First, FinCon is an amazing event filled with people who love geeky finance stuff like retirements accounts, budgeting, taxes and more. While I knew there were more people out there who liked to discuss what I love to read [and write] about, I did not realize how large of a community there was behind it and what was even more fascinating was the number of melanated people in the room, but that’s for another day. Not only are these finance/money nerds uber nice, they all were super helpful and encouraging.
I’d talked with a friend about going to FinCon earlier in the year but I didn’t really get into it at first. I just decided if I go, I go; if not, that’s cool too. At the time, however, I wasn’t blogging and had nothing to produce so there was no point. A couple months after that, I decided to pick up writing again and if I was going to go full force this time I needed to fully immerse myself in the community. Next thing I know, I was blessed with a ticket, booked the flight, and discussing how much money I’d need for the 4 days I’d be in Dallas.
On the first day, my flight landed around 7:30 AM central time and although I was exhausted from not sleeping the night before (yes I waited to the last minute to pack, don’t judge me) I was ready to work! I signed up to volunteer for the Welcome Wagon, directing people to registration and answering any possible questions they may have even if I didn’t know the answer (which was the case the for the majority of the questions asked). After volunteering, I went to a session for first-timers where Nick True told us all about his first time and what to do in the event that we felt lost or out of place (i.e. find him and insert ourselves into the conversation). There were a few more workshops to attend but the most important thing I learned that day and throughout the conference was to network. Network your a** off until you can’t network anymore. The sessions are cool sure, but the people, they are the most important part of this whole experience.
Day 2: I got comfy :D. I was okay with my surroundings, people were nice and welcoming, and my friends made it so I wasn’t wandering around aimlessly. I spent a ton of time in the Expo Hall talking to people and hopefully forming relationships/partnerships. I also picked up a million and one new t-shirts! The keynote that day included a lot of really great people, my favorite, however, was Kyle Taylor from The Penny Hoarder. There are people who can tell stories then, there are people who can TELL STORIES and his story really moved me that day. It definitely could’ve been because he brought his dog on stage but, I’m fairly certain it was learning about how he started out with $50k+ in debt and worried about how he’d keep a roof over his (and his dog’s) head. Then the huge kickoff party hosted by Ally, that was fun and funny, to say the least! That night, I met up with friends and we ventured to Fuel City for ‘dem tacos’; want some good tacos?!? Dallas is definitely a place to find them. I’m taking suggestions for better btw! Have taco, will travel.
Day 3: I spent a ton more time in the Expo Hall talking to people I missed the day before and meeting more money nerds; I pretty much ditched the workshops at this point. I sat down for lunch/snacks with this really cool guy who goes by The Wealthy Accountant; when I tell you I learned more about tax and tax consulting than I did in school. Wow. Mind BLOWN.
Day 4: Can you say DRAINED?! I decided to reserve my energy that day and attend one-on-one mentoring and the keynote featuring my new favorite person, Nicole Walters; another dynamic speaker with an amazing story! Both were amazing sessions and I sat down with a few people who schooled me on blogging. Throw in the Plutus Awards and an epic costume party and that is a wrap! That night, I ventured in Dallas one more time to Rudy’s Chicken (I love food, can you tell?) and gazed at the well-lit skyline, which is b-e-a-utiful! After all of that, I was rightfully exhausted and longed for my bed since my flight was leaving at 7:00 AM the next morning.
On to the 3 biggest mistakes I made:
1. I did NOT bring Business Cards
Yep, I was that person and it was embarrassing. Somehow, I never thought that I’d need or would hand them out. So many people asked for one, soooooo many. All I could say was ‘I’m sorry, I, unfortunately, don’t have any on me’. That was a tad humiliating because I should’ve bought them the second I got the pass to go. I also could have bought some while in Dallas, but my budget was not here for it. If you want to go to FinCon or any other conference, I implore you to invest in business cards; people will ask for them.
2. I was Unprepared for the amount of Overwhelm
As I stated in the interview I did with Popcorn Finance, it takes a lot of energy for me to be around so many people constantly talking, shaking hands, and asking questions. I’m not sure I had a plan on how I was going to preserve my energy for the event. Usually, when I go somewhere or do something, I have to mentally prepare myself for the time and energy I’m going to spend. That did not happen for FinCon and I definitely paid for it by the third day.
3. I did not Define my Goals before Boarding
Before I left D.C., I also had not set my goals for the conference. What do you want to get out of this conference? What do you want to learn? Who do you want to meet? How do you plan to connect with the people you don’t know and want to know? What about your content after the conference? None of this crossed my mind. Which is really weird for me because I was always taught to research and not go in blind. Granted, I was just so happy to be in the presence of so many awesome financial bloggers that just being in the number was good enough for me. But now as I sit and reflect on my time at FinCon, I’ve realized going in with goals and objectives would’ve been the better route. When I go back for FinCon 2018, I’ll definitely be ready and prepared with my goals written down.
All things considered, I regret nothing. I took my first steps and attended FinCon, met amazing people from all over the world, learned more about the industry, and walked away with gems and friends for a lifetime. Next year, I can go to Orlando with my head held high, goals in hand, and a fresh perspective prepared to help the next person succeed.
Have you attended FinCon? Have you attended a large conference and forgotten something significant? Have you tried to make a first impression and completely blanked? Share with me in the comments! Remember, we’re all human!