Last week I attended the first annual Creator Economy Expo (CEX) in Phoenix, Arizona.
I had high hopes going in, and they were all exceeded. The event was everything I wanted it to be and more, and so if you were on the fence this year, you definitely need to come next year.
I'll break it down into three sections so this post is easy to skim or peruse.
Choose your own adventure!
The people were incredibly aligned
More than any other conference I've been to, the people - the attendees and the presenters - were incredibly aligned.
This may be the hardest thing to pull off, but kudos to Joe Pulizzi and his team for the incredible feat.
I found value in every presentation on day one, and struggled to pick between the four "tracks" each hour of day two.
There were too many good options!
What's more, every conversation I had with people at the event was valuable.
The presenters were mingling at lunch with the attendees and took the stage from the audience, rather than from back stage.
I had wonderful conversations with Steph Smith from Hubspot, Chris Guillebeau who I've admired for years, as well as friends like Jerod Morris, Jay Clouse, Brian Clark, Brennan Dunn, Mark Hicks, and Justin Moore.
These weren't simple "it's good to meet you!" conversations.
I sat for two hours at the ending reception chatting with Steph Smith. Justin and I had dinner and hung out throughout the event. I went on a 90-minute hike with Mark. I consider Joe a friend now.
Heck, I just called him "Joe" instead of "Joe Pulizzi, organizer of CEX"!
I'm not sure what magic formula was used to create such an ambiance for conversation and such perfect alignment, but I'm glad it was used.
The information overload...didn't happen?
Generally when I get home from an event I have to take a few days to decompress and then slowly wade into the ocean of notes that I'd taken over the many sessions.
I came home with just as many notes, but I found myself diving in on the plane ride home to start putting together a plan of action.
Jeremiah Oyang gave me clarity on how to use web3 and NFTs to reward my podcast listeners with NFTs or "airdrops" that only are available to the early listeners or for a limited time. It's a way to "upgrade the relationship" and reward the earliest fans.
Ann Handley showed me what a polished and perfected presentation looked like, and how to string a story throughout that pulls people in. She shared the story of Robert L. May, the man behind the story of Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and how he-
- was obsessed with an idea
- fought for ownership and made smart deals and partnerships
- went deep on his content, not broad
- focused on long-term legacy, not short-term money
- focused on the art itself
Roberto Blake reinforced the power of focus, and how you can build a massive one-person company in just a few years time with that single principle.
Wally Koval always takes his photo facing away from camera, because it's about the community, not about him. I loved his focus on being "the most critical consumers of their own content". That high bar has served them well.
Chris Guillebeau gave me a great answer to a question I asked, that I may need to spend more time with my audience understanding their needs in order to unlock all of the value I've created in my business. He also shared that creators should "stop trying to do everything." Time anxiety is real and it's not a good place to create from.
He has one guiding question he asks himself: "Did today matter?"
I'm going to steal that one.
Dan Pink talked about the importance of taking shots on goal, and that people who succeed focus on autonomy, mastery, and purpose.
The things that I create over the coming weeks and months will be directly informed by the things I learned at CEX, and for that I'll be forever grateful.
The Opportunities are Endless
I was extremely blessed to be able to bring 250 copies of my book, Craftsman Creative, to give out at CEX.
I traded signed copies of our books with Chris Guillebeau, and now people like Joe (Pulizzi), Brian Clark, Dan Pink, and more have a copy of something that I wrote.
Saying "that's huge!" is an understatement.
I met hundreds of people in three days, and every single one was complimentary - and many were even excited! - to read my book.
I have opportunities to appear on podcasts, write guest posts, chat with founders, and learn directly from those who have already walked the path I'm on.
I don't know any other way I could have lined up so many opportunities in such a short time.
I never felt like there was anyone at the conference that was only there to "get", rather than "give". Everyone was so kind and supportive, and I cannot wait to go deeper with so many wonderful people and form life-long relationships.
I already can't wait for CEX 2023. I plan on purchasing a Never Ending Ticket (NET) as soon as I can, because I plan to be at every CEX from here on out.
Hopefully one day you'll even see me on that same stage as so many that I met this year...