdles, and one of the reasons Consumerism Commentary isn’t as successful as it could be. I generally keep to myself, and prefer to work in a solitary environment. I would love to maintain more relationships but I find often myself distracted, particularly when I understand that my primary focus is writing. This is an area I need to improve. I’ve already sent out a few follow-up emails, particularly to people who seemed interested in appearing on the Consumerism Commentary Podcast.
How do you organize and maintain relationships with your colleagues?
Updated June 23, 2016 and originally published October 3, 2011.