FinCon18

Finances and Flamingos: 10 Takeaways from FinCon18

As most of you probably know, FinCon18 wrapped up last week after 4 jam-packed days.

This was our first time attending FinCon, but even so, we found it to be an extremely valuable step in our professional development and in building our business.

Even though everyone and their mom will be releasing articles with their thoughts about FinCon this week, we thought it would be valuable to add our two cents to the community.

After all, everyone had different experiences and has different takeaways, right?

So, without further ado, here are 10 takeaways from our experiences at FinCon18.

It’s Important to Have a Plan Going In

We had read that it’s important to have a plan going into FinCon because there is so much to do and see, but we had no idea how valuable that advice would be until we got there.

We spent hours in the weeks leading up to FinCon18 discussing, planning, and scheduling our time, and even then, we struggled to get everything done.

In fact, even with a plan we didn’t accomplish everything we wanted to. With that being said, having a plan helped us to prioritize what we really needed/wanted and helped us make better decisions. If we hadn’t had that plan, the invariable choices we had to make would have happened on the fly and we wouldn’t have been able to maximize our experience.

Of course, your plan will differ depending on your goals and level of experience, but for those attending their first FinCon we recommend doing the following before attending:

  1. Design and Order Business Cards – If you don’t already have them, get yourself some business cards before attending FinCon. We handed out between 50 and 75 cards, most of which were to brands and others interested in partnering with us. You can easily design and order 500 cards from Vista Print for $9.99.
  2. Design a Media Kit – A media kit is a 1-2 page document that gives a snapshot of your business. Think of it like a business resume. It should include the logo, brief information about you and your business, some key statistics, and services you offer (i.e. sponsored posts, sidebar ads, etc.).
  3. Conference Schedule – The schedule for the conference is available both online and on the FinCon app before you go, so you can see exactly what will be offered. We went through and picked which sessions we wanted to attend, as well as which events. We were able to plan and prioritize without missing anything we deemed critical.

Even though the plan will change, as ours did, it’s important to determine your priorities going in to make sure you don’t miss anything critical and to get the most out of the experience.

Pace Yourself and Be Flexible

Even though it’s important to have a plan in place, it’s equally important to pace yourself and be flexible once you’re there.

First, you WILL NOT be able to attend every single thing that happens while at FinCon. While it’s tempting, there is no sense in making yourself sick staying up until the wee hours, only to get up and attend a session at dawn.

As such, we went in knowing we would need to pace ourselves and purposely skipped several events to allow time to decompress and rest.

While we had pre-planned to pace ourselves to some extent, all the planning in the world can’t predict illness, fatigue, side conversations, and any other outside variables that can and will easily bump you off your carefully scheduled course.

Even knowing this going in, we could not predict how tired we would be after changing time zones or being on our feet all day, and our schedule had to adjust to compensate for that.

It’s not the end of the world if you miss a few things, so don’t make yourself anxious or sick trying to.

Meeting in Person Beats Social Media

Being the social media guru of the duo, I’ve (Tawnya) had the opportunity to “meet” many wonderful and supportive bloggers over the last 6 months or so. But, at the end of the day these interactions are virtual, and they don’t feel the same as meeting someone face-to-face.

With that in mind, one of the major takeaways from FinCon18 was that it’s much better to meet other people in person than on social media.

This idea holds true for both other bloggers and brands. In person, you’re able to really show who you are as an individual and have back and forth interactions that just aren’t the same online.

The human aspect is especially important when meeting brand representatives, as they can see and hear the passion you exude.

We’re both people-people, and so it was nice for me to finally meet so many of the people I’d been interacting with online and for Sebastian to meet those who have been so supportive of us since the beginning.

Prepare to Spend Some Money

For a conference about money, and with so many frugality experts, FinCon18 was surprisingly expensive.

Luckily, our expenses were greatly reduced by using miles and points for our hotels and flights. We were also awarded a scholarship by Rockstar Finance, which took away the cost of the conference.

However, if we had not had those expenses wiped out the cost of attending this conference would have been several thousand dollars in just hotel, flights, and registration fees.

As it was, we spent several hundred on food, a rental car, and much to our chagrin, $18 a day to park at the resort (it was the same cost whether you were staying there or driving in).

Anytime you attend a conference you have a dilemma: stay at the hosting resort/hotel but rely on public transportation/Uber/Lyft or stay off-site and rent a car. We both chose to stay off-site and rent, but parking was a hard pill to swallow.

Long story short, even if you use points/miles to reduce costs, prepare and budget for spending several hundred (at least) when you attend FinCon.

Set Up Meetings with People You Want to Meet BEFORE the Conference

One major takeaway from FinCon18 was that it’s extremely difficult to set up meetings on the fly.

We had multiple times where I was tweeting people trying to find them while onsite or trying to set up a meal/drink get-together, and these attempts largely failed.

For one, people were not typically checking their Twitter or other social media while at the conference events. Then, by the time they did there was typically such a delay that people had either moved on or were engaged with something else.

Luckily, we did manage to make a few spontaneous get-togethers and meet almost everyone we wanted to, but we wouldn’t recommend betting on running into people just because you’re in the same general space (there were around 2,000 attendees and the resort was huge!).

Attend and Be Prepared for Sessions

Although the main focus of FinCon is to meet people and network, there is a lot to be gained from attending the sessions.

Of course, not every session is mind-blowing, but we did learn a lot from many of them. In fact, we were able to attend double the sessions because there were two of us and we split them.

Another tip for attending sessions is to bring a notebook/computer, media kit, and business cards. Unless you’ve bought the virtual pass, it’s imperative that you take notes throughout the talk to refer to. In fact, we came up with no less than 10 article ideas inspired by things we learned or topics that were discussed during sessions.

Similarly, have your business cards and media kit ready during sessions. We passed our cards out to multiple speakers, as well as other influencers we met during the sessions.

Carve Out a Chunk of Time to Meet with Brands

We honestly had no idea that FinCon Central (where brands were set up) would be so powerful until we began speaking with brands.

Although there were several well-known brands there, the vast majority were smaller or just starting up and looking for any and every possible collaboration opportunity. Going in, we had thought that we wouldn’t have as many collaboration opportunities because we were so new, but that was not the case at all.

Aside from collaboration opportunities, we spoke with many brands who were eager to offer us help with content development and information for our posts. There were some brands that even offered to promote us!

Most advise having a good elevator pitch when approaching brands. While we agree you should have a succinct way of discussing your blog, our advice would be to approach brands from a perspective of curiosity. Most of the brands we’d never heard of, so we asked them what they do, then explained what we do, our mission, and ended by asking them how we could help them or what they were looking for.

Many of these conversations expanded to a larger dialogue about finance and the main idea running throughout most discussions was the desire to help people. Again, these face-to-face interactions is where your passion can really shine through, and we found the ability to meet with brands to be one of the most valuable aspects of FinCon.

Just prepare yourself for a long couple of days. We spent 2 hours one day and 4 another just talking to brands!

Prepare to Take Home Lots of Swag

Along with making connections and discussing collaboration opportunities, the other great thing about talking with brands is the monstrous amount of brand swag involved.

Almost every brand booth had free items, from t-shirts to water bottles to totes. In fact, I could wear nothing but FinCon brand t-shirts and be set for at least the next two weeks!

Seriously though, make sure you leave room in your carryon for brand swag and materials, because you’ll have a new wardrobe when you leave.

Make a Plan for Next Steps

Just as it’s important to have a plan going into FinCon, it’s equally important to develop a plan for your next steps once you leave.

Simply put, this conference can be overwhelming. You will come away with so many ideas and so many possibilities that you might get bogged down trying to decide which directions to go in. To give you an idea of what we mean, we have over 50 business cards to comb through from brands and other influencers wanting to collaborate.

That’s a lot!

Brands are one thing, but we also came away with many ideas for articles and resources to help us write them. We were even invited on a podcast.

Long story short, you will be overwhelmed with the possibilities following FinCon, so it’s imperative that you sit down and make a plan. Like the conference itself, you won’t be able to do everything or follow up with every lead, but having a plan will help you prioritize what’s most important to you.

Lay out a plan for your articles and who to contact for information, decide which brands you want to collaborate with and follow up with them, and plan out whatever else you would like to pursue in the next couple of months.

Feedback for PT

Our last takeaway is really more feedback for PT and the FinCon crew.

We had a blast at FinCon18, and we know that this conference will be instrumental to our growth as a blog and brand. However, there are a couple things that we think would really improve the conference going forward.

Parking

Both of us have been to multiple conferences and have never had to pay for parking when driving in. As we mentioned before, $18 a day was a really hard pill to swallow, and next year’s hotel charges $40 a day.

We understand that the venue needs to be large enough to house all the attendees but having venues that charge so much for parking puts the attendees in a really hard spot. Typically, these hotels/resorts are very expensive to stay at (even with the discount) and so people opt to stay off-site to save money. Hopefully in the future venues can be found that can both accommodate such a large conference and don’t charge for people coming in for the day.

Summer Dates

Lastly, we are hoping that future conferences can be held in the summer so that teachers will have more flexibility to attend.

Because we have a good deal of time off, teachers don’t get vacation time and it may be difficult to be given leave to attend a conference that’s not related to teaching. I (Tawnya) know I had a hard time being allowed to attend without have to take unpaid time off.

Next year will be even worse. FinCon19 will be held the first week of school for the entire Northeastern U.S., and the second week of school for my district. I doubt I’ll be able to swing taking that time off with school having just started.

With this in mind, we’re hoping that FinCon20 and beyond can be held during the summer when teachers have the freedom to attend without worrying about losing pay.

Moral of the Story

FinCon is touted as the number one conference for personal finance bloggers and influencers, and it didn’t disappoint.

Luckily, we had some advice going in that greatly helped us prepare for FinCon18, and we hope these takeaways will help fellow attendees digest the conference and prepare others to attend future FinCons.

Our takeaways were:

  • Have a plan going in
  • Be flexible and pace yourself
  • Meeting in person beats social media
  • Prepare to spend some money
  • Set up meetings BEFORE the conference
  • Attend and prepare for sessions
  • Make time to meet with brands
  • Save room for some serious swag
  • Make a plan for your next steps
  • Feedback: find future venues that don’t charge for parking and hold the conference during the summer so teachers can more easily attend

That’s it!

If you attended FinCon18, what were your takeaways? If you didn’t, what do you still want to know?

Talk (hopefully) about Money Earned!

 

 

Can’t get enough of FinCon18? Check out these posts from other attendees!

7 thoughts on “Finances and Flamingos: 10 Takeaways from FinCon18”

    1. Luckily, we had seen posts about how to prepare for FinCon so we new we needed to get some things together before going. Not sure if we’ll be able to go next year because it’s right at the start of school and I’m (Tawnya) a teacher. We’ll run into each other eventually!

  1. Thanks so much for your recap, Tawnya.
    I went to FinCon17 as a first timer and was overwhelmed! I should have spent more time, like you did, coming up with a plan.
    I couldn’t make this year because it conflicted with the Jewish holidays (takeaway: there’s no perfect time for everybody). But since I’ve already registered for FinCon19, I will have to apply your lessons plus all those you’ve linked to.
    Blessings!
    Debbie

  2. Glad you had such a blast at FinCon. I love it (and the swag) each time I go, though I wish the conference had stayed smaller.

    Inre: parking for next year… DC has a great metro system. So just find out which stop is near the hotel (the hotel should happily provide that info) and then study the DC metro map (which should be available online) to try to make sure the place you choose is on the same line. Worst case scenario you have to walk to the hotel. The city is really quite small, so there’s a very good chance most of the places you choose are going to be within walking distance.

    1. Thank you for the tips! I don’t think we’ll be able to make it next year because it’s right at the start of the school year. However, I think there would be great value in a post explaining how to avoid parking fees and how to navigate the city for those attending next year. We would have found something similar very helpful for this year.

  3. So many actionable takeaways in this post! Thanks a lot for sharing—I’ll be following these tips (especially with getting business cards and budgeting for the 4 days) as I get ready for my first FinCon this year.

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