FinCon: The Conference That Doesn’t Sleep

Today, September 24, 2018, I am republishing a post I wrote after last year’s FinCon, the conference where money and media meet.

I’m often asked what the conference is all about. It’s about meeting your online friends face to face. It’s about making new friends and business or media connections. It’s a great opportunity for anonymous content creators to speak openly about their blog, podcast, or Youtube channel and learn how to reach more people with it.

The following is my take on last year’s version, and after spending a week in Orlando, we’re now cruising around on a big ship with plans to return to Orlando for FinCon18 in a couple days.

At the end of this post, I linked to over 40 other recaps of the same conference. I don’t think I’ll find the time or stamina to repeat this feat next year, so I’m hoping someone can pick up the slack. I’ll be happy to pass that torch!

 


 

 
Last week was an extraordinarily busy one. I attended not one, but two international conferences that are the largest of their kind in their respective fields: the American Society of Anesthesiologists Annual Meeting and FinCon17.

Over the course of eight days, I attended 40 to 50 hours of lectures, panels, workshops, and seminars. I learned a lot, talked a lot, and met so many wonderful people. If not for this new part-time schedule, I would have had a tough time making both conferences, and certainly would not have had a few days off both before and after to prepare for and recuperate from them. Hooray, Financial Independence!

 

A Tale of Two Conferences

 

The ASA meeting is huge. Attendance is in the 15,000 range, with 25% of them international attendees. There are only about ten cities with a convention center and infrastructure to support such a gathering.

FinCon, while growing each year, is an intimate gathering by comparison. 1,700 people including a lively Australian contingent, sophisticated European visitors, and of course a friendly bunch of Canadians made the trek to Texas for FinCon17.

I knew very few people at the ASA meeting. I could probably count on my fingers and toes the number of people I knew personally and connected with at the Boston conference. There were a number of others that I knew of because I’d seen them speak before or because they’re “anesthesia famous,” but they don’t know me, so I didn’t interact with a ton of people.

I did make some great connections at a Boston blogger meetup (Chief Mom Officer, Actuary on FIRE, Laurie of the Three Year Experiment, and “EnRon“) — get used to the namedrops — many more coming — and I met a few more great people at a reader meetup at Harpoon Brewery. My residency program hosted a reception at a swanky joint, and I enjoyed getting to know a number of the current residents and spouses, while also catching up with former resident colleagues and faculty teachers of mine.

I may have only known about 0.1% of those wearing the ASA badge, but at FinCon17, I was at least “internet familiar” with a good 20% of the guests. And by that, I don’t mean that we both swiped right on Tinder (or is it left?) but that we’ve been reading each other’s sites, interacting on Twitter, and / or exchanging e-mails. There were so many people I was excited to meet in person, and none of them would disappoint. Well, none except Carl.

 

Fincon Y'all

fincon y’all

Overview of FinCon17

 

Looking for the orange DART train at one of the most ridiculously designed airports I’ve encountered, we came across a friendly couple and one of them happened to be wearing a FinCon shirt. My wife and I had a good chat with Romeo Jeremiah and his wife on the one hour and two minute train ride into downtown Dallas.

We checked in at the Sheraton Dallas, registered for the conference, and were off to our first scheduled dinner with the White Coat Investor and his team of helpers that I have decided to refer to as Dahle’s Angels. They’re a delightful group of gals and great company for my wife when the good doctor and I start talking shop.

The next three days, I was pretty diligent about going to sessions throughout the day while my wife enjoyed some Dallas highlights, including the Sixth Floor (JKF) Museum, the Dallas Holocaust Museum and the Dallas World Aquarium.

Many bloggers like to say it’s best to skip most of the talks and just hang around the hallways and grand hall chatting with people. You’ll have time for more in-depth conversations and will make connections with people that you might otherwise miss, and you can always watch videos of the talks later.

I agree with the logic, but I also know me, and I know how unlikely I am to actually watch videos of the talks later. So I sat in on the sessions and still managed to meet almost everyone I hoped to bump into.

At any given time, there were two to five sessions, so you can’t take them all in. For this reason, I’m glad I’ll get access to the videos of talks I missed so I can at least tell myself I might watch those after the conference. But I probably won’t.

 

fincon shirts

so much for minimalism

 

The exhibit hall was chock full of vendors handing out sweet swag. I came home with a half-dozen high quality tees from various companies. Between those and the shirts bloggers have mailed me (thank you Retirement Manifesto and ESI Money), the shirts the Student Loan Planner and Mad Fientist (pronounced feentist, apparently) hooked me up with at the conference, and the one promised to be coming soon (I’m a large, ChooseFI), I could wear nothing but blogger, podcaster, and finance industry shirts for days on end.

 

FinCon17 by Night

 

There was a lot going on during the daylight hours, but I was forewarned and can now confirm that FinCon is the conference that does not sleep. I actually did a pretty good job of adhering to the “nothing good happens after midnight” routine, but that kind of fell apart Saturday night. But it was Saturday night. I guess that makes it alright. And you say “What have I got to lose?”

Thursday evening, we had what has got to be the largest gathering of physician bloggers and podcasters in the history of mankind. The Press Box Grill played host to a group that included:

 

 

Physician Bloggers

image credit: FutureProofMD

 

The following evening, my wife and I had a pleasant dinner over spicy Mexican food. We were invited by a small group that included The Biglaw Investor and Travis the Student Loan Planner. These guys are doing amazing work with their sites, and it was great to pick their brains and contemplate what we can do to best serve our audiences as our combined reach continues to grow.

On Saturday, I was able to catch the beginning of my beloved Golden Gophers football game before having to run off for the 8th Annual Plutus Awards.

At the awards ceremony, I didn’t take home a trophy, but I was honored to be one of five finalists for both the Best Financial Independence / FIRE blog and Best New Personal Finance Blog. Congratulations to the winners of those, and to all the Plutus Award winners!

Although I didn’t win, and the Gophers didn’t win either, it was still a fun night. Highlights of the awards ceremony included:

  • “The Floor” sketch culminating in a live performance from an American Idol contestant
  • An ingenious drinking game for our emcee Bethany Bayless with a sip for each absent winner.
  • Crowd singing “Happy Birthday” to Mindy Jensen of Bigger Pockets (I started that one).
  • Crowd chanting “Chug Chug Chug” to Bethany as she announced the final absentee winner (J. Money started that one, and yes, she chugged).

 

“Then after the show, it’s the after-party. Then after the party, it’s the hotel lobby…” – R. Kelly

 

The after-parties and hotel lobbies were crowded with conference goers who completely ignored their normal bedtimes. I thoroughly enjoyed a rare beer share hosted by Gwen the Fiery Millennial and Erik the Mastermind with fantastic beers supplied by The 1500s, The Mad Fientist, the WoWs, and many more. Weary of turning into a pumpkin spice porter, we retired just as midnight was approaching, but I hear the party carried on well into the wee hours.

After a quiet Friday evening (for us), PT & company threw a rockin’ costume party to close out the conference on Saturday night. There were Wall Street statues and movie characters, rock stars — with J. Money’s wife pulling off a perfect Avril Lavigne, but my favorite costumes were bloggers being other bloggers, such as:

I could have pulled off a decent Mr. Money Mustache, but my wife and I coordinated to be Maverick and Charlie from Top Gun.

 

maverick charlie costumes

Photographer: J.D. Roth. Thank you, friend!

 

Best of FinCon17

 

Where do I begin? I’ll start with the moment that was repeated often over the first day or two. I recognized many bloggers I’ve interacted with online, but almost nobody recognized me. It’s a curse of being relatively anonymous. The best part was how the look would change from “and you are…” to “Oh, it’s you!” as I introduced myself or my nametag was read. And then there were hugs. Lots of hugs and handshakes turned “bro hugs.”

In addition, there was:

 

One-on-one mentoring with Joseph Hogue of My Work From Home Money and several other sites, learning some advanced search engine optimization.

 

The beeramid at Draft (Thank you, Mr. WoW!) somewhere between the hotel lobby and the Our Next Life after-party.  I got to the massive 35th floor suite after that and realized WoW, it really is waaaay past my bedtime.

 

Rapper Dee-1 crowdsurfing to Sallie Mae Back.

 

Hearing “I’ve met soooo many people from Minnesota.” The North Star state was well represented.

 

Being included in a potential “mastermind” group with some heavy hitters, like the guy who started FinCon.

 

Ryan Inman of Physician Wealth Services telling me how many people saw “Physician” on his name tag and mistakenly assumed he was me.

 

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Sitting down with new friends long enough to get beyond small talk and tell stories. I enjoyed, breakfast, apps, brunch and lunch with people I’d been hoping to hang out with like The Happy Philosopher, Passive Income MD, Coach Carson, Nathan Barry of ConvertKit, my Swedish friend Karl of KINFO, Jonathan and Brad of ChooseFI, JD Roth, the WoWs, Mrs. Adventure Rich, and more.

 

Ally cookies. Vanguard did a great job with theirs, too.

 

Ally cookies

mmm… ally cookies

 

Did I mention the costume party? Michael from Uncommon Dream pulled off a mean Wolverine, Cat Alford was Miss FinCon, and I realized I still knew every explicit lyric to DMX’s Up in Here. Good times.

 

Thanking David Bach for the copy of Automatic Millionaire while giving him a gift of my own, a Physician on FIRE logo can koozie. Also, giving them to a couple hundred others and leaving them near the cans of complimentary soda. #marketing

 

pof koozies

PoF swag

 

Recording a podcast with microphones protruding from a Volkswagen Bug. The Mad Fientist, Mr. & Mrs. 1500 and I had a great talk and a few good laughs.

 

Putting faces to the names of anonymous bloggers and heights to the bodies of bloggers whose faces I recognized. Apparently, I’m not good at guessing a person’s height by the way his face looks. And who knew Jim Wang had such massive arms? I would not want to settle a disagreement by arm wrestling him. In fact, I would not want to disagree with him, period. I fear him.

 

Tweeting out the names of a half dozen people I had yet to meet but wanted to, and successfully connecting with all of them on the last day.

 

PoF Tweet

mission accomplished

 

Worst of FinCon17

 

I could probably name 100 more people that I met, conversed with briefly, but didn’t really get to know. There’s only so much time, and it was a very busy and often loud place.

 

I had been warned about losing your voice, but as a dog owner and father of two boys, my larynx is well accustomed to shouting, so I had no issues. That wasn’t so with everyone. Mr. 1500 almost had to reschedule our podcast, and poor Ms. Montana could only squeak and make hand gestures by the end of the meeting.

 

You can only be in one place at a time. The laws of physics can be a real hindrance at times.

 

Only one sort-of-craft beer in hotel ballroom evening events, a $9 Shiner Bock. Seriously?

 

FinCon17 Wrapup and FinCon18 Tips

 

I thoroughly enjoyed all aspects of the four-day extravaganza, and I’ve already purchased my ticket for FinCon18 in Orlando.

I haven’t said much about the breakout sessions themselves, but I did attend many of them and jotted down a few notes. I believe I picked up some tips that will only make this site better and more visible to more people.

There seem to be some sites that exist solely to tell a story and be rigorously authentic. Other sites are built for maximum profit. The two are not necessarily on opposite ends of a spectrum, but I think it’s tough to do both well at the same time.

I’m trying to do some of both, but at the end of the day, I’d rather be known for storytelling than profits, but I do have a charitable mission that fuels me, and Farnoosh Torabi did tell us we have an obligation to make more money. So I won’t apologize for attempting to do so.

Even if I didn’t learn a single thing or if I never implement any of the new ideas I have, FinCon will have been well worth it. The community aspect of blogging feels truly genuine now that the handshakes, hugs, and fist bumps have happened in real life.

 

What tips do I have for FinCon18 in Orlando?

 

If you have to yell to be heard, move somewhere else and spare your voice.

Bring snacks and beverages to the hotel. Have a car, a friend with a car, or learn the bus system if you have to. A collapsible cooler would be a smart option for your “personal item” to place under the seat in front of you.

Bring your kids! I expect we’ll be bringing our boys and I’m sure we won’t be the only ones. The pools look awesome, and I imagine you’re all familiar with the theme park options all around us in Orlando.

Attend the sessions that interest you. There is still ample time for networking and hand-shaking throughout the day and evening.

For a pre-FinCon experience, join me on a cruise to Havana and Key West the Saturday through Wednesday leading up to the big show. [at the time of re-publication, we’re cruising! Havana, ooh na na…] 

I’ll see you there.

 


Check out these additional recaps with more stories and pictures from FinCon17:

 


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Did you attend FinCon17 or the ASA Annual Meeting this year? If so, what was your favorite memory? If you’ve published a recap, let me know, and I’ll link to you here. Cheers!

 

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