Earlier this week, I arrived home from the Financial Blogger Conference (known inside the industry as FinCon). Like last year and the year before, this conference brings together hundreds of people who enjoy and/or make a living out of writing about money, particularly those who have adopted the blog format.
The conference, this time held in St. Louis, is attended by bloggers, published authors, media representatives, financial companies, podcasters, and freelancers. The writers range from people just starting out to those who have been through a whole lifecycle of a business to those who have no intentions of ever taking a business-like approach to their writing. The companies present vary anywhere from start-ups looking for exposure to big brands ready to share their expertise.
Everyone in attendance has one thing in common: these are the best people you could ever meet. Not one time did I think that anyone present was there for selfish reasons. Even the biggest names are approachable, and learning is always a two-way conversation. But then again, I didn’t attend many of the sessions because I was bouncing around from meeting to meeting.
I arrived early for the Boot Camp, which is intended to be working sessions with a much smaller crowd. It’s easy to get lost among 500 attendees; people who like interacting with smaller groups can get a lot out of a group of 50, and the smaller crowd helps to get acclimated to the environment before the large influx of people.
I didn’t get to spend much time with the Boot Camp itself because I was preparing for the next day’s events, but I did have some fun that evening. Tom Drake (from Canadian Finance Blog) hosted a karaoke event, and I hear there are videos circulating of me performing Roxanne by The Police.
The Plutus AwardsThe Plutus Awards is my baby. I created it as a way to bring the community of personal finance bloggers together and show appreciation for their hard work. It’s reflective on the year, but in a way, it also helps shape the direction of the genre. With the product awards, I hope that it eventually influences the financial industry to create better products and services and interact more with the experts who use these products and services.
This was the Fourth Annual Plutus Awards, and we’re incredibly lucky to have Kevin McKee (from Reward Boost) back to emcee the awards ceremony. The entire event far exceeded my expectations this year, and now the pressure is on to top it again next year. I couldn’t have done it without Kevin, Tom, and Miranda Marquit (from Planting Money Seeds). I relied on a great team of volunteers, including presenters, stage managers, Peter Anderson (from Bible Money Matters), and the blogger panel.
The success of the event proves to me that when you have great people on your team, excellence is the only outcome. Seriously, choose the right people for your team. I’m glad I did this year.
Following the Plutus Awards ceremony, where Consumerism Commentary was awarded the Lifetime Achievement award, and the Blog of the Year award was presented to Good Financial Cents, we retired to a local bar, The Dubliner, for the Plutus Awards After-Party. The after-party was a success thanks to the hard work of Athena Lent (from According to Athena) and the amazing staff of The Dubliner.
All of this wouldn’t have been possible without the generous support of the main sponsors of the night, Scottrade, Fidelity Investments, and State Farm.
Update: The full video of the awards ceremony is now available. It’s worth seeing for the opening musical numbers.
Although I walked around exhausted the remainder of the weekend, underneath that layer I was excited about the future. I felt fortunate to spend time talking with many people I admire very much for their talents, and I’m looking forward to the many projects I’ll be working on in the coming years, months, and even weeks. The weekend was an opportunity to solidify relationships, meet bloggers I’ve been talking to over the phone and through email throughout the past year, and come up with some concepts that have the potential to blow the world away.
Business aside, it was nice to spend time relaxing with great people whether just talking about life, enjoying a dinner at one of the great restaurants of St. Louis, or playing a game of Cards Against Humanity.
I offered an “Ask Me Anything” session on making money from blogs, in which I was joined by J.D. Roth (of Get Rich Slowly and More Than Money), Andrea Deckard (of Savings Lifestyle) and Toni Anderson (of The Happy Housewife).
The panel was well-attended by conference-goers and the questions we fielded were excellent. Andrea and Toni bring a different perspective to the business of blogging, and it’s worth the price of the conference just to hear them speak.
On my last full day in St. Louis, I visited the Arch. It’s an amazing piece of architecture, but I don’t need to tell you that. Just look at a few of the photographs at the bottom of this article.
The end is the beginning
As the weekend came to a close, I felt myself wishing I had more time to work with and socialize with all these great people I see once — maybe twice — a year. There are many colleagues I just didn’t get a chance to see over the weekend because my schedule was wall-to-wall meetings and sessions. I was also eager to get back into the comfortable bed I knew was waiting for me back in New Jersey. I ended up sharing a flight with two bloggers from the conference who also happen to live three minutes from me, Khaleef and Sherrian Crumbley from Faithful With a Few, so I offered them a ride home. It was a nice, calm ending to a nonstop weekend.
I’m not going to offer any kind of summary or advice, like, “Always make the most of conferences by approaching people who admire,” or, “Take the good stuff from the sessions and ignore the trite, cliche, and motivational fluff.” But my experiences over the weekend did remind me to make the most out of every moment, give of myself completely to others and to the situation around me.
A limited number of tickets are available for FinCon 2014, which will be held September 18 through 20 in New Orleans, Louisiana. Register now.
Photographs of the Arch
Photos by me unless otherwise noted.