Updated: Mar 1, 2018
Sunday February 25 - I find myself sitting in the Atlanta airport with lots of time on my hands. I have an early flight, so I got up extra early to make sure I made it on time. With no traffic, and very few people in the security line, I breezed right through. I’m in town having just attended the first ever WorkbenchCon, and it seems like now is an excellent time to reflect on what I just experienced.
In Their Words:
WorkbenchCon is “A 2 day blitz of authentically crafted content for the DIY'ers,makers, influencers & bloggers... WorkbenchCon is no ordinary DIY Conference. It brings together a community of leading makers, agencies, brands, influencers and more for face-to-face networking, new products and targeted education. Think of the new contacts, new technology and excitement you will gain and implement right away! Learning from top leaders in your niche will give you that MOMENTUM you need for growing your business. Learning and connecting with peers are just a few reasons WorkbenchCon should be at the top of any MUST DO list.”
So What Does That Mean?
Well looking back over the last 4 days, it meant that there was a huge group of like-minded people all converging on one location looking to learn, teach, interact and network. There
were TONS of YouTube personalities in attendance, running the gamut from people like Bob Clagett, creator of I Like To Make Stuff, who has over 1.6 million subscribers and has been making a full-time income from it for years. All the way to people who haven’t even started a channel yet, but have aspirations of becoming the next Bob Clagett. That’s why they were here, to learn from the masters in the industry, and figure out how to make something they are passionate about become the thing they make a living off of.
Though YouTube seemed to be the largest segment of interest for people in attendance, I was surprised by the number of people whose only focus was to increase their skills on Instagram. Going into it, I wouldn’t have guessed that there would be much for those people to get out of this event, but boy was I wrong! The best example is the strategy-filled talk given by Instagram assassin and creator of FixThisBuildThat, Brad Rodriguez. He ran out the clock on his allotted time and seemed to never take a breath along the way. This presentation was truly packed full of stats, facts, tips and theories.
Starting with a chart and number-heavy analysis of his rise to power, someone merely looking into the room for a moment might have thought it was just bragging. But it was so much more than that. It was an undeniable road map that shows what works and what doesn’t, if your goal is becoming an Instagram super power. Just like the rest of us, Brad started on Instagram as a guy looking for a community to share with. Because of his very analytical mind, he started to see trends and patterns, then like a scientist, he tested ideas until he had the task of follower acquisition down to a science.
Beyond Brad, who’s talk was entirely about Instagram, every other presentation I sat in on throughout the weekend had something that an Instagram focused builder would find useful. There were also scores of tips on better ways to use Facebook and Twitter. There were also talks on how to approach sponsors so that you looked like a valuable partner, instead of just another person looking for a hand out. This is an incredibly important topic, because every presenter that I witnessed said that 50% or more of their income comes from sponsorship deals.
So what good is it if everyone there is just sharing information on how to accomplish the same things? Doesn’t that just create competition, and really, more problems than solutions?
There were also loads of representatives from dozens of different brands in attendance. Some of them had booths set up so you knew where to find them, while some of them just wandered around like the rest of us and blended in. All of them were there because they recognize the influential power of a DIY creator with a focused audience, and they were on a mission to find good people to create partnerships with.
The ability to stand face-to-face with the social media decision makers from many companies who truly believe in and support this community was one of the best things that I got out of this event. However, there was one other thing that I would argue was even more important - interacting with my peers. The internet has been a great place for people with similar interests to foster relationships, but there is no substitute for honest to god face-to face time. I met so many people who I had spoken to prior to the trip, but only though messages in a comment thread, or brief direct messages spread among many different platforms. Many of these people I could consider friends, but I only knew them as a logo, rarely did I have a name or a face to go with it.
The opportunity to come together with all of these people who I have gotten to know over the last few years (and plenty who I was introduced to for the first time) was absolutely priceless. Discussing goals, ideas, strategies and sharing laughs with all of these people is what truly made the trip worth doing for me. With battling social anxiety my whole life, I went into this a bit nervous that I would be a little fish in a big pond and not know my place. Well THIS was my place.
These were my people. I had in-depth, meaningful conversations with creators of all sizes, from people who were only just considering making their first YouTube videos, to full-blown superstars in the industry. I talked at length about every topic under the sun with a father and son team who were here just to figure out how to use social media to grow their custom woodworking shop from a side gig, to a full-time career that would support them both. I had a lengthy conversation with Bob Clagett himself that started with a project idea I had for him, and ended up covering the history of grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park (my backyard). And just last night before packing up my hotel room, I had dinner with Jimmy Diresta. He is every bit the brilliant, eccentric creator we all know from YouTube. We discussed projects and YouTube strategies. We shared stories and told jokes. I got to shake his tiny hand, play with the latest iteration of this combination Sharpie/exacto knife tool, and he very graciously accepted one of my hats as a gift.
Now, I am NOT name dropping here as a way to brag and say “look at me, I hung out with YouTube royalty!” I am indeed name dropping, but my goal is to point out that these people who have really reached celebrity status, are still just people. They were here just like the rest of us, because they have a love for what we do. They could be pompous, they could be full of themselves - honestly they have every right to be considering everything they have accomplished. These are the people who paved the way for people like me, and everyone else in attendance, who want to take this thing that we love, and turn it into our livelihood. I shook hands and had meaningful conversations with all of the biggest names in our space at this event, and everyone of them was just a genuine, honest person with a passion for the craft.
So, Is It Worth It?
I’ll stop with my heart-felt sales pitch now and transition to the bottom line. It’s now a few days later and I’ve had time to add up all my receipts from the trip. Including price of admission, hotels, every out of pocket meal (breakfast and lunch were included during the event) and travel and airfare from northwest Wyoming to Atlanta, this event cost me $1,531.19. This was a huge investment for me and my family, and all I can say is, I’ll be back next year!