via Armosa StudiosPleasure Before Business

Pleasure Before Business

Have you been to a conference before where there are more people wearing a kilt and a Darth Vader helmet while riding a unicycle playing a bagpipe that shoots flames out the back than people wearing a suit and tie?

That’s the kind of conference Chris Guillebeau’s World Domination Summit is.

It is a little different. A little “unconventional” if you will.

So in the spirit of doing things differently, I won’t be showing off a bunch of my pictures of the amazing people and food or the four-hour long academy Fizzle led.

These are my three takeaways from WDS 2014 about trends I’m seeing and how to “conference” better.

1. Mo’ Money, No Problems?

The people you meet at WDS don’t usually run their businesses for the same reason a lot of people do. Like Corbett talked about yesterday, money isn’t the point for them.

They have more important reasons for why they do work that matters to them. Be it internal, like freedom to travel or spend more time with family, or external, like social justice or world changing, money is not their reason why.

Remember, money matters. And it doesn’t.

“Money is a tool as a means to do other things in life that you want to do.”

J.D. Roth

Say what you will about “following your passion”, but I don’t personally know anyone that runs a successful business that deep down, doesn’t care about the problem they’re solving.

And the funny thing about having more money is that it doesn’t make you a better person or solve all your problems. Yes, it can fulfill your basic needs. But whatever good or bad traits and habits you have just get multiplied exponentially when you have more money.

Takeaway #1: Choose a business you care about, not one that chases money.

2. The Anti-Social Network

Have you ever felt networked?

You’re at an event, standing in a circle, having a conversation, and someone just barges right in with…

“Sorry to interrupt. We haven’t met, but my name is Glen. Here’s my book. I wanted you to have a copy. Anyway, great meeting you.”

And they’re gone.

Man! I hate that.

People often go about networking and connecting with people in the wrong way.

“Marketing isn’t advertising. Marketing is the product we make, the service we offer, the life we live. And so the question as you go forward is, will you choose this ethical marketing that doesn’t involve yelling at people, networking your way to the top, spamming people, and lying, right? But instead involves weaving a story, weaving a tribe, weaving a network that means something. Doing work that matters.”

Seth Godin

Bad “networkers” treat a conference like a bunch of slot machines on a casino floor. They run around putting a quarter in every machine and pulling every lever hoping for the best.

They meet everyone they can and hope that someone has that connection that will land them on whatever “the Oprah Show” equivalent of their niche is.

Instead, I’ve always treated conferences and events with a plan that combines Chase’s Third Tier Theory and a concept my friend James Clear shared with me last week at WDS.

He goes to a decent number of events and an analogy for how to foster relationships with other entrepreneurs is to treat a conference like a greenhouse. You don’t just show up once a year, sporadically water all the plants and hope that when you see them next at least a few will be in great condition.

You have to be thoughtful about which seeds need what, you have to keep returning to them, giving them each attention, and watching them mature over weeks, months, and years. Pruning where necessary.

With people at conferences, you need to use intention to figure out who you should spend your time with. A great way to do this is to organize small groups for meals throughout the event so you have deeper (semi)sober conversations. And then, after the conference is over, invest in them by helping them via email, social media, or Skype.

You plant the seeds and help them grow. Not for your own benefit, but to make them better. As the ocean rises, so do all the boats.

Takeaway #2: Find your people. Have deep conversations. Stay in touch.

3. Your Brand is You

Lastly, as I often see at conferences, the “big names” in attendance don’t attract fans because of a brand they work for or started. Yes, out in the real world there are are your Apple, Nintendo, and (insert any brand here) fanboys, but online I see more and more people becoming their own brands for one simple reason.

People listen to and follow other people.

Think about all the main social media platforms. I’m talking Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, etc. They were made for people. Not brands. And when you check them, do you ever think to yourself, “I really want to see what my favorite brands are gonna try to sell me today.”

Probably not.

You check social media to see what other people are doing.

And so, when you set out to create a specific persona for your brand it almost always just becomes you anyway.

People need to become a fan of you. Not just what you’re saying, but how you say it. Your voice. Your take. Your style.

And the best way to do this is by being yourself.

Takeaway #3: The strongest brand is you. Be interesting, interested, and you.

It is really hard to distill hundreds of conversations over a weekend into a thousand words, but in summary, my main thoughts from WDS in Portland last weekend are:

  1. Have a big reason beyond money for why you do your work.
  2. Network slowly and intentionally sideways, not upwards.
  3. You are your brand, so stop forcing “a brand” and just be you.

If you were at WDS this or a previous year, what were you’re biggest takeaways from the event?

I’d love to hear in the comments below this post.

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  • Shantini

    I’m an introvert and large groups of people scare the heck out of me! Your advice ties nicely into my natural inclination to get to know people and not just have a meaningless “hi-bye” fly-bys at events. Love the article, Caleb. Thank you for your 3 “rich tips”on conferencing :-)

  • Caelan Huntress

    I really like the greenhouse analogy. My biggest takeaways from WDS were to go directly to the people I wanted to network with, to leave a conversation when it naturally completed itself, and to allow my wounds to be the source of my strength and differentiation.

  • Nick Loper

    Hey Caleb,

    Nice write-up, and I think applicable to all kinds of conferences and events, not just WDS. My wife and I attended last year and loved the energy and enthusiasm of all the people, but couldn’t make this year because of a conflict. I was living vicariously through the Instagram feed :)

    Hope to come hang out with everyone again next summer!



  • Darlene Hildebrandt

    Hey Caleb I’ve been to 3 WDS conferences now and I did just what you said in #2. I had dinner with the very first people I met from my first conference (Craig, and Stacey and also Lisa) a few days before this WDS. We wanted to make sure we connected and caught up. My roommates from the first year and I had a brunch catch up (why I missed you guys at the Fizzle house on Monday) and we stay in touch and help either. Louise is in Fizzle now too at my suggestion. We have our own private Facebook group and often connect on skype. So while I didn’t make dozens of new friends, I made a few really good ones.

    #1 is a given for me. I eat sleep and breathe what I do.
    #3 realize that now more than ever.

    My takeaways from this year are:

    1 – do your own thing but don’t live in a bubble. Reach out and connect with people doing the same thing. Fizzle helps me do that as does the WDS facebook group. WDS is always a good reminder of this for me.

    2 – more than ever it’s not about what the speakers say, it’s what I choose to do with it. I didn’t take a single note about anything one speaker said – but I did write down several actionable items that they inspired in me. I leave WDS with an action list not notes.

    3 – all work and no play makes for one stressful mess. I vow to play more often.

    Great to see the Three Cs and Barrett – wish we had more time.

  • kimanzi constable

    Your third point is very important Caleb. You can visit too many websites and feel like that person is on a pedestal. You can’t make that connection with them. People want to and should connect with us.

  • Chris Johnson

    “Don’t network me, bro”. New shirt.

  • Sergio Sala

    I liked the takeaways, Caleb. Especially the second and the James analogy. This is my very first WDS so the only thing that I did was seed-planting. I might get see some beautiful trees (or great relationships) next time I go.
    Nice to finally meet you!

  • Eve Lindell

    “As the ocean rises, so do all the boats.” Well put!

  • Kyle Musser

    Greenhouses, planting seeds, networking…..must be a Michigan State thing :) Great stuff Caleb. Cheers from the Mitten

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We have all felt lost and lonely in a room full of people. Sweaty hands, awkward voice… what should you say? Who should you approach? How should you do it? Nobody wants to feel like that, but we’ve all felt it.

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