I was reflecting on TravelCon recently, having secured my flights and hotels, and it opened up all sorts of ‘then and now’ thoughts. Reading how Noah picked Excalibur based on price made me chuckle, and perhaps share a few thoughts.
Back in the day…
When I first started going to Vegas I was a hustler. Not the Steve Mcqueen type, as my pool game sucked, but I would go to trade shows and walk the floor trying to gain a client. I’d get the cheapest ticket I could afford to get in the door, and walk from booth to booth trying to make a deal.. it made for long days, but if I could score just one deal from it, there would be a chance to make $20k, $50K, or even as much as $200K at some point down the line. Most of the time I was rejected though. My job, for those interested was a niche tech recruiter, I would work remotely, find a client from the Valley showing at Vegas, ask if they wanted to break into a new Asian market, and make it happen.
I used to pay my own way, flew in the cheapest coach seats, and stay in the shoddiest hotels… such as the Excalibur.
I did pretty well, but that is because in this type of deal the hotel didn’t really matter.. I could blag it. If there was ever a need to meet with a VP to have a deeper conversation I could easily pop over to the nearest swanky hotel and meet them there.
My current trip
As I return now, I’m hustling in different ways. I’m flying outbound in Virgin America First Class. This remains very exciting for me, because I remember one trip from back in the day where I flew Virgin in Coach and thought it was epic. And this time around I’m almost set on hotels… I have Saturday night booked at Encore (comped) and for Friday I have a reservation held at the Mandarin Oriental.
What are you trying to get from the conference?
Back in the day, it didn’t matter too much that my hotel sucked, or that it was obnoxiously hot outside, or that I had to schlepp to get back and forth.. all that mattered was price.. the same reason that I picked Excalibur. After a while of doing these things I started to realize that I needed a better location, a nicer room, etc.. but these were minor touches. The impact wasn’t huge because my ‘win’ from the conference almost always started and ended in that exhibition room.
But when I think about TravelCon… that’s a different story. And based on what I did back then (pick on price) and what I do now (enjoy life) I’d like to suggest people think about things differently….
It’s still sales
I’m an introvert. Hustling was hard for me. I’d often walk the conference floor for a few laps before getting up the courage to speak with someone. After all, I came from a company with no name, with the most absurd sales pitch, and nothing but a glimmer of hope.
TravelCon is the same. Everybody says it… but nobody acts like they know what it means.. It’s all about the socializing.
Events like this are about your potential to close a new client. The new client here is a player in the game. You don’t attend conferences like this to learn much in the room itself (the opposite of my tech days) but in the room afterwards. It’s all about creating situations where you are well placed.
Example: let’s pretend you really want to get to know me.. you find that I’m arriving on Friday and maybe staying at the Mandarin. You also know that I like to drink good Cabernet in Vegas. Would you be better staying at the Excalibur and arriving in the night because that flight was cheaper? Or would you be better arriving in the morning and staying at my hotel… tweeting to me “hey I’ve got a bottle of Cakebread going in the lobby”.
Now – I’m not saying you should stalk me.. but this is thinking about the success from an event in a totally different way. I meet people came to our Saverocity DOs, and the first TravelCon and didn’t have a fantastic time. One guy was so miserable I spent a good 30 mins giving him 1 on 1 time to help improve his experience. But the reality is.. if you book a trip and focus on price of ‘getting it out of the way’ rather than ‘how can I make this epic?’ you’re never going to have an epic experience.
In the same vein, if everyone was staying at Excalibur, then I’d consider lowering my snobby standards to be there with them.
This is game changing
I can’t stress this enough. If you think in such a linear way, only about “getting sleep done” and not about crafting a winning environment.. you’re always only going to achieve your first goal, and you’re never going to hit something out of the park.. people attach themselves to people who are like minded, if you want into a new group, or to learn from someone in that group, you need to resonate with them.. if for example, you really want to hang out with Tahsir, create a situation where that is likely to happen. If he is staying at the Delano, and you booked the Monte Carlo, there is no natural opportunity for you to share a ride back to ‘your’ hotel together.
Take a read of this post by Neil Patel… incidentally, my first watch that was given to me was a Panerai, and it does open conversations.
Next time you read a report from someone of a conference that reads like “speakers were OK, blah blah…” they didn’t get it.. its not about attending a conference and being a sheep in a flock.
I would never stay at Excalibur. No matter what I feel Vegas should be high class. Staying at a dive misses the whole point of the town. But especially if you are trying to land a client
Actually… I kinda recommend it at least once. And I closed a ton of deals (not in there) while staying there. It’s awful, but it really encapsulates Vegas in many ways.
My point today was to understand where the ‘deal’ is transacted. If you need to flee back to a hotel where you’re target demographic is not, it’s a problem. As such, don’t just think of a hotel based on price for a place to sleep, but based on price based on what you want to achieve during that visit.
Wait….there’s something happening in Vegas, I live here, and I am not invited?
No more comps for you
Wait, you didn’t know about travelcon? Do you live in a cave in Vegas?
Not quite, but maybe I’ve been too busy opening Citi accounts. I mean, people who have stayed with me 6 months say they keep finding new rooms in my house, but I wouldn’t call them caves.
I return from a long trip through South America, Africa and The Maldives on the 7th of November. Mileage , of course.
As to the Excalibur, the only good thing is your own personal wall air conditioner–oh and if you page yourself, I think they still announce , “Paging Lord Matt…..”
Paging lord Matt… I could get used to that. Have a great trip!
Good info and you’ve made me really think about what I’m trying to get out of attending. Honestly, I’m not really sure.
Most of the things you talked about don’t really apply to where I end up staying (except for the sharing a ride thing), so I feel like the hotel is actually a personal preference. Is the Excalibur poor quality? Yup, but I don’t plan on bringing anyone back to the hotel and will probably only spend time there sleeping. Maybe the trick is to not actually tell anyone where I’m staying?
For the social aspect, I definitely plan to meet a lot of people (yourself included) and hopefully go out for some drinks after the presentation part, but I kind of lost you on the landing a client thing. My thinking was to just learn what I can and have some good conversations with new people, but that probably stems from treating my blog like a hobby instead of a business.
I’m thinking this is an experience thing and I’ll understand more over time as I focus more on the entrepreneurial opportunity aspect of it all. Either way, I’m looking forward to the event and maybe I’ll have the opportunity to buy to a glass of Cab to pick your mind a bit.
Yeah, its not aimed totally at you, but the irony of the hotel choice made me think of the post.
It is the little things… for example, my father in law, now retired, was a bigshot at a consulting firm. He told me how he once jostled for the seat next to the decision maker at a group interview because it made him appear as a peer, he landed the job.
It’s about controlling the environment.
One point I’d like to clear up is that it isn’t about the blog being a business, but thinking along these sorts of lines for personal matters too. It’s all about thinking a bit further than just ‘heres a conference, heres a bed’. And crafting a better life overall by thinking differently.
PS I’ve moved on from the Mandalay now, so don’t be getting me a cab there!
Gotta share your comp techniques more often 🙂 Please.
I was thinking about talking about that a bit for my presentation.
Something about this post got under my skin, but I just put my finger on it: it’s so clearly written by, and for, a very specific type of person.
What bothers me is the assumption (and it’s not just your assumption, but the assumption of many) that the hustle is what it’s all about. I simply don’t think 2AM Montecristos and Cabernets represent the only- or even the best- environment to learn. Some of us have outgrown our adolescence, or simply have better things to do.
The exclusionary nature of “The Hobby” is to be resisted, not pandered to.
Or is the first rule of The Hobby not to talk about The Hobby?
Hmm.. why are you at the conference if you have ‘better things to do’?
What I’m trying to highlight in the post is that the conference itself, the talks, the lunch, the whatnot is the tip of the iceberg.
It’s all about goals. Most people throw around phrases like “its all about the networking” but then they run out of the room and don’t network.
I’m trying to explore why some people get a lot out of such an event, and some come back thinking “the talks were meh”… the reality is that the talks are often “meh” for everyone, but that is all there is to some, whereas they are a tiny part of the weekend to others.
In terms of it being exclusionary, I don’t think telling people how to break into new relationships is exclusionary… I think it is inclusionary. And we should also remember that the same rules apply for everyone.
For example, at a previous DO I advised someone to not do this with the ‘superstars’ because everyone would be trying. I advised that people tried to connect with peers. You could leverage this concept here by being a specific group of people who only stay at Excalibur, and forming your own niche there.
The reality (my reality at least) is that if you want to create opportunities you need to think more broadly than “where can I sleep tonight” based on price, but rather, if I pay X to just sleep, does that impact other factors which I might want to pay more for?
This happens everywhere, you connect with people that are like you, and other people want to connect with people that they want to be like. This covers things like sense of humour, taste in music, or perhaps the way you both think of first class being terribly wasteful, or fabulously valuable.
In terms of not talking about the game, yeah, you are never going to get anything good shared in a public space. All the good stuff comes 1:1 or in a small group of peers. That’s just the way it is.
Not exactly what I’m saying, so I’ll try again: maybe if the conferences focused on providing original content and opportunities for folks to meet informally during the actual conference the “boys club” mentality wouldn’t be so pervasive.
If the conference talks are “meh”, improve the conference.
First off, we need to avoid the term boys club. I wrote this from my perspective, but it could just as easily be a coffee meeting or something that ladies who don’t like Cabernet could enjoy.
It is not exclusionary based on gender.
As for making it better, yes, it’s what we all want, but incredibly hard to deliver. For example.. Let’s say I’ve got my top gig, it’s good for $250k per month from home.. How does that get shared?
Not on a ppt.
What about if you are into travel and you want to go on last minute mistake fares? How do you get to a place where someone books 2 seats and texts you to ask if you want to come to morocco on Wednesday?
Yes, breaks allow for this… But I’m taking a different approach-
I’m saying, rather than rely on a break (100 people, 1 goal) to make that relationship, control the time and dynamic by thinking more strategically.
Or.. another way:
How do you get the phone number of person X?
You aren’t going to get it from a presentation.. you’re going to get it in person… if you are lucky.. if person X feels like they want to share something like that with you. Or instead of phone number, perhaps private group, perhaps a large DM group somewhere or whatnot…
You can get that anywhere, I’m suggesting that if that is your goal, you should think more broadly about getting into a situation where you have a chance of getting it. EG You shouldn’t expect to get given my phone number just for coming to the show, but if we talk and hit it off, maybe that happens. But if your only opportunity to get that is during a break with 100 other people pulling in different directions then your odds are reduced.
Now.. it comes back to goal. What do you want from the conference?
Emphasis was on “club”, not “boys”.
If you want contacts, attend a free meet up. They’re happening all the time…just check the forums. If you’re paying a fee for a conference, demand a conference with real content and added value. If you don’t get one, you’re getting ripped off.
You’re missing the part where I focus on this phrase:
“the real value is in networking”
At these conferences. It doesn’t mean that the conference itself is bad or you are being ripped off at all.
I’m talking about something beyond this.
For example… let’s say I really want to launch a new business and have someone like Tony Robbins be my mentor or partner on it. I could go to a Tony Robbins conference and I’m sure it will be great (if that is your cup of tea) but if I want to get him on speed dial, then I would be better to think about what hotel he stays in, and create opportunities to bump into him in the elevator.
I use Tony as an example not because I like the guy, but I actually did bump into him in an elevator once, and I’ve since learned that it wasn’t by chance.
So what I’m trying to get at here is that you shouldn’t focus on the conference being bad quality or a rip off (its not at all) it is that if you are walking around saying (like everyone is) that it is all about the social aspect and building relationships, think about how to make that happen in the most effective manner.
Nice writing Matt. Good work.
You’re point about “people attach themselves to people who are like minded” struck a chord with me. I’m betting at a conference like this that you are in the overwhelming minority and most will be staying at the Excalibur or Hyatt Place for optimal use of points. I think there are many other factors at play here as well to determine budget, time, and convenience.
You are absolutely correct in saying that “the real value is in networking”. The Saverocity DO was really the first time that I forced myself to go mingle even though it wasn’t easy. Now look at me. Matt harasses me on Twitter all the time. I’ve made the big time! ;^)
Yep, always happy to harass 🙂
I agree it may seem that I’m in the minority here, and that’s fine… I’m just trying to throw out ideas that may inspire a different way to look at things.
I agree with most of your points. Life is what you put into it and what you make happen. Real inclusion happens by work and hustle, false inclusion is forced and doesn’t last.
I think I was already good at talking to people and it has only made my experience in this hobby much better. I think I’ve met one or two of the Big Name Bloggers but have gained much more from smaller bloggers and non-bloggers. Plus I tend to buy them drinks which doesn’t hurt.
See you there.