214 FS Conferences

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01:44 - Deciding to Attend Conferences


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CHUCK: Hey everybody and welcome to episode 214 of The Freelancers’ Show. This week on our panel we have Philip Morgan.

PHILIP: Howdy.

CHUCK: Reuven Lerner.

REUVEN: Hi everyone.

CHUCK: I’m Charles Max Wood from DevChat.tv. And this week we’re going to be talking about conferences, choosing which conference to go to, and what to do when you're there.

So I’m a little curious. Reuven, you said you just got back from Double Your Freelancing Conference Europe. I think I said that right. Do you want to fill us in on how you made that decision and what you got out of it and what worked for you?

REUVEN: Yeah. I think most of our listeners have heard of Brennan Dunn before. I think as people often say friend of the show. He’s been on a number of times. And he did a conference last year in Virginia near where he lives about fall; I think it was September. And I emailed him and said “hey, I’d love to come to your conference, but for me from Israel, it’s a little expensive, a little far away. Any chance you could do it in Europe?” And he wrote back and said “actually, I am planning to do one in Europe”. And when I found out that he was at that time when I did not have anything else scheduled at that point, I reserved that time because I figured there are not many conferences that I get excited about, but Brennan and his [inaudible] people – and I saw who had spoken at the conference in Virginia and I saw what the quality was, and I said this is the sort of thing I really want to go to. I think it should really up my game in terms of my consulting practice.

So I had it on my calendar for months. I think I made my reservations at December and the conference was just about 2 weeks ago as we record this in late June. And it was truly phenomenal. And I think part of the amazing part of it was it was small and so a lot of people – I think it should be everyone there, but I got to meet most of the people there and interact with them in some ways. And most of the people had something really interesting to tell me and to teach me.

CHUCK: Interesting. So you made your decision based on who was speaking and who you saw that went to the American conference?

REUVEN: Basically. It wasn’t a – actually the list of speakers was not publicized until recently and I actually ended up speaking as well, but I figured that there would be some overlap between the people who spoke at Virginia and the people who spoke in Stockholm. And I was right. I think I’m guessing about a third or half of the speakers were the same.

And so even if you ignore the speakers, which is not something to ignore, but even if you ignore that, I was in touch with a bunch of people from Europe including two people in my Mastermind who were planning to go. And I really was excited about the possibility of meeting in person and having a chance to really talk in person with some of these people with whom I've been in fleeting contact in the past online with my Mastermind every week for something like 3 years. But the chance to really sit down, talk, hash things out, exchange ideas was very exciting to me.

CHUCK: That’s interesting because you mentioned when we were getting ready for the show, you guys went to MicroConf and made the decision there to go to that and which you got out of it, and part of the reason I went to MicroConf this last year was a lot of the same reasons. I went the previous year, and I really like the speakers; I really like the people that I met there, but my Mastermind group was also going and we were doing a retreat for the 2 days before the conference. So we spent a bunch of time together talking and working through things and hanging out. We did a lot of hanging out.

But anyway, it was really fascinating just to see these folks in person and really get a feel for who they are and stuff like that. So the previous year when I went to MicroConf, I went mostly based on feedback that I had gotten from other people that I knew – Eric Davis and a few other folks – that just made it out to be a tremendous experience, and so I thought “ok well, I’ll give it a try” because most of the conferences I go to admittedly are programmer conferences and it’s more business there and where I’m meeting with people who listen to the shows and try to create an experience instead of have one. So that’s how I wound up there.

REUVEN: By the way, I also have heard from you guys how amazing MicroConf is, and there is a MicroConf Europe and I was sort of debating whether to go to that or go to Brennan’s conference, and [inaudible] Brennan’s conference one out, but next year I might very well want to go to both of them just because it was such a great experience. I wouldn’t mind doubling in out of time [inaudible] enjoy and learn from.

CHUCK: Right. Philip, let’s go to you real quick. Is there a conference that was kind of a can’t-miss conference for you every year?

PHILIP: I’m going to be not intentionally a weirdo here. I've never been to a conference other than earlier in my career like me getting sent to some work conferences, but I have never been to a conference related to freelancing or consulting or marketing or anything like that. I've had opportunities to go of course, and just always had – never had a feel for what the actual benefits would be. I know theoretically what the benefits would be, but it’s never happened for me. I feel like the – what was that movie – The 30 Year Old Virgin? “It just never happened”. [Laughter]

So I would be interested in – I do have a shortlist of conferences I would go to if I decided I wanted to go to conferences, so I would be interested in hearing more about some of the specific things that you guys really dig about conferences. But yeah, I’m just – I’m not going to have any great stories about the benefits of conferences, at least from my own personal experience.

REUVEN: By the way Philip, your point – I have to share part of your point, which is I think it’s the first time I've ever been to a conference for professionals in terms of consulting or business. I've been to a few technical conferences before, and the last few years I've been to a bunch in Israel; never really gone abroad before them, but this was a first time. It was sort of shift because the concentration was not on technology and how cool it is and what's the latest, but it was more like what we discuss on the show, namely where am I now in my business, where do I want to be, and how do I get there and what are some strategies and tactics for doing that.

PHILIP: Yeah. So I think you're going to have that perspective of having no experience at all with that and seeing your first time, like what was it like, and I will be interested in hearing more about that.

CHUCK: So cue harp music.

PHILIP: Actually, my limits are – let me just tag on one more thing. I do feel like – and this might be a little bit of a contrary viewpoint – I feel like for me the most valuable conference experience would be something not with my peers, but way outside my niche. I would like to go to a conference full of sleazy sweaty disgusting internet marketers to learn what they're doing and see what part of that is relevant to what I do. When I think about it in my mind, that’s what I idealize in terms of a conference. So I’m curious if you guys see any benefit in going to conferences inside your niche or outside your niche or whatever.

CHUCK: Yeah, that’s interesting. I've gone at conferences for various technologies as Reuven said. I've been to the podcasting conferences and I've been to MicroConf. So I don’t know; I haven’t gone to conferences that are like way outside of my niche or where I’m not peers with the people who are there. I've been to some good ones and I've been to some bad ones, but –

What about you Reuven, have you gone to – I don’t know – out-there sort of conferences that don’t seem like they're your niche but may have valued thing at them?

REUVEN: I don’t think so. The closest is probably a bunch of gallery openings in the art world that I went to with my wife because that’s her thing where we’re fasting to see how these things work from a totally other perspectives. But then I was just a bystander, not a real attendee.

PHILIP: Ok, well maybe that’s a dead end [chuckles]. That’s for sure. Aside from MicroConf and Brennan’s conferences, those are the things that I would probably put at the top of my list in terms of – I don’t even know what they would be. So I feel like I’m not – [crosstalk]

REUVEN: So here’s a pro tip, listeners. Go to conferences where you're likely to find things interesting.

CHUCK: Yes. Absolutely.

PHILIP: Takeaway number one. Exactly.

CHUCK: I’m going to start sweating on this show and acting sleazy just for –


PHILIP: That would be my substitute if we’re actually going.

CHUCK: Yup. So what I was hoping that Reuven could do is paint the picture for us as far as what it was like to be at Double Your Freelancing Conference. I can do the same for MicroConf, but just give us a picture of “oh, this was what was great, this was what it felt like to be there, these were the benefits that I got from it”, and then we can actually talk about what you could’ve or should’ve or did do at the conference that paid off for you.

REUVEN: Ok. So it was roughly a two-day conference. I say roughly because it was on Thursday and Friday and it started on Wednesday afternoon – people arriving; it was an opening dinner, and it was purposely not overscheduled, meaning I think there were like 5, 6 talks everyday at most, and each talk was about half an hour and it was one track. So everyone’s in the same room. I think there were about 60 or 70 of us. Everyone’s in the same room, everyone’s watching the same talk, and there was plenty of time scheduled in after each talk for people to socialize both with the speakers and with each other.

And then after – and then there were meals, like there’s breakfast and lunch and dinner, and between the final talk and dinner, because it was in a spa, we all went to the hot tubs and hung out there and chatted; so not a bad way to spend an afternoon. And the purpose – I would say there are two purposes; at least I saw one was to learn from the speakers that everyone who spoke was trying to give ideas, tactics and strategy for how to improve your business, how to think about it, how to make yourself more valuable in your client’s eyes, and how to find better clients whether it’s building authority, whether it’s using email smarter – I spoke about training – surprise, surprise.

So that was like the official part of it, but there was a very strong emphasis placed on interactions; find people, meet them, chat with them informally. And so I think most people try to mix it up who they were eating with at each meal and in the hot tubs and after dinner then. There was a lot of late night talking and chatting and interacting. Some of it work-oriented and some of it fun-oriented with the goal of having people open up and chat with each other.

And in terms of attendees, while it was aimed at people in Europe, I would say 10%, 15% came from the US and  we had some people from Australia to from India and then the rest of it were basically from Europe in that area. So it was a pretty wide [inaudible] of people and I would guess easily half, maybe even two-thirds were somehow technology-oriented, although that merged with people who were doing content marketing, doing graphic design and so forth. Yeah, so that’s probably – that’s a relatively quick summary there, I guess.

CHUCK: Yeah. And MicroConf is actually pretty similar. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised at all to find that they took some of the ideas behind how they run MicroConf and put it into Double Your Freelancing, because again it’s all one track, lot of emphasis placed on who you meet and who you get to know and what their experiences and what you can learn from them.

So MicroConf is in Las Vegas which is actually convenient for me because I can actually just drive there. Yeah, so you get there; there's usually some kind of reception the night before, and there are also a whole bunch of the attendees that because they understand that it’s a lot about the interactions, they go out of their way to – once everyone’s there, they had a Slack channel for us this year and so we kind of self-organized for stuff; going to dinner, going to whatever, getting together for different things, and that sort of thing.

And then the talks this year I didn’t think were as good as last year, but they were still pretty darn good. Over all though, one of the main highlights for me is going to – they have receptions in the evening, and so they just rent one of the rooms in the hotel, like one of the big clubs or whatever, and they give everybody a drink ticket and then you just go and mingle. And it starts at like 7 and gets over at like 11 or midnight, and you just wander through and talk to whoever and have those conversations.

So I spent a bit of time talking to Marcus Blankenship, I spent a bit of time talking to a bunch of other people. And honestly, that’s where the real value for me came out of the conference was just the ability to go and exchange ideas with these other people who were ahead of me in some ways and help them out in the areas where I might have a little bit more experience or other ideas for them, and it’s a terrific experience. I've usually got a zillion ideas when I’m done, and I’m completely exhausted when I’m done with the conference. But yeah, that’s the feel and it’s very informal.

PHILIP: Chuck, can I maybe not play the devil’s advocate, but can you give a specific story of how that’s worked where you’ve gone to a conference and picked up some idea and then – do you implement the ideas or do you find that they really translate to some positive outcome for your business?

CHUCK: Right. So one of the things that I did or that I've picked up at the last one – of course this came out of hanging out with my Mastermind while we were there, but Derick Bailey got me into WordPress. And I had moved DevChat.tv off of WordPress a few years ago and custom-built a Rails application to run everything. And he showed me how to do it in WordPress, and within a few days I had more or less a working system in WordPress. And so it just became readily apparent that it wasn’t worth paying for custom development on DevChat.tv because I could do what I needed to do in WordPress. There's still a few things that I need to add to it; for the most part, it works well. So that was one thing.

Another thing that came out of it was when I was getting ready to fly out – in fact I’d published to this an episode on this podcast, but I sat down with a guy named Anders who’s from Denmark who came out to MicroConf. And I looked at him and I said “well, I’m thinking about doing podcast interviews. Are you interested?” and he said sure, so we sat down and had a conversation. And basically, he talked about the way that he runs things and the way that he communicates with people that worked for him, because he owns a company. And he talked about having weekly meetings and talked about how they set expectations and how they communicate about what they're working on and how they get things done. And it was like something that you could put on top of Agile development and it would augment it in a lot of ways that were important.

Anyway, so I got a whole bunch of ideas out of that. He also challenged me to figure out my reason for doing what I do, and all of that turned out to be very very valuable stuff. So I came back, I immediately started doing the weekly meetings with Mandy and Federico who are the two people that do most of the work around here for me. And then I read Start With Why by Simon Sinek at his recommendation, and that really helped me clarify a lot of things about what I’m doing and why I’m doing it. And between those two things, it’s really just helped me just move ahead with the business and think about what needs to happen next and who needs to be doing it and where it needs to be going and then coordinate it with the people who are the most important in my business outside of myself.

So yeah, there were some direct things that came out of it. I got some ideas for sponsorships; I've gotten some ideas for other things. Sometimes it’s just stuff I need to think about and mull over, and then over the next year between what I heard at MicroConf and what I've heard in a few other places, I realized that “hey, this is important”. And though I can’t pinpoint exactly where it started, I can say “oh well, I picked some of it up here and some of it up there”, and MicroConf seems to be one place that I kept coming back to last year.

PHILIP: That’s great.

REUVEN: Yeah. I don’t know – I’m still – I’m actually in Belgium right now as we speak, so I was in Stockholm for the conference, was home for a week, and now I’m away again, and hopefully the locks will work on the door when I get home. But – [laughter] – my family will still be there or something. But I definitely, I have to still go through my notes from the conference and figure out what specific takeaways they were.

I was very impressed by how a whole lot of people have automated things. People like Nick D and Kai Davis and even Brennan, they’ve spent the time – and of course it always comes down to time and how you're going to invest your time, but I've put the other bunch of email courses and I've got a few things going, but what I really need to do, I think, is take a few days [inaudible], but take a few days, really map out how I’d like to people to come to me, how I would like to service them, what sorts of automated stuff I can do to both reduce the load on me and to make myself give them more obvious value and make it easier for them to find me.

And I’m just going to sit down and both go through my notes and plot out how that can be done, but they demonstrated that it’s possible. They’ve demonstrated that it’s more than possible.

CHUCK: Yeah. That was another thing that I've picked up at MicroConf as well. And in fact, I had a long talk with Kai about how he automates things for Brennan’s podcast down to him actually showing me the system they used. It was exceptionally valuable.

The other thing is that between that – those discussions on automation and then the fact that my – one of my – so I’m in two Mastermind groups, and the one that wasn’t in Vegas with me, we actually read the book Procrastinate on Purpose by Rory Vaden, and that’s all about what do you eliminate, what do you automate, and just talks through how you basically move everything off your plate and have everybody else move everything off their plate except the most important thing. And I’ll tell you that that’s changed a lot of the ways that I think about things, and a lot of that did start at MicroConf.

REUVEN: Right. Well the other thing is it cemented in many ways my satisfaction with having moved in position to training rather than still doing a lot of development and dealing with clients, because I heard some people talk about what it’s like to go and service them and it sounds so so so familiar. And I am still doing some development and I am still [inaudible] doing development for clients, but I've moved enough out of that and the clientele base that we have is stable enough that I’m not spending all day or even half of everyday talking to them on the phone and negotiating what is working, what's not working, deadlines, schedules, bugs and so forth, which is quite a relief.

So in some ways, it just reinforced my satisfaction with the direction that I’m taking with my business and what I’m doing.

CHUCK: I’m curious at a conference like that, and I think at some of the other conferences, but at Double Your Freelancing in particular, does it feel at all like because you're there talking to freelancers and they're trying to figure out solutions to their problems, do you talk more about the problems and about how great it is to be a freelancer?

REUVEN: Oh, that’s an interesting point. I guess it’s inherent in the way it works. I guess we were all there because we enjoy freelancing, although some people weren’t clear – it’s always going to happen that some are more senior than others, but some people we definitely new. There was a woman there who is working for a large consulting company and is planning to leave there and go off on her own. So she was like – not even new; she was like a negative time in terms of running a freelancing company but wanted to figure out how to do it and what steps to take to really move up.

But there were a few people who have been doing it for a while, so I don’t know if people really spoke about how great it was just because that’s an assumption. But I think at the same time, everyone’s there to be very supportive and really encourage everyone else to do well on the assumption, I think the correct assumption, that there is so much work out there that hiding things or keeping things secret just to serve at a competitive advantage – you got to be kidding me; the world is a big place. So even if we’re talking about problems, it was “here’s how I solved that problem, and you can too”.

CHUCK: Yeah. It was a lot the same at MicroConf.

So what did you expect going into Double Your Freelancing? What were you hoping to come away with or what did you think would come away with? What other outcomes did you think you’d get, maybe from the speaking and stuff too?

REUVEN: I don’t want to say that it’s a disappointment. I think it’s [inaudible] expectations, but I think that I've figured out I was going to come away with some really killer crystal clear things that I need to be doing. And as usual, the crystallization happens – it’s going to happen in my mind and the time that I take to spend and think about it, not because some people got up on a pedestal and said “you should do X, Y, and Z”.

And so I think my surprise is that as with most things in life, you need to give it time and attention in order to really benefit from it. I think I was really impressed more than I expected by – even I said that most people are technology-oriented in some way, but there was still a wide variety of types of technology people and the ways that people attack things and even the sorts of businesses that they're in. There were some people there who are in Rails rescue projects to a large degree. There's someone there who buys [inaudible] companies. What I was very interesting to hear is what their challenges are, and I just think “wow, I’d rather have my problems than theirs”.

And honestly, I don’t think I really had a very clear idea of what to expect. I knew there are going to be interesting smart people, I knew I was going to learn a lot, but I really don’t have much to compare it with. I also think it was much more – and this was on purpose – social fun and relaxed. I was very active in a youth group in high school and I went to all sorts of – I was constantly constantly constantly going to conferences and conventions there for 4 years, and Brennan at some point said that it was like summer camp, and I went to camp for years too. But this, the conference, reminded me very very much of my high school youth group meetings where we would talk and talk and talk until the wee hours of the night and the talking was a mix of business and fun, but we came away exhausted but feeling like we got a lot out of it.

CHUCK: Yeah, that makes sense. And you talking about some of these people, I think some of the same people wind up going to MicroConf as well. But the first time I went to MicroConf, I had no idea what to expect. I generally – I think in the same vein that you put out there, I expected that I’d come away with a bunch of clarity and a whole bunch of great strategies for how I wanted to get to whatever it was that I thought I wanted to get to.

And I did, but not in the way that I thought I would in the sense that in some ways I think I expected to just have this moment of realization or something, and that didn’t really happen. But there were so many people there with so many backgrounds and points of view that I think that really is what – it didn’t give me the clarity – I had to reflect, I had to really think about what I had learned, but at the same time, I was put in a position where I was given all of the pieces and then I could fit them together afterward.

And this year, that’s more or less what I expected and so I did things a little bit differently. I actually went to the conference expecting to sit through the talks and get some ideas from the talks, which is terrific, but at the same time I fully expected that the value for the conference was going to come out of the conversations I had and the things that I could take and implement or get inspiration from in the business. And that’s what I did. So if I had the option of chatting with somebody who had an interesting or relevant set of experience, then I would opt for the conversation over the session, and that was a deliberate choice.

I also went there with specific things that I wanted to learn. And then through the conversations as things wrapped up, I would actually tell the person I was chatting with “you know, I was hoping that I could find somebody who could help me with this problem”. And in a lot of cases, they’d be “oh, then you want to talk to so and so, and they're over there. Do you want me to introduce you?” And so it wasn’t just by happenstance that I wind up talking to some of these folks, I actually got introduced and taken to them or they would tell me to go talk to somebody I already knew. And so when I went and talked to them, I’d say “you know, everybody’s telling me that you're the expert on this thing”, and then we could have the conversation about it.

I wind up talking to Bryan Castle who’s been on the show before because of that. I was asking about automation and things like that, and they all said “yeah, Bryan’s got it – his systems down for his business”. And then I wind up talking to Kai Davis during lunch about the podcast setup, like I said before. And so by knowing that I wanted to pick up on those things, I could get directed around to the people that were kind of experts in those things.

REUVEN: Right. I guess if there was a theme that come out of what I learned, it was to get those systems in place that the really successful people are the ones who come up with [inaudible], they figure out how to do it and they automate it. And then they have time to work on other things.

CHUCK: Well, the way that Rory Vaden puts it in Procrastinate on Purpose is he said that these people are multipliers. They multiply their time by finding the things that they don’t have to do and stop doing them. They multiply their time by figuring out what things they can hand off to somebody else and then they're not doing them anymore. And so then if you have a process that takes you an hour, but you pay somebody considerably less than whatever your time value proposition is, then you can work that out and then you – obviously, you automate, you delegate, you work through those things and then you put off all of the other things that aren’t important so you can work on the one thing that’s a priority.

And automation and delegation is all systems, and if you can figure out I could multiply my time by not having to do this, even if it’s 5 minutes everyday, then you automate that. And then you have that much more time, which adds up pretty quickly if you figure because it’s almost a half hour every week in over 52 weeks; that’s 25 hours that you save yourself. And so you save yourself 25 hours and that’s 25 hours you can spend on other things that are more important, be they important pressing things that you have in your business or be they going and hanging out with your kids and taking them to the zoo or whatever.

And yeah, it’s that kind of stuff, and just figuring those things out, getting them in place is a big deal. And yeah, I talked to a whole bunch of people about the systems they have in their business, and it turns out that there are a lot of people that are very good at it, but they knew who they were listening to who was telling them to do the things that they knew they should be doing, and that those are the people that I got directed to.

REUVEN: Do you feel like it’s worth going – are you planning to keep going to MicroConf every year?


REUVEN: Or do you feel – so it’s not like the learning is going to [inaudible] around or it’s going to plateau?

CHUCK: No. And the reason is because there are all kinds of people there. And there are people that have built million dollar companies and there are people there who are just getting started, and they're all going to run into different challenges than I am, and there are going to be different things for me to learn and pick up every year. So I feel like as I go to the conference every year and I go with a particular purpose in mind, even if there isn't the world-class expert on that thing, whatever it is that I need to pick up, there are enough people who are good enough to get me started or get me further down the road to where I’ll get whatever it is out of it that I need.

The other thing is that because they have these bigger players that tend to have done really amazing things that you can get a lot of inspiration too as you're like “well, I’m 3 steps behind that guy, so I’ll just not run into the problems that he ran into” because they explained how to avoid them. They’d tell you what they wished they had done.

REUVEN: You mentioned before – and this is something I’d heard about MicroConf – that people break up on their own for dinners, because for it wasn’t Double Your Freelancing at least in Europe, because we’re at this spa and it was like half an hour away from downtown Stockholm by boat so we all had meals together, and I think it was actually a very positive thing. And isn't it possible that you can end up knocking to see people mix it up with them because they're off having dinner with their friends?

CHUCK: Yeah, that’s possible. I’ll tell you that lunch – we all had lunch together, and yeah, through dinner we would all go wherever we wanted to go in Las Vegas, but everybody came back for the receptions in the evening.

REUVEN: I see, ok.

CHUCK: So you could go and have the dinner conversation with your friends or you could go and have the dinner conversation with whoever was in Slack saying “we’re all going to this place, come with us”, and then you could wind up going back.

The other thing is having the dinner situation the way it was, one of the conversations that I wind up having was with Joel Hooks who is one of the guys behind egghead.io. Egghead.io is video training for programmers, which is funny because [inaudible] based here in Utah, and egghead.io, one of the two founders there is based here in Utah. Anyway, he runs the business side and then Joel [inaudible] who lives here in the same city I live in actually does a lot of the programming videos and helps curate the content.

So Joel had a whole ton of ideas and thoughts and things that he had gone through building egghead.io, and it just turned out that Derick Bailey and I who were hanging together ran into him in the lobby outside of the room that we were having our conference in right around dinner. And so Joel just took us to dinner; so it was Joel and one of his employees, whose name I can’t remember – sorry if you listen to the show – and then Derick and I. It was just the four of us.

And so I got to pick his brain for 2 hours about how he runs egghead.io and got a whole bunch of ideas out of it, and it was mostly because it was “hey, it’s dinnertime. Hey, are you hungry?” and Joel was – I don’t think I saw him in any of the receptions and I think he sat through some of the talks as he was interested in them, o the only way I would’ve ran into him was “well hey, there's a really great sushi place over here, and let’s go”, and he knew Derick. And so that worked out that way.

And so I think there are trade-offs. I honestly think that meals together probably is better for most of the attendees, but in this particular case, I got to spend time with somebody who understood to some degree the business that I’m in and the things that I’m dealing with and had a lot of ideas on how to run the business and how to solve some of the business problems and things like that. So yeah, it’s interesting and there are – I think there are interesting trade-offs, but leaving it open like that, there were a couple of dinners that had like 20 or 30 attendees go to some restaurant in Las Vegas. And then in another case is if you wanted to go off and be in a little bit more intimate setting, then you could.  So I benefited from that.

And then last year at MicroConf, I wound up going to dinner with Joanna Wiebe and – I can’t even remember who all was there, but there were a whole bunch of people there who I see as the top crust of their particular niche and just got to know these folks and really benefited from that too. And so I tagged along with them and it turned out that a lot of them were interested in podcasting so I could share my experience there. And it was just a really nice interesting mix and at the same time, I got to figure out that some of these folks are human, that they weren’t superhuman like I thought, that “oh well, I have these issues in my business and I have these doubts about myself all the time”, and I’m just like “you people are brilliant”, but at the same time – and I don’t think you get that from the same setup where everybody goes in, they walk down the buffet line and then they sit down at whichever table they wind up at.

So that’s fun too because it’s like a roulette of who am I going to meet and what interesting thing about them am I going to benefit from and what interesting thing about me are they going to benefit from. So I think having the meals the way they were was it – I think it worked well for MicroConf.

REUVEN: You mentioned a Slack channel, so Double Your Freelancing also has a – we had a Slack channel before the conference and it has continued active after the conference. And so if anyone here runs any sort of conference, I strongly encourage you to do this. It was fantastic. People [inaudible] a device in terms of where to go, what to see in Stockholm before the conference began; people area able to exchange some ideas. Some people contacted me and said “I see you're going to be speaking. I’d love to find a time to pick your brain about it”. And I was able to contact some people and do the same. It was really a great thing.

And now afterwards, people are continuing to share and gush and give ideas, and it’ll be interesting to see if it runs its course or if it turns into something bigger, but I definitely think it was a definite plus in terms of my enjoyment of the conference and my preparation. It was also fun to meet people in person with whom I communicated quite a lot and to discover that their avatars didn’t quite look like they did.

CHUCK: Yeah. It was the same for MicroConf. Podcast Movement is a little bit different in that they are doing a Facebook group instead and it’s for attendees past, present and future. So it’s pretty much anyone who wants to be involved in the conference in any way.

But it’s been one of the interesting highlights to communicate on either of those and just see who’s going and what they’ve got going on, and people ask questions about podcasting and – or for MicroConf, people would get in and they’d ask questions about business before we even got to the conference. And a lot of informal events got organized and all of that has just really been a fun way to get to know people in a really interesting way to continue the conversation.

Now, one thing I will point out is that MicroConf shut down their Slack channel after a couple of weeks. So it’s not there anymore, but it’s been pretty terrific. It was also the way that I lined up a lunch with another entrepreneur that’s here in Utah after the conference. So some of that networking and some of the experience that we had has continued since then, and that’s been a very positive thing as well.

In fact, I should get Blair on the show. He’s the developer behind MemberPress, which is a plugin for WordPress, and he also does pretty nice plugin for WordPress. But yeah, it’s just been a really great way to get to know people.

REUVEN: It’s funny, I – the world is a really big place for a lot of people, but I feel like in the tech consulting entrepreneurial area, it’s a relatively small community and I think there's a lot of overlap between the conferences that you and I went to. We both mentioned Kai Davis, I know Brennan was in both, so it’s funny that with so many people doing freelancing around the world, these are the people who are going at conferences and interacting with each other and then getting better and then sharing a lot of what they're doing. And then that spirit of sharing was really just pervasive also.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely. Amy Hoy was also at MicroConf. I don’t know if she was on Double Your Freelancing.

REUVEN: I think she was in the one in Virginia.

CHUCK: Yeah. I was a little sad that I didn’t get to meet up with her, but – yeah, it’s just – it’s that kind of thing.

So beyond the personal connections and things like that, are there other things that people should do. I almost never look at the list of talks, but I think that that might be beneficial for me so that I can go “oh ok, I actually want to go to that one” or see if I can connect with the speaker. Half of the time, I really like that idea.

REUVEN: Yeah, that’s a very good idea actually, looking at lists of talks and seeing if there's something that particularly interesting and then contacting the speaker beforehand. First of all, it’s wonderful for their egos, which is of great importance, but also –

CHUCK: [Inaudible] people’s ego all day to get what I want.

REUVEN: Right, but it also puts both of you, both the speaker and you, in a position of saying “yeah, let’s talk about this subject. Let’s see if I can help you out at all”. And in my case, some people I get the chance to speak to the conference; some people I didn’t, but we’re still going to talk after the conference now just because we didn’t get a chance about it at length.

So I definitely say looking at the talk, seeing if there's someone who can really benefit you even potentially and then contacting them, seeing how you can make a connection there, and maybe even going into the conference with a bunch of thoughts of “where is my business weak, weaker, or weakest, and where can I improve it”, and then looking through talks and people and saying who might be in a position to help you out, or even reaching out. If there's a Slack channel before the conference, you could say “hey, this is issue I want to work on”.

I've been trying for months now to get help on my Regular Expression book and marketing of it, and I kept coming up against dead ends. And so the conference, they did a few teardowns of websites where we talked about that, I talked to other people about it, and I've really started to get some ideas of what I can and should do to try to improve the marketing there. And could I have done another way? Yeah, but it was really convenient to have this intense week of – or intense few days of thinking and working on it.

CHUCK: Yeah. I think I’m going to have to make some notes of what I want to get out of this conference and then do it.

PHILIP: Do you guys ever tend – workshops of any kind where it’s a little more focused just like – Reuven you mentioned needing help with marketing your book. Is that something you have encountered? I am curious if you see much of that going on.

REUVEN: No, but that’s a great idea.

PHILIP: Or as a conference that’s like maybe 5 or 10 different subjects related to a theme, and a workshop is like one subject more focused, more about that one thing that you might need help with.

CHUCK: I can tell you that at NG Conf, they had workshop day the day before the conference that you could sign up for. And so you could go to one of the workshops. So they had intro to Angular 2 because Angular 2 is new and just coming out, and then they had a whole bunch of others that were related to some technology or another that was – that had to do with Angular so it was like Angular and material design or something like that.

So you could go to one of those. And then they also had a fair day which was a – I’m thinking of how to explain it, but they had a whole bunch of just fun stuff you could go to. And then they also had a bunch of longer forum talks that were more along the lines of those workshops. They were like 2-hour talks instead of 30-minute talks. And they were definitely helpful. They're a little bit different focused because they're longer and they're structured differently, but those work well too. I've never – or at least I can’t think of any instance where I've been to a full-on workshop where that was the whole event.

PHILIP: Yeah. As I was thinking back, I realized I have been to a couple multi-day workshops. And that, I quite enjoy because there’s no question which you're going to get. It feels like less of a grab bag and more of a – like ok, this is a singular focus and it’s helpfully going to help me level up in this one area.

CHUCK: Yeah. Well, the other thing that’s nice about the multi-day workshops – I've done a few of those myself, like put it on as the instructor – and that is that people go home and they try whatever it was that you were demonstrating in your workshop and then they come back the next day with good questions because it’s hard to help people visualize that even if you're actually coding on screen and stuff. Sometimes they just don’t understand until they try and go do it themselves and then it’s like “oh, oh yeah, this part’s hard” and it’s like “well, I didn’t realize that, but I’m glad you brought it up”.

PHILIP: Yeah. I guess that’s where the world of conferences and training overlap because there's that handsaw element that would be more something you would expect from a training experience. And I just – I haven’t looked at it, but I feel like that’s a really valid compliment to a conference.

CHUCK: Yeah, absolutely.

We've been at this for about an hour. Is there anything else that we should go after before we do picks?

REUVEN: I think the only think I want to say is people should definitely consider going to a conference. I was really excited. I came back really energized and very excited for what I’d seen and what I had done and people I've met. And so if you haven’t been to one of these sorts of conferences before, I would definitely suggest that you look into it.

The other thing is it could be expensive, but you have to see it – now, we’re turning the tables on the whole value-based pricing thing. You’ve just seen as an investment in your business. It does mean taking a few days off from work. It doesn’t mean not billing for your time. It doesn’t mean paying for travel, hotel and meals and so forth, but I definitely believe that the investment was worthwhile and more than pay off.

CHUCK: Yeah, I agree. The other thing that I want to just put out there is that there are definitely ways that you can maximize the value you get out of that, and we've talked about some of those as far as meeting people and how you approach the conference and things like that, but if you're not actively experimenting with and trying to make the most of the knowledge and things that you’ve picked up from a conference, then you're going to short change yourself on that value. So we talked about experimentation aspect of workshops, but it’s definitely – you need to do that with your conferences as well.

Alright, well let’s do some picks. Philip, do you have some picks for us?

PHILIP: Yeah. I have over the past week been just loving this book that I am listening to. It’s the biography of Charles Schulz, the creator of the Peanuts cartoon. I’m not sure if it’s been picked here before, but of course I’m listening; it’s an audio book. It’s fantastic. What's fantastic about it is it’s a portrait of how someone just took their flaws and worked – their personality flaws and worked those into their work and created this unique thing that started out as a weird quirky off-beat comic strip that became phenomenally successful. And I feel like there's a – not a lesson per se, but just more of an inspirational story for anyone who’s a freelancer who feels like they're not perfect, who feels like maybe some aspects of their personality might hold them back. It’s just a very encouraging story to see how someone who’s been through that and just managed to work it into their work and find that balance.

And it’s not a story of banishing your personal demon, but more just harnessing them and using them in your work. And for that reason, I find it very inspiring. So that’s my pick for this week. The title is called Schulz and Peanuts: A Biography. There's no T in Schulz, strangely, even though it’s pronounced that way. I highly recommend it.

CHUCK: Awesome. Reuven, do you have some picks for us?

REUVEN: Yeah. So listeners of the podcast might know I’m a big political junkie, and so I finally am getting around tor reading some books from the last two elections, the US elections, famous books of that: Game Change and also Double Down from the 2000 election and the 2012 election. And basically, these are these journalists, John Heilemann and Mark Halperin who had meetings throughout the election campaigns with lots and lots and lots of people involved on the condition that they would only publish what they reported after the election was already over. So you get wild crazy stories about everyone involved, and it was truly amazing, especially the book about the 2008 election in which Hillary Clinton was running; so little has changed. Eight years have passed, yet all the players are still acting in the same crazy ways and on all sides. So if you're into politics or drama or you want non-fiction that reads like totally gripping fiction, I definitely recommend that you take a look at these books.

CHUCK: Awesome. I've got a few picks here that I’m going to throw out there. The first one is when I travel, which I’m going to be doing this evening; I’m going to a conference tonight, so this was very timely, I guess. I always travel with my Bose Noise Cancelling Headphones and it just makes the travel experience so much more enjoyable, mainly because I get to just sit back, I can put them on, I don’t have to care about what anybody else is doing on the flight, and then I can rest, I can listen to music, I can listen to a book, I can work on whatever I'm working on, and – anyway, so really really enjoy having those.

I've got a couple of book picks as well. The first one is called The Overton Window by Glenn Beck. And regardless of what your political leanings are, it’s a terrific story. It does explain some of the standpoint of people who find themselves on the more constitutional conservative end of things, but for the most part, it’s just a story of corruption and intrigue and all that stuff, and it’s really really great. I really enjoyed it.

Another one is The Jefferson Lies. The idea is that there have been a whole bunch of things that have been put out there over the years about Thomas Jefferson, and it turns out that they're not true. And it’s by David Barton; and so he goes in and he actually pulls up the evidence that refutes a lot of these claims that have been made basically besmirching the character of Thomas Jefferson and it’s been really interesting to see where the information came from and what evidence there is the contrary.

And then finally the last book I'm going to pick is by Brandon Sanderson. It’s a book coming out. He says it’s in the copy edit phase on his website and it’s from a book series that’s really light-hearted and fun to read, and it’s Alcatraz vs. the Evil Librarians, and this book’s called The Dark Talent, and it just picks up where the last book left off, and they were just a fun set of books to read. I really enjoyed them. So yeah, go pick those up as well. And yeah, those are my picks.

And with that, I guess we’ll wrap up the show. If you're going to a conference, go ahead and tweet at us @freelancersshow or you can tweet each of us individually and let us know where you're going and what things have worked for you, that’d be awesome. And with that, we’ll wrap up and we’ll catch you all next week.

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