This post will cover several issues. It will serve as a:
- FinCon18 review,
- as an example of how to best manage conference and seminar attendance for maximum results and
- as an update on the future of this blog.
These three issues are interconnected as will be clear shortly.
Professionals from all walks are either required to attend conferences or strongly recommended to do so. As a tax professional for over 30 years I’m familiar with the different types of conferences and how they can provide value well beyond the fee paid to attend. As we explore using conferences to further your wealth and career, I will use personal examples to build an actionable plan you can use to maximize results, creating the most value for your time and financial investment.
FinCon is a large personal finance conference that floats around the U.S. each year. We will use the FinCon conference to illiterate best practices with my experience as an example. FinCon18 in Orlando is the best conference of any kind I ever attended. That is a tall order considering I crashed and burned at FinCon17 in Dallas the prior year.
Small conferences are straight forward. A small number of people gather with a common goal. These small gatherings are generally seminars. Our discussion today involves the larger gatherings with several tracks. Seminars are easy to define. If your goal is learning about the new tax laws you find a seminar on said topic and attend. Seminars are usually a day or two with one topic in one room. You will not miss a breakout session because there are no other tracks.
Large conferences are overwhelming. FinCon had 8 breakout session tracks running simultaneously at times this year. FinCon Central was a hive of activity concurrently with vendors hawking interesting products and ideas. (Some of the best lessons are learned in the mosh pit where people mingle without a formal framework . Vendors bring new ideas to the table. The combination is a powerful mixture.) Unscheduled meetups and parties are common. It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when 2,000 people of like mind gather. So much opportunity abounds! Where to begin?
Lessons from FinCon
Pain is a more powerful motivator so we’ll start with my struggles from both FinCons I attended.
Large conferences are hard to understand before attending first. FinCon has multiple cultures under one roof. Virtually every interest in the financial community is covered. Finding people with similar interests is easy. Finding sessions tailored to your goals is equally easy. So why did I fail the first year and sail the second?
Upon review I believe the disaster that befell me at FinCon a year ago was set in stone before I ever left the house. I was well aware of the educational benefits FinCon offered, but choose instead to focus on meeting as many people as possible without regard to sessions.
You probably share a trait I have. I want to help as many people as possible so maximizing the number of people I associate with during the conference seems like a valid strategy at first glance.
A second trait we may share involves goals. I made the critical error I could learn what I needed to know elsewhere and therefore disregarded educational benefits from sessions. Traffic to this blog is what I wanted and felt the more people I bumped shoulders with would increase my chances of hitting the right combination that would spike blog traffic.
There is nothing wrong with traffic goals. Traffic is the lifeblood of blogs, YouTube videos and podcasts. If nobody shows up all your hard work is in vain. Unfortunately, bumping shoulders with every warm body isn’t the brightest idea I ever had. It eventually comes off as pretentious. Running a million miles an hour also alienates many people that would normally be happy to help you achieve your traffic goals.
The inevitable happened, of course. My energy drained, I was less engaged, made less than quality first impressions and then met an individual edgy enough to want to hurt me and did. This is where I totally went off the rails. At first I pointed the blame out there. After I calmed down and seriously considered what happened, I realized I needed a good long look in the mirror.
FinCon ( and the accompanying Plutus Awards) are the best the industry ever produced. And my ignorance destroyed my first chance at massive gains. My goals were unmet.
It hurts to confess my errors. But it must be said! FinCon is too large an opportunity for anyone who attends. Wasting the first year over such foolish decisions is something I want you to avoid.
Now we can explore how I turned this boat around.
I might have crazy ideas, but I’m a fast learner. Some people lick their wounds and never return. You and I are not those people. We own up to our mistakes and try again. We learn from past experience — wins and losses — and grow from there.
Last year I never made it to a single FinCon session except for the First Timers’ Orientation. I didn’t listen well.
I made a point to talk to every person I could. Attended every party, too. Didn’t drink much, but talked the leg off every human without a nautical mile. The hours were long and grueling. A repeat wasn’t something that excited me.
Once again, the FinCon experience was set in stone prior to leaving the house. This time I made a point to attend at least a reasonable number of sessions. I wanted to finish FinCon with actionable material. (More on this in a bit.)
Touching base with old friends and business acquaintances was secondary, but still part of the scheduled program. Attending sessions I found most important was a priority.
Education is a powerful motivator for me. I like working with people, but people are exhausting! Too many people pulling at me simultaneously and I start to fray around the edges. But education is something I can immerse myself in every waking hour. By spending at least a portion of each day learning at FinCon I reduced stress and burnout. My defenses were up and there was not a repeat of the prior year.
You would think a focus on attending workshops and sessions would limit my socialization. It didn’t! I had more in-depth conversations with readers than last year as we waited for a class to begin. People I never met before came to me to shake my hand. How awesome is that? The solitary life of a writer suddenly became real when faced with people I helped with my work. It is humbling to say the least.
Avoiding the parties is a personal choice. Parties can be loud which isn’t good if you want to keep your voice. For an old guy, ah, an accountant, an earlier bedtime worked wonders. You might be different. I recommend listening to your body. Don’t push to the point where it hurts the next day’s performance. You never know when you’ll need to make a solid first impression.
Without attending parties you would think I interacted with fewer people. Au contraire! Parties are great to let off steam and mingle with friends new and old. But parties are a poor way to gather necessary information (unless you’re waiting for people to get drunk and spill the beans). I’m not telling you to avoid parties. I’m saying my focus on learning allowed for ample interpersonal interactions with people I needed to communicate with.
All I’m saying is balance is the best way to get the most value from a conference. Experience told me I should focus on learning and mingle with attendees as opportunity presented itself. Every tax seminar/conference I ever attended was about learning, but plenty of valuable interaction and communication also happened.
Now we turn to the most important part of this lesson and how it will affect you and this blog.
How to Build a Million+ Page View a Month Blog
Many lessons learned at FinCon were things I already knew but hadn’t yet reached the deepest part of my gray matter. A good many things were also new to me.
From inception I shot myself in the foot with this blog. All I wanted to do was write, to tell my story. I missed all the reasons, you, kind reader, bother to show up around here and spend your precious time reading my work.
First, it’s all about user experience. All too often I did things I thought would generate traffic and then throw an attitude when it didn’t work. After all these years it finally sunk in. If I focus on improving the user experience they will come. Thankfully I avoided the dreaded pop-ups and similar annoying devices. Still, I modified the blog with the intention of increasing traffic. This was my first and greatest mistake.
A close cousin to the above error in my thinking is I put too much emphasis on “me” instead of the reason people show up around here: “you.”
The best writing in this field focuses on actionable material “you” can use in your life to solve problems. Yes, my stories are illustrative and add to the content and its value. However, I frequently never traveled beyond the confines of the personal story. I forgot real people are actually reading this!!! Typing in the solitude of deep evening it is easy to forget I’m not writing a journal to myself, but actually providing material people are seeking to improve their lives and solve problems.
I guess I could add a “Duh!” here, but that would be counter-productive.
The third lesson I was already aware of. Shortly after this blog took its first breath I showed my true prolific colors. The third lesson finally sunk in: Stop publishing so much!
Not only is a rapid publishing schedule grueling on the writer; it’s murder on the reader! Too much material too fast wears readers out.
Publishing too often also reduces the quality of my work. If this is all about the user experience and “you” then publishing just to say I can bang out a certain number of posts a week is, to be blunt, stupid.
Publishing when I have something important to say is a smarter move that keeps you, kind readers, in mind. The extra time allows for more and deeper research.
I was also reminded longer posts are important because it allows for inclusion of actionable material readers can apply immediately, lessons four and five on our list.
Not every post needs to be 5,000 or more words. But some issues demand it! Posts here have always tended to the long side. But many times I intentionally left off actionable material because I felt the post was getting long. This is a tactical error if my goal is to improve the user experience, make you the centerpiece of the post and increase traffic (a little something for your favorite accountant after serving your needs).
The New Wealthy Accountant Blog
With the above information in hand, here are some of the changes you can expect to see around here starting now or in the near future.
- The publishing schedule will decline and will not be on a set schedule. I estimate 2-4 posts per month for this to be done right. This is a major reduction! Jim Collins warned me two years ago my traffic would be fine if I reduced my publication schedule. I was too stubborn to accept good advice. One good post per week with actionable material is miles ahead of publishing like crazy just to say I published. Some weeks will have two posts; some weeks none. But my promise to you is better material. (I took off publishing last week for the first time ever and traffic was fine.)
- Posts will get longer when it adds valuable information. By spending more time thinking about the topic at hand I’ll be able to include more usable information. Deeper research will make for a better user experience. Material will contain actionable elements. Previous posts centered around 1,500 words. There will be times I work well past 5,000 words to get all the information out. You can pick and choose what you need.
- Experimenting is still in. The internet is constantly evolving. Experimenting is vital to the health of a blog. Experimenting gives me the opportunity to help you better.
- Some old posts will be deleted. Looking over old posts there are a few that need to go. The Stalking the Accountant series was a thinly veiled attempt to sell books. They were good books, don’t get me wrong. But my intentions were not honorable. In the near future those posts will disappear forever.
- Some old posts will be re-purposed. Certain posts were fun to write, but didn’t add much value and get virtually no traffic. An example of a really old post that doesn’t resonate is Caveman TV. It was a fun story on how I raised my kids in the backwoods of Nowhere, Wisconsin with limited doses of commercial media. However, if I edited the post with actionable material and with a new title it would be a far better piece. I could re-title the post: Free Alternatives to Commercial Television. If the changes are minor the post will stay where it is in the Binge list. If a major re-write happens I will bump the post to the front of the list as a new post. (Note: Bumped posts generally are not reported to subscribers with an email. A periodic check of the Binge list is a good consideration.)
I know many readers enjoy hearing my stories of life in the backwoods and in the accounting office. All those things will still be here. A healthy dose of “me” is still part of this blog. The improvement I demand of my work is something more than entertainment value for “you”.
Here are a few examples of what is in store:
- Filled-in Form 3115 for cost segregation studies along with verbiage for a grouping election. It sounds like a mouthful. but a lot of tax professionals have been begging me to provide material on handling a cost segregation study on a tax return. Since I recommend cost segregation studies and there is no current filled-in Form 3115 online covering these issues, I plan a step-by-step guide I periodically update with filed-in tax forms as examples. Tax professionals and DIYers will have a tool to prepare an accurate return when a powerful cost segregation tax reducer is involved.
- A tradelines series. I can’t tell you the number of people who came up to me at FinCon to thank me for introducing them to selling tradelines. People are paying their entire mortgage selling tradelines and spending less than an hour a month in the process. There are so many more powerful ways you can use tradelines to your advantage. I will not neglect my duty any longer. I will take a good idea and turbo charge it just for you.
- Goodies in the queue. Here are a few goodies I have planned as soon as I adequately fleshed out the material: Cheap Auto Repair; The History of Money; The History of Retirement; The History of Polarized Politics in the U.S. I might even touch on the Suze Orman Afford Anything podcast controversy.
- Videos. Embedded YouTube videos are coming! The Suze Orman thing might be a video only since it is more an opinion piece than anything. Slowly I will start building a video library made available on YouTube and inserted in posts where appropriate.
Now that I’m not chained to a brutal publishing schedule I can focus on adding more value. Videos that compliment the text take time I will now have. Longer, better and actionable posts are the new norm.
And if I have one of those fainting spells I’ll bring back one of those fun posts where we just let it all hang out on the farm.
I look forward to our adventures together.
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