My Adventures At FinCon ’13 – Upping Your Game Through Professional Development

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You want a better, more fulfilling career, right?

For some people that’s a whole lot more like a new job, better pay, appreciation… you get the picture.

For others they just want to make sure they are giving their job everything they can so they can be the best at what they do.  And by job I don’t mean you have to be working for someone else, this could very well be your own business.  (Though really, you are always working for someone else – the customer).

Who doesn’t want more in their career then, right?

But how do you get it?  Not by sitting back and hoping it just happens.  And let’s face the grim truth — if you aren’t getting better at what you do there’s someone out there that is.  You have to always keep learning.  Excelsior!

You need to up your game.

Go out and learn what you can about your field.  Improve those skills that will help you do your job better.

Develop yourself professionally.

This can mean a lot of things.  Maybe you take an advanced class in Excel.  Perhaps you join Toastmasters so you can do better presentations.  It could mean poring through the latest periodicals in your field.

Another option is attending professional conferences.  This is what I did Oct. 17-20.

FinCon ’13 – Where Bloggers and Personal Finance Meet


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Every year since the inaugural edition on 2011, FinCon has been the premiere spot to meet up with like-minded financial bloggers, financial industry leaders, and related services related to blogging.

That sounded totally boring right?

Look, if you’re a financial blogger this is the place you want to be.  Let’s just leave it at that for now.

Why would you, as a reader care?  Good question.  I want to do the best by you.  I want to create the best content I can for you and help you solve your financial problems and be there with you as you build wealth.  Going to a conference like FinCon helps me do that.  There were so many great bloggers there doing all sorts of things with their sites it’s ridiculous.  It’s hard not to get inspired to do great things in an environment like that.

The main lesson here is you have to grow and you have to keep providing value in your work.  If you do that you can go far.

FinCon was created by Philip “PT” Taylor, the publisher of PTMoney.com.  He’s done an amazing job putting together an industry-leading conference that attracts the best of the best.  FinCon was about 250 people just two years ago and this year it’s over 500.  Jean Chatzky was there to talk.  Chase, Ally, and Everbank were there.  Experian, Fidelity, and Credit Karma were also in the house.  Lending Club?  Check!  USAA?  Double check!  And the list goes on.

Honestly I’m still trying to get my head around all the people that were there.

Heading to FinCon

plane_taking_offI caught my cab around 4pm to head to LaGuardia and catch my 6:17pm flight to St Louis.  I know what kinds of crazy traffic NYC has so I made sure to give myself enough time to get there.  We made it there in what must have been record time.  Yes!

Have you noticed how much quicker airports are these days thanks to e-tickets?  It’s delightful.  I had my boarding pass on my phone long before I left the house.  Since I only had carry-on luggage I was able to head straight to the security line, which wasn’t that long.

I’m on line for about 30 seconds and I get a phone call.  It’s an 800 number.  I don’t usually get too many calls on my cell so I took it.  Ends up it was Delta telling me my flight would be delayed an hour.  Grrr!  OK, it’s not horrible.  I downloaded a couple of books from the library to read so I’ll just enjoy the time and be productive with it.  The Delta terminal is actually pretty cool in that there are plenty of places you can plug in your electronics so you don’t lose power.  It’s a good thing too…

My flight would end up being delayed about three hours.  The delay was actually longer than the flight itself.  Surely it was due to bad weather, right?  Nothing you could do about that.  Nope.  The reason was closer to there being too much NY traffic.  Seems the plane was on the other side of the airport and they couldn’t get a taxi crew the bring it over.  For three hours!  I’m not sure what was worse — if I knew ahead of time how long the delay would be or being strung along little by little thinking the plane would be there soon.  We kept getting little updates and the departure time would slowly slip later and later.

See, I really wanted to get the St. Louis in time for the Plutus Awards where we were up for best Micro-Blog (our Twitter handle @freefrombroke).  [Curses @WiseBread for winning! J/K.  grr ]  I knew I would possibly miss it but I was hoping.  At the very least I’d be able to make the after-party.  It wasn’t to be.  By the time I got to the hotel it was already early the next morning (just after midnight).

So you can see my weekend started a little off.

Oh, I need to give a major shout-out to Emily Guy Birken who couldn’t make the conference.  Knowing she wasn’t going to be there she offered up her room which had a discounted FinCon rate.  She transferred her reservation to my name and I was able to save a lot of money (I waited too long too book to get the special rate — face palm!).  Thanks Emily!

Back to our story…

FinCon ’13

Even though it was late I still managed to catch up with some old friends in the hotel lobby (Ben – Money Smart Life, J$ – Budgets Are Sexy, Karen – Money Saving Enthusiast).  I finally headed upstairs to call it a day.  It was a long day and I was happy to finally wind down enough to fall asleep.

Friday morning started the conference proper.

After checking in and meeting up with some old friends I headed to the opening keynote by Pat Flynn of Smart Passive Income.  If you have a blog or a site and you don’t know Pat’s work then you must get over there right now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait.  Good.  Did you read any of his income reports?  They make me sick but in a good way.  He knows his stuff and he’s a down-to-earth guy as well which is awesome.

He started off his talk walking down the center aisle up to the stage.  He had the music, he had the slides…it was all synced and slick.  Real professional.  And then….FWUMPFGHH!!…he falls facedown walking up the stage steps.  J.D. Roth stares down from the stage not knowing what to do.

This isn’t how you start a conference.  If only you could do-over…

And that’s what happened.  The music started back in reverse and Pat gets up and runs backwards through the aisle and starts over again.

Upping your game, remember?

The main focus of Pat’s talk was that first impressions were critical.  He went on to talk about how we control our first impressions and we need to understand who we are trying to speak to and put our best foot forward to build trust.

I can only imagine how terrible I am with first impressions.  It was certainly food for thought.  I also got some great ideas for how to design the site better for first-time visitors.

One of the hardest things for me over the conference was determining which sessions to watch.  

There was really so much information that I wish there were two or three of me so I could take it all in (and maybe one of me to nap wouldn’t hurt either).  And then there were times where I’d be talking with people and didn’t want to stop to see a session.  After all, networking and meeting people who do what I do was also an important part of the conference.

There just wasn’t enough time to do everything and meet everyone.

In the evening there were a number of offsite events put together by sponsors, affiliates, and presenters.

To start things off Pat Flynn had a get together at a local restaurant.  I got to meet some interesting people and enjoy some good food (fried ravioli for one).  But I couldn’t stay the whole time.  Credit Karma and Lending Club hosted an event at the bar 360 which was on the rooftop of the Hilton nearby.  Now that would sound pretty neat on its own right?  But we were in St. Louis.  And the Cardinals were in town in the playoffs for a berth in the World Series.  And the stadium was like a block away.  And the bar overlooked the stadium.  Really.  It was crazy crowded and you could feel the energy of the fans.  I didn’t let on to many that I was a Mets fan and still sore at them and their Carlos Beltran.  Still, I love baseball and was cool to be there.  And of course I got to meet more people like the folks at Bigger Pockets.  It’s a small world as Joshua Dorkin, the founder and CEO of the company, grew up not far from me.

I couldn’t stay there though as Fidelity was hosting a gathering.  Off we went to the next event.  This was a smaller group than the previous two events.  The folks from Fidelity — Chuck, Meejin, and Matt — were looking to reach out to bloggers to see how they could better work with our community.  They were super nice and seemed genuine.  While there the Cards took a 9-0 lead over the Dodgers and won their right to the World Series.  The city erupted outside.  There was a sea of red and you heard the city cheer and fill with cars honking all over.

This is the power of FinCon!  Who else but PT could get a city to win its pennant race on the same day as the conference?!?

Saturday was more sessions.

Saturday morning I head downstairs for the continental breakfast before the sessions start.  I grab some coffee and a spinach and feta cheese sandwich (thanks for the heads up on that Ryan!) and find a table to sit by myself.  I figured I’d eat and get my head together before the day’s sessions.  Who plops down next to me?  PT himself .  We’ve known each other for years but I still thought it was cool of him to stop by, what with running a 500+ conference and all.

Quick aside — we’ve hosted birthday parties for our kids at the house that would leave my wife and I drained at the end of the day.  Every time I saw Phil at the conference he was cool and collected.  He’s awesome.

Back to story.

Phil and I are chatted and a woman with an English accent sits down with us to thank Phil for the conference.  Phil introduces us by name but I don’t catch her site.  We’re all talking and there’s this awkward familiarity, like she knew me, that I couldn’t place.  But hey, I’m introverted so a lot of conversations seem awkward to me.  That and the coffee hadn’t kicked in yet.  Eventually she mentions her site and the connection finally hits — it’s Miss Thrifty!  I remember her site from way back in the day (2008).  We talked a bit about the differences in attitude about money between England and the U.S.  Seems those in the UK don’t open up about money as much as we do.

Lunch was provided by Chase.  They set up about four tables with lunch boxes that were like large Chinese take-out containers.  I head to the first table — meat sandwich.  Next table — meat sandwich.  Third… guess?  Yup another kind of meat sandwich.  If you haven’t figured out I’m vegetarian so although the sandwiches looked great they weren’t quite doing it for me.  Finally I make it to the last table.  Yay for a vegetable sandwich!  I grab one of the last remaining boxes (the other tables were piled high still with boxes) and head to catch up with some friends I was talking to.  I stop to grab a lemonade and I hear Paula Pant telling her friend that she won’t grab one of the veggie boxes since there might be some vegetarians out there that didn’t get one yet.  I turn around and thank her for that and go into how when we had pizza parties at my old job people always ate up the veggie pizza first leaving the meat pizzas to the actual vegetarians (it’s true).  I had actually met Paula at a blogger meet-up we had earlier in the year in NYC so this interaction wasn’t as random as it might sound (though it does sound kind of random).

We go off on our separate ways and I look for the group I was talking to before I grabbed my lunch.  Their table has no more chairs but I see an empty chair a couple of tables down.  I figured I’d grab the chair and bring it back.  I go over and ask if the seat is taken and if I could have it.  They say sure.  As I go to take it I see the name tag of the gentleman across the table and he sees mine.  At about the same time we both realize we know each other.  Well, in an online blog way at least.  It ends up it’s Bryan and Heather from FatWallet.  I wrote an article on home-buying tips for them back in May.  I sat down with them for lunch and we talked about credit cards and such.

It’s funny how you run into people, isn’t it?

After some more sessions and a pull-up contest I missed out on (looked like they were doing chin-ups anyway) we had the closing keynote by Derek Halpern of Social Triggers.  Like Pat Flynn, Derek is another guy you want to check out if you work online or even if you do anything marketing related.  I’ve just started listening to his podcasts (I’ve really only started listening to any podcasts not so long ago) and they are really good.  Derek talked about how to build more traffic and subscribers.  He says we spend too much time pumping out content and not enough time promoting what we create.  He made some really interesting points about writing for your audience that I want to work on.  Good stuff.

There was an after-party in the evening.  Derek told us that instead of getting his speaking fee he’d put it towards the tab for the party.  Pretty cool.  The bar was closed to the public for the night and belonged to FinCon.  The party was fun running into more people and talking about what we do over a few drinks.  It felt bitter sweet though.  The conference was basically over after the party.  Sure a lot of people were going out on the town after but I had an early flight I needed to wake up for (and my body can’t take that kind of abuse anymore).

Saying Goodbye

I headed back, got my things together and settled down for the night.  It’s not an easy thing to just fall asleep.  For one the bed was too big without the Mrs.  Second, my head was swimming with ideas and conversation (and maybe a couple of drinks).  Eventually I fell out.  The next morning I finished packing, headed downstairs to check out and walked to the MetroLine to catch the train to the airport.

I can be a lonely thing blogging.  You can have all the readers in the world and it’s still you alone behind the computer.  That’s really one the best things about FinCon — for a few days being a blogger doesn’t mean you’re alone.

That sounds a little sadder than it is.  I’m just saying you don’t get the daily water cooler chat like you would in a cube job.

Still, I’d been away from the Mrs for three days and I was missing her terribly.  That and she was holding down the fort.  She really took one for the team with me going.  Corralling four kids isn’t easy.  Thankfully the flight home went smoothly.  It was awesome to hop back in the mini-van with the wife and kids.  Yes I miss the camaraderie that FinCon brings but nothing matches the family.

Finally?

I could have written more about FinCon but you’ll just have to attend next year or read other recaps to get a bigger picture of things (and this article was getting long enough already, don’t you think?).

I got a lot of great ideas and inspiration at FinCon.  I just popped back in from Evernote where I wrote down another idea I had for a series.  [Evernote is a great place to store ideas.  I even have it on my phone so I can write down ideas when I'm out and everything syncs up.]  I have a small journal where I’ve filled up about 20 pages of notes from the weekend.  Now it’s all about going through everything and implementing.  I’m really eager to develop this site and make it an incredible resource for readers.

I have to say though, I honestly I feel like I failed somewhat at FinCon.

Sure I saw a lot of great sessions and met some great people as well as caught up with old friends.  But I can’t help but feel like I should have done more.  There were so many more people I could have connected with.  Steve Chou, of My Wife Quit Her Job, mentions in his FinCon recap about how he likes to meet and get to know 5 people when he goes to conferences.  I hope I accomplished that somewhat but I think I need to work on that more.  Though I did talk a lot there’s still a lot of real introvert in me that makes it tough to go out and say hi to new people, especially in a big crowd.  Small steps though.

Action

If you’ve made it all the way here  thank you!  You really are a tolerant soul.

If you attended FinCon and I didn’t get to talk to you I apologize.  Let’s connect.  Shoot me an email or find me on Twitter, Facebook, or Google+.  (Even if you weren’t there feel free to drop a line.)

For everyone else, tell me one way you have benefitted from some sort of professional development.  I’d love to hear about it and it could help someone else take the next step in their career.

Here are some of the people I met (if I don’t mention you I apologize in advance): Eric @ DollarVersity, Lazy Man and Money, Jim Wang @ MicroBlogger, Gen X Finance, Ryan @ Cash Money Life, Bob @ Christian PF, Hank @ Money Q&A, Greg Go @ WiseBread, Squirrelers, Larry @ Investor Junkie, Sandy @ Yes I Am Cheap, David @ Money Under 30, Kyle & Justin @ My University Money, Beverly Harzog, Crystal @ Budgeting the Fun Stuff, Joe the Taxpayer, Rob @ Dough Roller, Peter @ Bible Money Matters, Miranda @ Planting Money Seeds (and Free From Broke), Jesse @ AntiNeckTie, Robert @ College Investor, Jeff Rose @ Good Financial Cents, Mandy @ House of Rose BlogCredit Karma, Charles @ Credit Donkey, Tom @ Canadian Finance Blog (among others), Viet @ Dealzon, Todd Tressider @ Financial Mentor, Mike @ Oblivious Investor, Sherrian and Khaleef @ KNS Finance and more…

Ok, I guess I did meet with a bunch of people but still I feel like I could have connected to better, especially with people I don’t already know.

If you didn’t get enough on FinCon, here are some other recaps to help round out the conference:

FinCon13 Recap: Why You Are Missing Out If You Don’t Attend Conferences
The Financial Blogger Conference 2013 Recap: Seeing Old Friends, Meeting New People And Learning
Financial blogging for fun and profit : Business
Raiders of the Arch–FinCon13, St Louis, MO. Part 1 | The Lazy Traveler’s Handbook
The Story of #FinCon13
Wow, #FinCon13 was the Best Yet! | Budgeting In the Fun Stuff
Why I Love Hanging Out with Financial Bloggers (Over Financial Planners) — Gen Y Planning
#FinCon13 Recap & Spending
Fincon Recap: 2013 Financial Blogger Conference
FinCon13 and FinCon14
Financial Blogger Conference 2013 Wrap-Up
FinCon13 Game Show recorded live from St. Louis – MoneyPlan SOS
Fincon13: Inspired and Overwhelmed! | Budget and the Beach
Try this one thing and never worry about spending money again (FinCon13 Recap) | Amanda Abella
Do You Know How to Network?
Fincon 13: Stepping Outside My Comfort Zone and Loving It | Eyes on the Dollar
Financial Blogger Conference Experience | Modest Money

And last but not least… Here’s the remake of Thrift Shop by Ashley and Kevin from the Plutus awards…

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Published or updated October 30, 2013.

Comments

  1. Everybody has to keep on there toes these days. Moat diggers and anvil salesmen just had to do what they do. Now we are on a full-time learning curve.

    • Glen Craig says:

      Even way back when you had to do your job as best you can. Unless you had some decree from the king that you were the only one doing the job.

  2. Glen, it was good to see you again.

    One of my favorite moments from the conference is of you me and David sitting in the lobby bar talking, and having the surreal experience of the waitress telling us all about how she had hit someone in her car, how she was such an awful driver, and then proceeding to sit down and tell us all about it.

    If that wasn’t enough, how she later on told us about how if we wanted to continue our night as the place closed, we could head across the bridge to a place called “Pops”, but how she made sure to tell us that “nothing good ever happened there”. Of course you could head to the “movie bar” across the street – oh wait, “nudie bar”! I still get a chuckle out of that whole conversation.

    • Glen Craig says:

      I thought about writing that story but I wasn’t sure how it would come across. But everything you say was true. That was a pretty surreal exchange. I’m still curious what that bar across the water is like. I imagine something out of the movie RoadHouse.

      I understand the same waitress had some going on where she was yelling at the cooks in the back for shutting down for the night? I think Sandy from YesIAmCheap knows that part of the story. Yes, that waitress was “colorful.”

      And how about the random guy that walked into the lobby and had people walking up for an autograph? Still don’t know who that was (this was after the Cards won their playoff series).

      It was great connecting with you again too Peter! That was one of the more memorable events.

  3. Glen, I’m with you Bro! For me. There were so many people I didn’t get to talk to yet I ended up missing 1/2 the sessions because I would bump into someone on the way and talk in the hallway for 30+ minutes!

    Next year, you and me, let’s hang out. I’ll introduce you to PFBs I know and you can introduce me to PFBs you know. By the end of FinCon14 we’ll know everyone by name!

  4. It was awesome meeting you, Glen! I was also thinking about all the people I didn’t get to meet. I’m already looking forward to next year. I hope that you and I get a chance to talk more!

  5. One of the best FinCon recaps yet! Thanks for sharing your experience with such detail. Closest thing to being there. Looking forward to how you implement what you learned. Finally, I think you’re being too hard on yourself as you did meet a lot of people! Any clues on where it will be next year and are you going again?

    • Glen Craig says:

      Thanks Buck, that means a lot to me!

      I’m already implementing some ideas in this post. I want to do more detailed articles as well as talk about personal stories. I also want to better connect with readers too.

      No idea on where the next FinCon will be. I certainly want to go but with four kids and a wife who works it’s hard to say if my schedule will allow it.

  6. Great Read Glen, I was at Fincon as well and that into for Pat Flynn was hilarious, he is such a down to earth, humble guy, I love listening to him. I wish I would have met more people at Fincon, had some distractions while I was there so it was hard to be at all the presentations and meet as many people as I would have liked. I was still able to find great value it it though! Hope to meet you next year, thanks for the great read!

  7. I am still trying to sort out all the things I learned. Thanks for including my post!

  8. Haha – I’m British, Glen. “Awkward familiarity” is my comfort zone! Seriously, though: it was great to meet you in person and chat. I’m only regretful that we didn’t get to talk for longer. Still, there’s always next year… and you know what I look like now. ;)

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