FinCon X Recap: A Different Kind of FinCon
For most people, 2020 has left little to look forward to. If you’re anything like me, the year has been one canceled plan after another. That’s why I wasn’t at all surprised when the final decision not to hold FinCon 2020 in Long Beach, California was made. Yet, another announcement that accompanied this news did surprise me: a virtual event called FinCon X would be happening this November. Even better, just for agreeing to transfer my 2020 FinCon badge to the 2021 event in Austin, I’d receive a Premium pass for this year’s digital edition.
As exciting as that reveal was, I’d be lying if I said FinCon X didn’t move to the back burner after that. In fact, it really wasn’t until last week that I remembered that the event was a mere few days away. But, come Friday, I was ready to go and anxious to explore this unique take on the FinCon format.
So how did FinCon X work and what did I get out of it? Let me take you through my experience and thoughts on the virtual conference.
Your virtual expo tools
In order to get the most out of FinCon X, there were a few digital tools you’d need to navigate. First, there was a mobile app as well as a dashboard site where you could view the schedule, tune into the live streams, and more. Personally, I opted to use desktop version since I’d be multitasking anyway. What was nice was that the tabs that housed the livestreams updated automatically at showtime, so you didn’t miss anything. Additionally, the chat function on the side allowed you to react in real-time.
Another tool useful for FinCon X was Slack. If you’re not familiar, Slack is a communication solution — which is kind of a fancy, 21-century way to say “chat room.” In FinCon’s Slack Channel, there were threads for the various presentations, a designated “LobbyCon” Channel (LobbyCon is a convention tradition where you’ll find several attendees hanging out in the hotel lobby at all hours of the day), Channels for various niches, and more. While I did hop around to a few different Channels, I pretty quickly set up shop in the YouTube thread, adding some new people to my subscriptions.
Lastly, some of the FinCon X events utilized the increasingly-popular platform Zoom. We’ll talk more about the application of this technology a bit later — but, for now, you can probably imagine how it might be implemented.
All in all, I thought that these tools were easy-to-use and made the event simple to explore (even while multitasking). What’s more, I’m curious to see if the Slack channel will prove to become another FinCon community hang out spot, joining other venues such as the Facebook page. I know I’d like that, seeing as I don’t care much for Facebook but, hey, we’ll have to wait and see.
One of my favorite parts of FinCon is exploring the show floor, as this typically gives me the opportunity to discover new apps/tools to review as well as connect with the services I already use. But how do you convert the concept of an expo floor to a digital conference? Via Slack, apparently.
In addition to the app featuring info and links to each exhibitor, below the various niche Channels in Slack were a number of sponsor Channels. I assumed that these Channels would essentially stand-in for the physical booths you’d find at an in-person event. While that seemed true for some exhibitors, it wasn’t that way across the board, with some Channels proving eerily quiet.
Granted, even under these circumstances, I was still able to make a list of the sponsors I thought were interesting and worth reviewing. Additionally, some of the exhibitors were really good about reaching out to people to both answer questions from their own digital booth as well as popping into other Channels to highlight their businesses. Still, I do wish that this aspect of the FinCon X experience had been a bit more fleshed out.
By the way, shoutout to one of the apps that did reach out to me during the virtual expo — I can’t tell you how nice it was to see the email subject “FinCon Follow-up” in my inbox once again.
Main stage sessions
Easily the aspect of FinCon X that felt the most like “normal” FinCon was the main stage sessions. Although we weren’t all in the same room and there were no ice breaker games to play, these keynotes captured much of the same energy you’d find at other events. I also liked that these sessions were focused on three main themes: Create, Promote, and Profit. Within those themes, these sessions featured both pre-recorded and live-on-stage presentations of varying lengths and formats. For example, the “Bullet-Point Talks” were made up of quick tips from various speakers, “Big Idea Talks” were around 15 minutes and featured a solo speaker, and then panel discussions would have a moderator joined by three guests who would chat for around 15 minutes or more. In between, hosts Paula Pant and Andy Hill — both of whom were live in Dallas — would add commentary and, more importantly, keep the energy up as the content segued.
Prior to the streams starting on Friday, I honestly wasn’t expecting this level of production. I had assumed that the content would all be pre-recorded and just strung together, with perhaps some video bumpers. However, I think that having an actual stage (as small as it may have been) really added to the event is a positive way. Also, the format of packaging several different elements into one keynote theme worked really well, in my opinion.
As for what presentations I enjoyed the most, per usual, Tanja Hester easily made the list. In this case, Hester discussed writing about topics that intimidate you, such as politically charged ones — making a point to distinguish between political topics and politicized ones, which I thought was well put. Meanwhile, as a YouTuber, I also enjoyed the panel included in the Create session. Finally, another one of my many favorites was a presentation by Teri Ijeoma. Although the content of her presentation didn’t really apply to me at this stage, her energy and humor were infectious, making me definitely want to follow her endeavors. Of course, while these were a sampling of my top picks, there wasn’t a single dud in the bunch, allowing each of these main stage sessions to just fly by.
As great as the main stage sessions normally are at FinCon, it’s the smaller breakout sessions that tend to give me the most inspiration and insights. Thankfully, even in the condensed FinCon X format, these sessions remained… sort of. First, breakout sessions were only available to those who had a Premium pass or higher. Second, unlike the main stage presentations that were live streamed a certain times, the breakouts were released to passholders all at once. More accurately, these talks were uploaded to the FinCon University Teachable account.
The upside of this strategy is that passholders can view these sessions on-demand. As for the downsides, well, I have to find the time to actually do that — and I haven’t yet. Obviously this isn’t FinCon’s fault and I do think that this was probably the best way to go about things.
In terms of tracks offered for the FinCon X breakouts, there are eight: Advisor, Blogging, Freelancing/Entrepreneurship, Money Conversations, Podcasting, Social Media, Solutions, and Video. Each of these tracks has between five and a dozen videos each, with the length of each presentation seeming to range between 20 and 45 minutes. Thus, in all, there’s a ton of content here. Plus, unlike attending the expo in person, there aren’t any timing conflicts to speak of, meaning that I can hop around to different tracks with ease.
Just because I haven’t been able to dive into these sessions yet doesn’t mean I won’t. Unfortunately, though, I better get on it — they’re currently only set to be available until December 19th. So, once I do get a chance to binge these breakouts, I’ll be sure to do a post summarizing some of what I learned.
Meet ups and more
Considering that FinCon is often just as much about meeting and hanging out with people as it is about learning, FinCon X included plenty of opportunities to socialize with your fellow money nerds. For example, there were several local meet-ups, coffee talk sessions, and even a “late night” games hang-out — all conducted via Zoom. Sadly, since I had to do some work in addition to keeping one eye on FinCon X, I didn’t have a chance to participate in any of these events. That said, from what I saw in the Slack channels, people really enjoyed these chats.
I’d also be remiss if I didn’t mention the annual Plutus Awards, which honor excellence in the personal finance space. Given the virtual format, this year’s presentation was pre-recorded. Admittedly, I have yet to watch the entire presentation but offer a hearty “congrats!” to all of this year’s winners and nominees.
With all things considered, I think that FinCon X was quite a success. In my view, the execution of several of the elements one expects from a FinCon event were cleverly done and the content delivered was hardly lacking. While I did see some feedback that some of the main stage segments didn’t feel as “meaty” and actionable as usual, it’s important to remember that this was a free event (access to the breakout sessions and other aspects required Premium passes but much of the conference was accessible with a free pass). On top of that, I think there was still plenty of value in each of those sessions. So while I certainly miss not having a normal FinCon experience in 2020, FinCon X was just what I needed to hold me over until 2021.