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.
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!
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.
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!
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?
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?