10 Business Lessons I Learned in Vegas at New Media Expo

At the beginning of January I attended New Media Expo (formerly Blog World) in Las Vegas. I went to learn more about taking my online business to the next level, and meet some of my favorite bloggers in person.

I had an absolute blast — and even though I didn’t win big at the slots or tables, I did win big when it came to picking up some tips and tricks. Here are the top 10 business lessons from my trip to New Media Expo.

1. Your brand needs personal photos

In the first session I attended, the awesome CC Chapman talked about how using your own photos for blog posts is essential for your online business. With the popularity of Instagram and Pinterest (and many more photo-centered apps and social media platforms to come), if you aren’t taking your own photos, you need to start!

I admit that I don’t take all the photos I use here on the blog — but I do use a good amount of my own, or I take stock photos and turn them into custom photos with text overlay. The point is, at least make your photos inspiring, creative and exclusive to you and your blog.

2. Google Plus is an underutilized game-changer

One of the early morning keynote sessions was with Guy Kawasaki, author of several books including “What the Plus: Google Plus for the Rest of Us”. I’ve been fascinated with Google Plus since they launched, but I haven’t put in near the time or energy into it, like I have with Twitter and Facebook.

Well, after hearing him explain all the pros of using Google Plus — like the communities, the advantages of SEO and what the future holds for it — I’ll definitely be spending more time cultivating my community there. I’ve even done a few Google Hangouts recently, and I have to say I’m hooked!

3. Everyone should take advantage of outsourcing

As much as I’d love to be an expert at everything in my business, I have to realize that I can’t do everything myself. And in actuality, I’ll get a whole lot more accomplished and exponentially grow my business if I start outsourcing projects.

Chris Ducker is the master of outsourcing, and in his presentation at NMX he shared over 45 ways to use virtual assistants and outsourcing to save time, money and headache. I’ve been scared to start outsourcing work and finding help.

Watching Chris Ducker’s session

I guess I thought it would make my business a sell out or something. But that’s not true! In fact, I’m doing myself and those around me a disservice if I don’t utilize them for doing what they love, and forcing myself to do things I’m not good at or don’t like to do. How silly is that?!

This year is going to be the year I grow my business and find people to help keep me on track. In fact I already found some amazingly talented entrepreneurs (huge thanks to Steph the side-hustle coach, Jonathon the web-copy genius and Stacey the rockstar marketer).

4. To make an impact you’ve got to step outside your comfort zone

I’ve only been to a few conferences since I started blogging about a year and a half ago, and most of them were small, niched down to either financial bloggers or social media experts.

But NMX was much bigger than I expected, and I was instantly overwhelmed the first day I was there. Partly because Vegas was like sensory overload — with the lights, music, gambling, the amount of people — and because NMX included bloggers, media personnel, journalists, celebrities and anyone in the New Media world.

I quickly noticed that if you want to make meaningful connections, you’ve got to be confident and step outside your comfort zone! I don’t know how well it worked, but I tried to make it look like I was comfortable meeting and talking with people. And I even got to meet some of my online friends!

Benny and I hanging out at NMX

5. Amazing interviews start with taking action

I have a soft spot for female entrepreneurs who are making things happen in the online world, and it’s no secret that I’ve been following Jaime Tardy, and listening to her podcast, for the past 2 years.

So when I found out she would be speaking at NMX, of course I had to attend her session. Her topic was about creating amazing interviews, and having done over 80 interviews herself, I’d say she’s quite the expert.

This year, I’m planning to do more interviews to add to my Debt & Success series, so with her email templates and action items, I’m already on my way to landing interviews with big name bloggers!

6. If your work doesn’t provoke people, you’re doing it wrong

Of all the sessions I attended, the one that affected me the most was by Jon Morrow. In case you don’t know about him, he’s the associate editor for Copyblogger and just started his own site. But more importantly, he’s a writer at heart.

Someone who saved people from committing suicide, helped them overcome depression, made them cry and laugh and scream — all from his writing.

And what’s more is that Jon does all this from his wheelchair, with limited movement of his arms and legs. Crazy right?!

If you’ve read any of his stuff, you know what I’m talking about — there are no words to describe how he draws you in, bares his heart and soul, then changes your life.

“If you’re not provoking anyone, your writing is probably too bland to attract a big audience” – Jon Morrow

His lesson for all of us at his session was that if our writing, blogging, products and services, doesn’t make people late for work or stop them dead in their tracks, then we’re doing it wrong. If our work doesn’t change people’s lives, then all we’re doing is adding to the noise.

Taking in the whole experience

7. To gain a loyal following just give away your best stuff for FREE

Pat Flynn is one of the most generous people you’ll ever meet. He let me crash his SPI dinner at NMX where he paid for everyone’s dinner — there were over 100 bloggers there!

Then at his session he asked two people to come up on stage and, in essence, let him tell them what was wrong with their blog and how they could optimize it better. To show his thanks, he gave these willing participants and iPod!

Pat is all about giving his best stuff away for free, and because of that he’s amassed a huge podcast, YouTube and blog following that brings in over $50,000 a month in online revenue.

I know what you’re thinking; how does someone give everything away for free and still make $50k per month?

That’s what I was wondering too. But it turns out that when you give your best stuff away for free, you turn your mediocre fans into super fans, and in turn, they want to give back in any way they can — like sharing your stuff and buying products you recommend.

8. Don’t forget to relax and have fun

One of my biggest weaknesses, is that I overbook myself and don’t give myself enough time to do complete it. So I work myself to death — getting up early, staying up late — only to make myself stressed out and tired. That’s NO way to run a business.

In the same mindset of giving away stuff for free and getting more back in return, you’ve got to spend time having fun, relaxing and doing things other than work. Especially if you really want to create epic content. It’s hard lesson for me to learn, but I’m getting there.

While I was in Vegas learning, networking and working, I took some time to see the sights, eat some delicious food and enjoy the time away from my home office. I noticed that when I took time to rest up, I spent less time working and more time getting things done. Funny how that works!

Take time to have fun

9. Find what’s unique to you and your brand, then exploit it

I don’t think it was any accident that this year’s New Media Expo was held in Las Vegas. It’s a city that never sleeps, and is full of over the top brands and personalities — much like the attendees of NMX.

Each one of the speakers I’ve mentioned all have a unique personality, just like all the hotels and casinos in Vegas. Even though you might not like something so over-the-top and regal, like Caesar’s Palace, the point is it stands out.

Everything in Vegas offers something unique, and all of the attractions have their own personalities, that draw a specific crowd — and they make boatloads of money from it. What do you offer that’s not like anyone or anything else? Do you know how to capitalize on it?

Seeing the unique Vegas sights

10. Business cards are still vital to your biz

You may think that at a conference where everyone uses an iPad, smartphone or a laptop (instead of a notebook), you wouldn’t find any physical business cards — but you’d be mistaken.

Every single person I met had a business card, and requested to have mine in exchange. And as far as I can tell, business cards are here to stay!

Now that’s not to say they won’t evolve into more modern designs with Query codes and such, but if you’re planning to promote your business at a local conference or networking event, don’t forget to bring your business cards.

It’s the simplest and easiest way to put your best foot forward, and to be sure people remember you.

Side note: it doesn’t help if your cards are outdated, or don’t reflect the current look of your brand. Make sure your design is up-to-date and your info is current. I made this mistake by taking last year’s business cards, and this year my blog has a whole new theme and design. Conference FAIL!

There are still tons of other things I could talk about, and many other things I learned during this trip. But these were the lessons that stuck out to me the most and made my top ten list.

Have you ever been to Vegas? What was your first impression with the over-the-top sights and sounds?

Monthly Progress Report: Time to Make a Change
Getting Rid of It by Betsy & Warren Talbot
About the author: Carrie Smith is the financial artist and owner of Careful Cents, a site that helps creative freelancers discover the art of making a living. In May 2013 she quit her full-time accounting job to pursue entrepreneurship and blogging. She recently launched her new course called, Solopreneur Finance: Managing Money On Your Own Terms. When she’s not writing about finance, and geeking out over numbers, she enjoys painting, sketching, and making food with her chef husband. You can connect with her in real time on Twitter or Instagram: @carefulcents.

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  • Budget & the Beach January 28, 2013, 8:32 am

    Such great info Carrie! I’ve been working on using mostly my own pics on my site, and if not free stock photos (because there are only so many uses for pics of the beach and beach volleyball nets, and sunsets).

  • Lance@MoneyLife&More January 28, 2013, 8:56 am

    Thanks for doing this write up! I have a ton to learn and can’t wait until FinCon this year! Hopefully I can meet you there!

    • Carrie Smith January 28, 2013, 2:20 pm

      I’m so excited about FinCon this year! Can’t wait to meet and connect with you in person Lance!

  • cubicle free Quinn January 28, 2013, 10:59 am

    Hey Carrie, Its amazing we were both at #NMX and met virtually – so much going on! Great to see your blog – important subject and lots of opportunity to really help a lot of people out – well done! Quinn

    • Carrie Smith January 28, 2013, 2:19 pm

      Thanks Quinn! Next time we will definitely have to meet up, I’d love to chat with you in person :)

  • Chris Holdheide January 28, 2013, 7:28 pm

    Great article Carrie. You give a lot of great tips, I would love to attend this conference but my current financial obligations are holding me back at this point. So maybe next year.

    I went to Affiliate Summit Central last year and I did a lot of the things you talked about such as getting some business cards, and really getting prepared mentally for it. One of the big things I had to deal with though was that I didn’t know anybody but by the time the conference was over I had made couple of really solid connections

    • Carrie Smith January 30, 2013, 10:44 am

      That was a big thing for me too Chris. I didn’t know but a handful of people at this event — many of them I never even heard of. I felt like a real conference noob! lol But I tried to push past my insecurities and, like you, by the time I left I made some awesome connections.

  • Chris C. Ducker January 28, 2013, 10:41 pm

    Carrie – thanks so much for the mention and photo, too! I’m honored. And this was a great list to takeaway from such an awesome event.

    I also took tons away from the sessions, the people I met, the conversations I had, etc.

    Until next year, huh…?! Keep up the great work.

    • Carrie Smith January 29, 2013, 6:20 am

      Thanks Chris! It was so nice getting to hear you speak and I can’t wait till next year! Cheers to 2013 :)

  • Robb @WatchOutForFlyingNinjas! January 29, 2013, 1:50 am

    I haven’t been to Vegas sadly, but I definitely want to go :)

  • Kendal January 29, 2013, 10:26 am

    Hi Carrie! What a great post — wonderful summary of an expo that was obviously of great benefit to you. Thanks for sharing your insights so the rest of us can learn what you learned, too! I’ve been to Vegas several times because a good friend from high school lives there now. I’ll admit I stay away from The Strip when I visit my friend, but I love your analogy about how each hotel has something unique to offer. That is so true and it goes beyond their respective themes — you might think you know what to expect from Caesar’s Palace or New York New York based on their names, but when you explore them further you find hidden gems in the form of eateries, events and accommodations that make them truly stand out. In a city where entertainment is literally around every corner, Vegas is a great example of how important it is to find your unique offering.

    • Carrie Smith February 6, 2013, 3:17 pm

      You make a great point Kendal. Sometimes we think we know what to expect by hearing the names of something, but then they have hidden gems. It’s a nice surprise and an important reminder to keep our minds open!

  • Ian January 29, 2013, 11:43 am

    Sounds like you learned some awesome stuff. I bet just being around some of these folks is inspiring. I hope to make it to Fin Con this year myself.

    • Carrie Smith January 30, 2013, 10:43 am

      Oh yes, absolutely Ian! It’s very inspiring and motivating to be in the same room as some of these awesome go-getters.

  • Stacey Harris January 29, 2013, 1:16 pm

    Great post! I especially loved your comment on business cards. A lot of folks forget the importance of your business card really representing you!

  • Yakezie January 29, 2013, 3:43 pm

    Thanks for the wrap! I was thinking of going but the folks were in town. Perhaps next time! Cheers, Sam

    • Carrie Smith January 30, 2013, 10:42 am

      Looking forward to connecting with you in real life soon, Sam!

  • Sandy Sidhu January 29, 2013, 8:54 pm

    Great takeaways, Carrie! I hear you about the whole outsourcing thing and making it a plan to get more help this year. I like the personal touch of including your own photos and like you, I’ve been trying to create my own by adding a text overlay when I can.

    • Carrie Smith February 2, 2013, 8:12 pm

      I think you’re doing a great job with making your photos personal and creative. Keep it up!

  • Lynn January 30, 2013, 3:10 pm

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun Carrie! A few of my colleagues were there too and they all said they had a blast. I hope to attend one myself one of these days I would love to meet you one day.

  • Jamie Gilbert January 30, 2013, 5:42 pm

    This is such great stuff! :)

  • Diane MarriageInDebt January 30, 2013, 10:51 pm

    To read this great post has made me realize that to continue to grow and learn, you need to step away from the computer and attend these conferences. I am so excited about attending one in 2013 but don’t know which one to pick!! Do you have a suggestion for a newbie blogger who is writing in the realm of personal finance? Thank you Carrie

    • Carrie Smith January 31, 2013, 9:44 am

      Hi Diane, it’s so great to connect with you! Yes, you absolutely must go out and interact with people at a conference this year. I broke myself in by going to The Financial Bloggers Conference — which I totally recommend you check out this year. I’ll be there too! Hope to meet you in person :)

  • Boomerang Buck January 31, 2013, 7:22 am

    Thank you very much for sharing these lessons! Such great info and great advice! I hope to one day attend!

    • Carrie Smith January 31, 2013, 9:45 am

      Hi! It’s awesome to connect with you and I hope we can meet in person one day soon.

  • Kyle James February 15, 2013, 2:57 pm

    Love this post. Some real nuggets of wisdom here. My fav is not forgetting to stop and have some fun. I struggle with that all the time so I appreciate the reminder.