How Attending FinCon Made Me $10,000 Dollars or Why You Should Attend Professional Conferences Too
One of the most important pillars to your overall financial picture is your income. One of the most frustrating things about my old job was that it was very difficult to get raises. Part of this was because of The Great Recession the other reason was how I was hired-I was a state employee and raises were handed out grudgingly.
But, over the course of 10 years at my old job I was able to substantially raise my income through increasing my skillsets and connecting with people in my field doing similar tasks. At the time I didn’t understand the power of attending a well-run conference but now I do and I can’t emphasize it enough-you need to go to every professional conference that your job will send you to and attend other conferences that are connected to personal interests outside of work.
What in the heck is FinCon? It is a conference for people connected to all aspects of the financial field. Attendees include: bloggers, FinTech companies, banks, financial advocacy organizations, credit unions, and more.
This will be my 5th FinCon and I’m absolutely thrilled to attend but each year I’ve had a different focus so I thought I would share the trajectory throughout the years.
- Denver 2012-I accidently discover this amazing conference called FinCon that would be in Denver 2 weeks after I found out about it! All of my favorite bloggers would be there and I just had no clue about why I wanted to attend other than to meet my idols…that I basically didn’t talk to because I felt so weird being there. I should also mention that I’m a HUGE extrovert so even extroverts have their shy moments.
- St. Louis 2013-I decide to attend again and I still wasn’t sure what in the heck I was doing there but I had become friends with some bloggers that I connected with in the previous year and I was starting to learn “stuff” so I thought I should go. Also, I had begun toying with the idea of working for myself because I just was so over my job and wanted to try something new…even if I failed at it.
- New Orleans 2014-This one was a no brainer, I’d never been to New Orleans and I had really fallen in love with personal finance, the community, and I was learning SO MUCH information that I was applying to both my personal life and even at my job (which I hadn’t expected) skills were beginning to overlap. I also learned about professional communities and professional growth concepts such as joining a Mastermind Group.
- Charlotte 2015-My first year of self-employment and even though I loved the community and the fun I was vaguely thinking about trying to connect with one or two organizations to work with. I was a part of what has become an extremely successful mastermind group that pushed me professionally and we ended up speaking at conferences in Atlanta and Chicago about the power of a good mastermind group. I was still dealing with Imposter Syndrome but I thought I would finding a couple of clients to work with and I’m glad I did. That conference helped me earn an extra $10,000.
- San Diego 2016-Hasn’t happened yet. I will be attending FinCon16 which will be held from September 22-September 26. I will actually arrive early in order to facilitate meeting with as many people I possibly can so that I can continue to grow my income. No more “imposter syndrome” But, it’s time to get some important stuff (like debt repayment done so that I can solidify my street cred).
Start Attending Professional Conferences!
You will immediately be surrounded by people who can provide you with information about your field, resources, and opportunities for advancement. You will discover if you’re being paid enough for your position, and forge professional ties with people who can help you with questions, concerns, or just provide support when things are great or sh$tty.
Become a part of the organizing committee and expand your skills by running tasks that you’re interested in doing but aren’t able to because of your role in the organization that you currently work for.
I was very interested in marketing my old program but for reasons I don’t want to get into (still a little pissed) I was unable to take on marketing in my previous role. Blogging and support from my mastermind group allowed me to find opportunities outside of my old job to market other businesses, seek out speaking gigs at different conferences, and learn how to market myself.
There are a number of different ways of looking at and tackling the expense of attending a professional conference. First, really consider what your long-term ROI (return on investment) is going to be. Will you learn new skills? Meet a potential new employer? Find a client? Have you even considered how to attract those people to you?
Does your organization offer opportunities to attend conferences but you keep saying “no” even when they will pay? Why aren’t you saying “yes” to free professional development? Will your organization let you earn rewards miles if you fly to a conference or other work-related event? My old organization would let us earn miles which was awesome! They also paid for hotel and a stipend for meals.
If you’re going to a conference that you’re paying out-of-pocket for look into:
- Getting a roommate-most conferences will have some type of form or link connecting people with roommates.
- Use AirBnB-Just make sure that you find an AirBnB that is as close to the event hotel as possible. You will find that many of your best connections will happen late at night (mind out of the gutter please LOL!
- Volunteer-Many conferences will cover your attendance if you’re a part of the planning committee or volunteer for a set number of hours. See if they provide replays of the different sessions so that you don’t miss out because you volunteered.
- Speak-When your favorite conference puts out a call for speakers throw your hat in the ring! I attended two conferences last year as a speaker and attended for free.
- Side-hustle-Use your side-hustle money to fund your trip.
- Collect Your Gift Cards-I have several gift cards that I will use to subsidize my trip. One is for coffee, another will be used for daily expenses like meals, etc.
- Cash Out Your Ibotta Money-Have you reached the payment threshold for your favorite grocery app? If yes, cash it out and deposit it into your trip account.
- Pick Up or Bring Snacks-I try to avoid running out of snacks because hotel snacking is expensive.
- Apply for funding/scholarships/awards-Three of my mastermind group members won full-expenses paid trips to FinCon. Pretty sweet!!!
- Hustle-Need I say more?
What to Bring/What to Wear
I’ve attended between 15-20 professional conferences in very different areas of interest. But, what to bring seems to be pretty consistent.
- Business cards-Bring more than you think you will need. Also, when you receive cards discreetly make notes on them so that you 100% remember how you met that person, what you talked about, and what they do. Having those details written down will take some of the pressure off of you to remember everything
- Throught lozenges-I lost my voice for 3 weeks last year. I am prone to laryngitis but that was that was a pretty spectacular case last year.
- Realistic expectations-A little honest talk…you might not like everyone that you meet and that’s ok and normal. Always be SUPER nice and then just move on kindly when that happens. And, if you’re able to, give people another chance if the initial connection was a little awkward. Conferences can be a little intimidating especially if you’re a little nervous and not sure what to expect.
- A spouse or grandparent-If you’re bringing kiddos (and have a plan to keep them entertained).
- Be You-But, if you’re not sure about the dress code reach out to the organizers for some guidance. If there are social events off premises and you don’t normally dress up…dress up more than you normally would. I’m not talking formal wear but step it up a notch.
- A Shrug/Sweater/Pashmina or a Jacket-Conference roooms are always ridiculously cold. And, if your arms are cold your feet will probably be cold in open toed shoes-just saying.
- A positive attitude-People are usually really excited to be at a conference. If for some reason you’re off your game like I was at Podcast Movement and you can’t rally…take a break from the conference until you can be at your best. Remember, in some cases an interaction can make or break a future opportunitiy-especially if it’s negative.
Any other suggestions on what to bring or wear?
Share in the comments below!
Was what I ended up earning as a direct result of attending FinCon and vaguely wanting to connect with potential clients. Many people will hedge about the expense of attending a conference. I would argue do everything that you can to get yourself in front of people who can help you grow your career, business, or both.
If you’re not self-employed income growth as a result of attending a professional conference could happen as a result of: learning new skills that help bring in more business, create efficiency in workflow in your department, or eliminates wasted dollars. How could this income growth happen? Three ways-you get a raise from your current employer, you are given a bonus (depends on the industry) or, you find a new job that pays more and rewards the new skills that you’ve developed.
I currently consider myself and entrepreneur vs. self-employed which means that I am in the process of growing my own business with a specific focus on passive income. I am in general not looking to work for other people with the exception of growing my freelancing income for the next year until my passive income surpasses it.
Going to a conference like FinCon will get me in front of industry insiders and hopefully I will be able to have substantive conversations that will lead to client connections. However, don’t just go to a conference. Spend some time thinking about what you would like to get out of the conference experience.
Set Goals and Expectations
Last year I lost my voice for 3 weeks after FinCon15. One of my main goals was to connect with as many people as I possibly could at the conference. I wanted to: reconnect with old friends, meet new bloggers, talk to start-up founders, and the amazing team that runs FinCon (thanks Phillip and Friends!)
I am one of the nerds who makes a point of attending as many of the sessions as I possibly can but when opportunities present themselves to connect with people in person I always do.
I have some very specific goals for this conference because I’ve decided that 2016-2017 will be my “breakout” year that also hinges on me paying off my debt. In order to meet both goals I need to earn more. I also would like to support and connect with FinConners who are in their breakout year after many years of hard work! Here is a partial list of both friends and great acquaintances. There are people who haven’t met me yet that I would like to touch base with as well but I don’t want to freak them out so I’m keeping their name off the list LOL!
- Melanie Lockert accomplished author and blogger of Dear Debt
- Tony Rapley who now has her own show on Centric
- Tiffany Aliche (the Budgetnista) who I keep seeing in commercials and runs a $500,000 Financial Community that will surpass $1 million dollars this year.
- Jason Vitug who the best-selling author of You Only Live Once
- Pat Flynn (who I saw at Podcast Movement and told him that this year we would connect twice) *Nope, not creepy LOL!**
I’ve found that there are people who just enjoy attending conferences to get a break from the office. There are people with very specific agendas, and there are people who aren’t sure why the heck they are there.
I would say that I’ve worn all three hats and was still able to get a lot out of almost every conference that I’ve attended. I would say that ultimately, you will get more out of a conference if you at least have a loose plan of attack.
Professional conferences exposes you to dreamers, doers, movers, and shakers. You get one on one time with people who are focused, motivated, and hungry. You also get connected with people who are happy where they are at and it’s great because you get to choose who you would like to be in that moment and there is nothing wrong with that.
For 4 years I had different motivations and focuses. Quite honestly, I had a lot going on in my life and it took awhile to work through all of the mindset related issues that were connected to my money story.
But, at what will be my fifth FinCon I finally feel like I deserve to have a seat at this table….I’ve already brought my chair.