Last July I made a conscious decision to stop going to conferences and start focusing on building businesses. I was tired of flying to different conferences that felt like it netted no return for me. Currently, it doesn’t help me one bit to attend a conference, let alone speak at one because my primary focus is building my company, Eventup.
I made the decision not to attend SXSW this year for this very reason, to focus on building something that delivers an amazing consumer experience, not just talking about it all. Frankly, it is so hard to find nuggets of real information at conferences anyways. When I pay attention to twitter feeds of conferences, you’ll notice it’s the same old things I’ve heard since 2002. “You need to be faster than the next company” and “description tags help click through rates in search” (hat tip to @brandonfritz for pointing that one out to me). It doesn’t help to hear the same thing twelve times, to be honest, if you need to hear it that many times before you implement it, there is a problem.
I’m not saying conferences are bad, because that would be a huge injustice to the entire industry. Furthermore, it would be like shitting on what I learned from for so many years and it would be unthankful of me because it helped build my brand in a way. And just like me, it is extremely important to those just starting who are there to hear things for the first time and I love passing my experiences on to them. I’ve never claimed to be an expert, I’ve never claimed to be the most knowledgeable – I just like sharing my experiences in the hopes that people learn from it. That’s what conferences should be for, to help educate and evangelize knowledge from those with experience to those just getting their start, trying to solve problems creatively, or to talk to others and share tips.
What I am saying is that if you’re spending year after year attending conference series after conference series, speaking 10-15 times a year, it’s time to rethink that strategy if you’re trying to build a business or a career for that matter. I’m saying that it’s time people stopped trying to spend their days and nights building a “brand” or stroking their own egos and start focusing on doing what our industry is about, innovating. Again, do what you need to, to learn, to educate, to get what you need out of it, but, at a certain point, you need to focus on winning, not just talking about it.
The primary reason I switched from a community college and majoring in Psychology, to attending a little known tech school, Mt. Sierra College, and going after a technology degree was that main reason. I wanted to be a part of the innovation. I wanted to innovate and wanted to build. Sure, I realized that I wasn’t the best technologist, I was probably sub-par at best. But I knew that I still wanted to be a part of creating something that would hopefully change the world.
Right now, we’re in a period where we’re not only innovating on industries, but innovating on our own industry. Adding a new and much needed layer to E-Commerce with the subscription commerce market that is now booming with BeachMint and new entrants into the space like WittleBee (Science backed company by my good friend Sean Percival).
But, it doesn’t end there, the industry is re-inventing itself in a way with companies like Airbnb leading the “collaborative consumption” or “shared economy” charge and turning the listings business on their heads. Watching fledging giants like Yahoo! turn to patent trolling because of a lack of innovation also leaves room for other business to take over what they once owned.
This all takes me back to my original point, talk is cheap. Steve Jobs once said that ”Innovation distinguishes between a leader and a follower.” I fully believe in that. The question is, are you going to be a leader and take part in a time of massive growth where forms of commerce are being innovated upon daily? Or, are you going to sit there and talk about marketing in 15 different ways until your blue in the face but realize that marketing is still, well, marketing.
For me, it’s a no brainer. I’ve decided that I want to spend my days and nights trying to solve real world problems, provide consumers with better experiences online, and taking a part in the innovation of an industry that I know, love, and cannot live without.