Wow, after 26 hours of travel and a few days to recover from the jet lag, I’m back at it!
As you might know, I was in the Philippines, speaking at The Tropical Think Tank Conference hosted by my friend Chris Ducker.
It was the first conference he hosted in the Philippines, in which he invited 8 speakers and only 25 attendees. I was pumped to speak along side some amazing entrepreneurs, and my good friends Pat Flynn, John Lee Dumas, Caleb Wojcik, and Amy Porterfield.
I was grateful to add two new friends to that mix in Natalie Sisson and Gideon Shalwick. I had known Natalie before but this was a great opportunity to get to know her even better than I had. And, Gideon—well that guy is one of the most strategic thinkers I’ve met. Mind blown.
And, although Chris and I became friends when he first spit on me at NMX in 2013 (another story for another time), I was able to build a much stronger relationship with him, which I am so grateful for.
Chris is an amazingly talented entrepreneur that has inspired me tremendously, and he pulled together the the best conferences I’ve ever attended and spoken at, hands down.
Imagine getting to spend 5 days helping a small group of 25 passionate entrepreneurs building their businesses and living life on their own terms. #fulfilled.
I always tell entrepreneurs, and specifically my coaching clients, that attending conferences to meet people face to face is one of the most important things to set yourself, and your business up for success.
Building relationships over email, social media, and a podcast does wonders, but meeting someone face to face changes the game—more importantly, it changes the relationship with the people you met.
If your planning to attend your first conference, check out my most important advice here.
Now, outside of this event being in the Philippines (which was epic in and of itself), Chris officially changed my view on how conferences should be structured and managed.
If I create my own conference in the future, this will be my model, and when I attend conferences, I’ll look for events like Tropical Think Tank.
First, I have to say that I shouldn’t even be calling this a conference.
Tropical Think Tank was an experience.
Let’s call it an experiential conference.
Outside of travel, my experience lasted 6 days as a speaker and 5 days for attendees. Before you can understand the 7 reasons this conference has changed the game, you have to understand the format of this event because it’s a large reason why I’ll view conferences differently moving forward.
Here is a look at the agenda for the event.
- Day 1: Speaker Mastermind & Welcome Drinks
- Day 2: Conference Day 1: Each speaker gave a 45 minute presentation and then we had the opening dinner/party.
- Day 3: Conference Day 2: Each speaker gave their second presentation and we had another group dinner/party.
- Day 4: Off Day. We changed venues, transferring to a beachfront resort with all the attendees. The speakers were treated to a 1 hour massage and then we joined the attendees for another amazing dinner.
- Day 5: Attendee Mastermind. For 4 hours the speakers broke into pairs and rotated through 5 tables of entrepreneurs masterminding, helping them gain focus on their businesses. The attendees were then left another 4 hours to mastermind on their own.
- Day 6: A full day off (which was supposed to be a cruise but unfortunately cancelled due to rain) and the closing White Party at an amazing venue. A bunch of us went snorkling.
Amazing right? It was a perfect mix of business and pleasure. There was “on” time, and “off” time. After attending Tropical Think Thank, here are 7 things all conferences should have.
1. Offer A Speaker Only Mastermind
I honestly have to say, this is what I was most excited for leading up to the event. The chance to mastermind for almost 9 hours with some of the brightest entrepreneurs and online marketers like Pat Flynn, Chris Ducker, Amy Porterfield and John Lee Dumas was worth the the trip alone.
We each had about 45 minutes to an hour in the hot seat sharing our business models and getting honest, constructive feedback to take things to the next level. It brought a new level of clarity for me in my own business.
It was interesting to see and hear the challenges that each of the speakers had and their future plans. To see how the minds of Pat, Amy and others worked elevated my mindset. The opportunity to bring ideas to the table that were well received by others also helped build my confidence.
Let’s face it, we can all get down on ourselves (I’m particularly hard on myself), so when other successful people validate your feedback it can be powerful and reassuring.
2. Single Track Sessions Are The Jam
Have you ever been to a conference where two speakers you want to see are speaking at the exact same time?
You have to make that uncomfortable decision when picking one, left only to feel like you might be missing out the another session you wanted to see.
When you invest a good deal of money and can’t see everyone you want to see it sucks.
Chris made Tropical Think Tank a single track session, meaning that each attendee got to see everyone speak. With everyone traveling a good distance to show up, there was no chance he was going to leave attendees in a position where they’d miss anything.
On top of that, each speaker gave 2 presentations. This allowed speakers to deliver extra value by having one presentation lead into the next, which allowed for a progression that became very digestible.
3. A Day Off
With guests traveling long distances to attend, there was naturally some jet lag issues, and after 2 intense presentation days with parties, a day off was much needed and welcomed.
We even transitioned to a new venue ( a beautiful resort) which acted as a reset button. It gave everyone a chance to relax, unwind, and connect in a conference environment.
This is where I saw some real relationships.
Now, this probably only applies to multiple day conferences and those that require some more significant travel, but I could probably argue it the other way.
4. An Attendee Mastermind
This is a major reason why Tropical Think Tank was more of an experience vs. a conference. Attendees knew they’d get an opportunity to mastermind with the speakers and fellow attendees. It was “get sh*t done time”.
After the reset day, everyone met in a conference room and split up to about 4 or 5 tables.
The 8 speakers paired up and spent about 45 minutes with each table. Each attendee was on the hot seat sharing what they needed help with and as a group we gave feedback.
Pat Flynn and I teamed up with each other which worked great as we complimented each other nicely. It was cool to see so many breakthroughs with each of the attendees as we went from table to table.
Conversations included things that were working as well as tools and resources that helped us in our day to day.
After the first 4-4.5 hours, the speakers left the room and the attendees continued masterminding on their own building off the momentum they created.
I know it was rewarding for both the speakers and attendees we were all talking about it after.
I can’t speak for all of the speakers, but I’m pretty confident that they would agree with me— this was the best day of the conference hands down.
Leading up to the conference I was most excited for the speaker mastermind, but next time it will be for the attendee mastermind and helping a small group of entrepreneurs take the next step in their businesses, find breakthroughs and overcome the fears and obstacles holding them back from success.
By far the most fun and rewarding part of the trip.
5. No Required Slide Template
Yes, the fact that I’m mentioning this is sort of ridiculous but there are many conferences that require speakers to use their slide template, which in most cases is really ugly.
Chris made it very clear that speakers could use their own slides and that there was no slide template mandate.
It’s a pain for those speakers that put a lot of work into their slides to make them look amazing and tell a story, only to have the conference organizer say, “you must use our template”.
I’ve never organized a conference before but most attendees (if not all) know what conference they’re sitting at while listening to a speaker present, that the added “branding” of the slide templates cannot add that much extra exposure.
Speakers and attendees all benefit from letting the speakers do their thing. 🙂
After a long day of attendee masterminding, each person had to stand in front of the room and declare where they will be and what they will have achieved in 30 days.
This is an extremely powerful exercise as attending the conference was just the beginning all. Writing down 30 days goals as if they have already been accomplished was an impactful statement for each and every person in the room that it was time to take action.
And yes, even the speakers declared their goals. 🙂
7. An easily accessible organizer
Although Chris was the host and actively involved, he had an amazing team behind him. If you didn’t know that this was Chris’s first major event, you would have thought the team had been executing events for years.
It ran that smoothly.
A big thanks to Chris’ team, Sian, Jam, Ercella and everyone else that made the event run smoothly. From food, to transportation, to audio visual setup and entertainment.
The entire team was available, integrated into the fun, and most importantly, available for questions, which I know everyone was grateful for.
I know I can speak for everyone in attendance that the execution was top notch and more than impressive.
If you’re running a conference ,or looking to attend a conference that literally changes lives and businesses, you have a tough act to follow if some of your attendees were at the Tropical Think Tank 2014.
With these 7 things you’ll have a much better shot.
What are the things that you love about conferences or events? Share your experiences in the comment section below.