MilBlogging17 was awesome! (Oh, and FinCon17 too.)
MilBlogging is back.
The next conference is 23-25 September 2018 in Orlando, and MIC18 tickets are on sale now. They’ll go fast. At the very least, sign up for the mailing list and learn more over the next few months.
Those of you who’ve been around military social media for a while may remember the original MilBlogging of the early 2000s. The last conference was in 2012. Ticket sales began for 2013, but then the conference was canceled and everyone’s money was refunded. None of the organizers would talk about it. 2013 was going to be my first MilBlogging conference, and I was mightily annoyed that I’d missed my opportunity.
The MilBlogging reboot
In 2016 the owner of The-Military-Guide, Curtez Riggs, mentioned that he was restarting the conference. He bought the domain name and other accounts from the former owner. We may never know what stopped the original gatherings, but USAA immediately stepped up to help sponsor the new Military Influencer conference.
Curtez set a break-even sales goal of 150 tickets. Over 250 entrepreneurs showed up from all types of blogging, military media, and startups. (Nearly half of the attendees were military spouses.) Appropriately, we kicked off the conference the evening before with a social at Honor Courage Commitment’s new Veteran Business Center. I had a chance to talk with their execs, a board member, and a few of the vets who were going through their entrepreneur’s programs. Over 200,000 servicemembers (and their families) transition out of the military every year, and HCC is doing a great job of helping them find their way.
The first official day of MilBlogging ran through eight hours of presentations, seminars, and panels on blogging, building a business, and running a military nonprofit organization. We heard from Emily Nunez Cavness, who somehow kept Sword & Plough going through her entire active-duty career and then returned full-time after completing her service. Jen Pilcher of MilitaryOneClick ran a panel on building your brand. Daniel & Diane Rau of Veterati explained their peer-mentoring model for military veterans and servicemembers. Ellie Kay reprised a new session on representing brands through blogging, social media, and radio/TV. (I saw Ellie’s first version of this talk in 2014, and several members of that audience have built her advice into a six-figure income.) At the end of the day, four veteran entrepreneurs described their experiences on the TV show Shark Tank. (That link opens the video of the presentation.) You could’ve been sitting in that MilBlogging audience to learn what happens behind the scenes.
The second day was another round of presentations and seminars. More importantly: you were sitting with these veterans & entrepreneurs in the audience, talking with them between sessions, and socializing with them over Texas BBQ and adult beverages. They didn’t just parachute in for a keynote and disappear.
Curtez expects to sell at least 400 tickets next year. Better yet, MilBlogging18 is a twofer at the same resort as FinCon18. You’ll get a full week of the conference experience.
FinCon: bigger than ever.
FinCon started out in 2011 with a couple hundred financial bloggers. Six years later it’s grown by nearly an order of magnitude: 1750+ attendees filled the Sheraton Dallas and the adjacent convention center.
This year the keynote speaker was David Bach, and he hung around for the rest of the conference to sign books and record podcasts. (He attracted a large crowd, and he’s fun to listen to.) Darren Rowse of the seminal ProBlogger gave another keynote about the early days of blogging, back when posts were carved out of a block of HTML with dial-up landlines and a 28.8 kbps modem. He also hung around for the rest of the conference and even attended the Plutus Awards ceremony.
They’re celebrities, yet they’re totally approachable. It’s a surreal experience when your elevator doors open to admit one of the global pillars of entrepreneurial blogging, who then introduces himself as though nobody has ever heard of him.
Me (turning my badge toward him): “Good morning, I’m Doug Nordman.”
Darren: “Good morning, Doug, I’m Darren Rowse.”
Me: “Um, yes, I know. I’m looking forward to your talk.”
Darren: “Thank you!”
Our ride ended before it occurred to me that I could deliver an elevator pitch. On the other hand Darren was just enjoying the conference experience. I’m pretty sure that he and David are financially independent, but I don’t think they’ll ever stop doing what they love.
As compelling and entertaining as the keynotes and presentations were, this year I spent a lot more time answering questions than sitting in the audiences. I joined the panel discussion “What’s Wrong With Being On FIRE?” with Tanja of OurNextLife, Gwen of Fiery Millennials, and Scott Trench of Bigger Pockets. Only at FinCon do we congratulate half the panel members on their imminent unemployment (Scott has no reason to quit either) and then talk about real estate.
I heard more compliments about that panel than any other FinCon event I’ve ever done. Either I’m getting better at panels or I was sitting at the All-Stars table. (Hint: it’s not me.) I’m looking forward to next year’s discussions.
I thoroughly enjoyed the traditional FinCon events: the Pro Networking session (speed-dating a dozen companies in two hours), the freelancer’s marketplace (more networking), and blogger mentoring. I attended several niche meetups, including the Millionaire Roundtable and even a group from this year’s Camp Mustache. Please contact me if you’d like more information.
I spent the rest of FinCon doing what *I* love: answering hundreds of questions. Sure, we discussed the finer points of blogging and publishing during one-on-one mentoring sessions. However we also dove deep into the details of reaching “The Number”, market volatility versus portfolio survival, rent versus own, tapping retirement accounts before age 59.5, and the military’s impending Blended Retirement System.
I was hoarse before MilBlogging even ended, let alone before starting FinCon. By Saturday night I was exhausted.
200 business cards barely made it through the week. I did several interviews and a video (I’ll post links when they’re released) and I set up more podcast guest spots. I met an entire battalion of military servicemembers & veterans. We covered a huge range of career & lifestyle questions. Of course a few of us just wanted to talk
oceanography, hydrodynamics, materials science, and kinesthetics surfing.
Thank you to all of you who nominated The-Military-Guide for its second Plutus Award! Ryan Guina of TheMilitaryWallet won the trophy (he’s having a monster year), and the rest of the pack is right behind him. We had a fantastic group of nominees for all of the awards, and you should add a few of these sites to your reading list.
Now it’s time to gear up for MilBlogging18 and FinCon18: 23-25 and 26-29 September in Orlando. Tickets will sell out (especially MilBlogging), the resort lodging will overflow to surrounding AirBnBs, and the prices will just keep going up from now until September.
The MilBlogging VIP and FinCon Pro pass perpetual debates
I answered the Pro pass questions about 82 gazillion times over the last year, so let me review the parameters here (and link to this post for the rest of my life).
You can learn a lot (and have a great time) without buying the VIP pass or the Pro pass. Yet when you spend the extra money, it’s more than just learning: you’re investing in your business. You’ll get additional one-on-one access to more entrepreneurs and corporations. You’ll have even more opportunities for coordinate freelance articles, to partner on projects, and to secure sponsors.
The trip can be relatively expensive when you’re flying to the conferences (let alone from Hawaii), staying a week in the hotel, and going out for meals & drinks. The additional cost of the higher-level passes is a small percentage of your sunk costs, and it offers far more value than its cost.
You can easily do both conferences in a very frugal manner. You can fly on rewards points, have several roommates (at the hotel or an AirBnB), and pack most of your food (especially breakfast). The savings from your frugal skills will easily pay for the higher level of pass.
At the very least, make sure your conference badge includes the video access. All of the sessions are professionally recorded, and afterward you’ll have the passwords. You can review the presentations and the advice as often as you want, and then you can apply them to your own business.
You’ll also gain a sponsor’s perspective on the conferences. They want to connect with motivated writers and creative entrepreneurs. The VIP pass and the Pro pass give them more opportunities to meet them during meals, socials, and other special events. It’s easier for them to mine the names and businesses on the VIP and Pro lists than it is to randomly invite hundreds of prospects.
One of the reasons I was so exhausted by the end of the week was from attending all extra-hours VIP/Pro extra breakfasts, lunches, cocktail hours, and pub crawls. (Pro tip: I don’t even drink alcohol.) Those turned into additional corporate meetings at the Exhibition Hall, several guest posts and podcast appearances, and a very long interview. (I’ll let you know when everything is published.) I also found a couple of new startup investment opportunities and even a very interesting surfing product. This was my fifth consecutive FinCon Pro pass, and I’ve received full value every time. It was my first MilBlogging VIP pass but I’m going to support Curtez’s plans (and say thank you!) every chance I get.
I give all of my writing revenue to military charities, but my marketing at the MilBlogging conference will generate more in royalties (let alone book sales) than the cost of the ticket. The VIP pass opened the door to meet those book buyers.
Here’s a final insight on the VIP and Pro passes. Behavioral financial psychologists have demonstrated many times that we show more commitment when we have to pay for an education. (Who paid for your high-school certificate? And then who paid for your college degree?) If you’re watching a free video series (even from home in your pajamas) then you might show up and complete the sessions. If you’re paying for a presentation, though, then you’ll make sure that your hours of labor (to pay for the tickets) are rewarded by extracting full value from your attendance.
When you buy the VIP pass and the Pro pass, you’re not only investing more in your business and creating more opportunities, but you’ll work harder to turn the investment into greater revenue. That’s the value of the passes.
Take a look at the “Related articles” links for more conference reports from other entrepreneurs. (Pro tip: Wow, look at all those keywords and linkbacks.) I hope to see you next year!
What I Learned From The MilBlogging Conference
What I Learned At The Military Influencers Conference
FinCon17: What The Hell Just Happened?
The Power Of Community At FinCon17
Five Themes Of FinCon17
Five Lessons From The FinCon17 FIRE Panel
#FinCon17 Via Twitter
Nine Game-Changing Blogging Takeaways from FinCon 2017