There are no shortages of conferences throughout the year. There are small ones. There are huge ones. There are super specialized ones.
Hell, I even cofounded a specialized conference with three amazing people.
Not every conference is created equal.
Good news: The industries and internet are big enough for all of us. Local conferences are great for those with small budgets who don’t have the luxury of traveling on a company/client account.
Bad news: More often than not, quantity sacrifices quality.
As a freelancer-turned-solopreneur, I haven’t had the luxury of having a large conference budget. I’ve been lucky enough to have clients who saw the value proposition in covering my expenses, and other times, I’ve volunteered in exchange for attendance.
For me, the CMWorld conference was like coming home. I was surrounded by like-minded individuals who were passionate about content marketing, making a difference, and genuinely helping their clients/customers. I fell in love with the color orange. I walked away inspired and exhilarated.
After volunteering at this conference last year, even though I had introvert fatigue, I was also exhilarated. I felt connected to every single person there because we all shared the same passion, in varying degrees. Different industries, different backgrounds, but all with a common passion: content and content marketing.
Here are the 7 ways attending CMWorld felt like coming home.
- The CMI team really cares. I wasn’t planning on attending CMWorld in 2015. It was honestly out of my budget, and I was coming back from my 2-week road trip to California for VidCon. I was fatigued. I sent out a tweet with a question about the post-show video access. The amazing CMI community manager took the conversation offline, and next thing I knew, I was heading to Cleveland to volunteer at the event in exchange for a conference pass.
- Speakers are knowledgable and humble*. I still have so much to learn in my career. I try to educate myself every day, which means I follow a lot of industry leaders who have more experience than I do. My humble opinion is that no one can truly be an expert in an industry that is constantly evolving. During CMWorld last year, I got to meet and interact with the speakers who had just gotten off the stage. For the most part, they were kind and genuinely involved in the conversation. Heck, I even met one of the people I’d looked up to for years, and became a ghostwriter for her after our brief exchange.
- Networking opportunities are abundant. Aside from engaging with people on Twitter, I broke out of my shell as much as possible last year to meet new people. I wiped my sweaty palms on my jeans before introducing myself to amazing people like Ann Handley, Gini Dietrich, and even Joe Pulizzi. For the moments I was feeling too shy, there was the CMWorld App. I haven’t even landed in Cleveland this year, and I’m already connecting with fellow attendees in the app.
- Sponsors & brands present align with CMI’s values. One of the things I hate at a conference is if the expo hall is filled with mismatched companies who really don’t add value to the event – other than filling the expo hall. At CMWorld last year, I wanted to talk to most of the companies. I was really interested in what they offered to help the content marketing landscape.
- The sessions are varied and diverse. I mean, to the point I already have FOMO about the sessions I didn’t choose. Thank goodness for the post-show video access!
- Barenaked Ladies*. Listen, as a 90s kid, I have no shame about my musical choices from that era. It’s a good thing we don’t use our brains to the full capacity, because that means I still potentially have room leftover for new knowledge after all of the lyrics I still have memorized. All this to say, thanks to CMWorld, I got to see Barenaked Ladies in concert last year. This year, I’m so ready for Cheap Trick. So, basically, CMWorld is killing it during the after parties, too.
- The CMWorld community is amazing. Did you think I could write an article without talking about Twitter chats, and more importantly, community? If you search for #CMWorld on Twitter, you’ll see a full, robust feed. CMWorld is more than just a conference. It’s a living, supportive community which comes together every week on Twitter to share knowledge, GIFs, and laughs with each other. Luckily for me, that same attitude translates in person at the conferences as well.
Since attending CMWorld last year, I’ve rebranded, launched this blog, challenged myself (and failed), and learned to truly value what I have to offer.
I can’t wait to be back in Cleveland, back in that exhilarating environment, 100% out of my comfort zone. I look forward to seeing familiar faces in Cleveland, and even (shakily) introducing myself to new people at this year’s CMWorld.
Are you going to be there? Be sure to say hello to me on Twitter (and in person if you see me!).
*I’m not even going to mention how amazing it was to hear Nick Offerman speak last year and how I am completely freaking out about Mark Hamill’s keynote this year…