Entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk (Gary Vee for the familiar) famously ate dirt on live television alongside late-night talk show host, Conan O’Brien in an effort to teach Conan how to build his wine palette like a true connoisseur.
Conan reluctantly puts dirt, then cherries, then loose tobacco into his mouth while Gary tries them with ease, savoring each. A comedic spit-take prompts Conan to turn to Vee, exclaiming “I could have just taken your word for it!”.
A true teaching moment, Gary Vee agrees that Conan could have just taken his word for it.
But that’s not good enough! A wine connoisseur is by no means mediocre. A connoisseur has a passion for their craft and knows the low-down subject matter expertise that allows them to execute against their passion.
That’s why in June of 2018, I took the Gary Vee approach, and ate a little dirt.
“You’ll do fine!” Was the well wish I received at the end of my very first day on the job. My boss was leaving town the following day, and tasked me with attending my very first marketing conference -- alone.
Digital Summit is a conference jam packed with digital marketing best practices, latest trends, strategy, and chats from industry thought leaders.
With little more than a friendly disposition, a will to learn, and a little tech savvy, I ventured into my first marketing conference.
Going to a conference is supposed to be rewarding; you saturate your brain with new material and insight, meet new connections, and have immediate action-items to show off to your coworkers at the end of it all. But if you’re anything like me, trying to come onto the scene and keep up with concepts and strategies that are foreign -- in a ballroom full of total strangers -- it can be somewhat agonizing.
Before the conference
Digital Summit generously sends a detailed schedule of events before the event kick-off, including topics, times and locations.
Since A Better Jones specializes in B2B, I pinpointed four B2B Content Marketing seminars within the conference.
Pro tip: mapping out what’s on the docket will allow you to tailor your own learning experience without becoming overwhelmed, distracted or restricted to one topic.
The morning of
Stepping into the Convention Center, I envisioned myself as a small fish in a big pond. I followed some basic intuitions, set aside limitations and opened up my brain to take in a wealth of information and possibility. I also ate a bunch of the catered berries and drank three cups of the free coffee. Brain fuel for the big day ahead.
Pro tip: Showing up is half the battle. Be accountable!
This was it: my very first foray into digital marketing. The stakes felt high. I started with a workshop called “45 Tactics to Take Your Email from Zero to Hero”.
I sat in the back. I took notes like crazy. The slides were flying a mile per minute! But I kept my chin up (err, down, and focused on my note writing) snapped a few pictures of slides that were info-heavy, then four hours passed by in the blink of an eye.
Whew, that wasn’t so bad!
By the time it was over, I had 45 action items to take back to the office.
Pro tip: Handwritten notes increase memory retention, so bring your favorite notebook and pen and take notes -- your boss will think the money was well spent and you’ll get to show your coworkers some cool tricks of the trade. Whens slides are too info-rich to jot down, snap a quick smart phone picture.
Key takeaway: Email is the star that continues to rise and it will remain the hub of digital marketing. But that’s not enough. Your emails need to start a conversation and entice prospective customers to take action.
Networking does not come easily to me, especially after just taking in so much new information.
I skirted the territory and ate more berries, drank more coffee, and avoided eye contact.
My big opportunity came when a group of stylish women from Nike World Headquarters joined the open table I was at. I tried my damndest to dive in head first to make an intro but was met with instant rejection -- it turns out they just wanted the table. To be frank, rejection was a relief.
In an effort to put my best self out there, I introduced myself as a complete novice to a woman who was standing alone. She introduced herself as the Marketing Manager for a local motorcycle shop. We chatted, exchanged pretty business cards, and went our separate ways.
But I did it! I networked! Success! She even suggested edx.org as a cool resource for beginning marketers.
Pro tip: Be ambitious! Try to network with the cool girls! But don’t take it personally when you don’t break the surface.
Chelsea Handler, known for her off-the-cuff humor, delivered a heartfelt and sincere keynote speech.
Topics relevant to the event were sparse but I learned about the importance of authenticity and the global impact you can create through social media when used for good.
The keynote speech felt more entertaining than educational, which was rewarding after the info-heavy morning workshop, followed by networking.
Key takeaway: Keynote speeches are there to get you hyped to keep going. A metaphorical happy hour. They are your fuel. Go to them. Get pumped. There might even be a t-shirt cannon.
Last Conference of the day: Pro Tips for Better Data-Driven Brand Storytelling
Since Brand Storytelling is critical to selling any product, I wanted to sit in on this course.
I learned about the different forms of visual communications; lists, infographics, dashboards, grids, diagrams, mixed charts. It turns out there are more visual communication tools than just charts and graphs! People want to see your data in package form.
Key takeaway: Make your data more consumable to the customer by taking heavy data and giving it a design to tell a story.
Pro tip: Data and story go hand in hand -- if you have some data, you have a story. Data is useless to our brains unless it can be presented in a narrative that makes it emotionally and biochemically “tasty”.
Back at the office, I wasn’t able to show off any industry tricks.
But I had my first foray in dirt eating.
I got my first taste of the low-down subject matter.
I couldn’t be hungrier for more.
And if eating a dirt affords me the opportunity to be a better marketer, better networker, better team member, better individual..? You can guarantee I’ll be following Gary Vee’s philosophy to dig deeper, put in the work and learn my shit to help my team succeed.
My Challenge to you:
My challenge to anyone reading this week/month/year is to have a crack at something new that you’ve been thinking about but have been reluctant to try.
Go to the meet-up you keep putting off. Join that slack community that looks cool to you. Sign up for a webinar that seems way out of your comfort zone. Go to the conference despite having no one to go with.
Be a scientist of your own craft and put in the work to raise the bar on your philosophies. Dig deeper into your craft, and become a better you.